“Because of my grandparents’ stories and the way I was raised, I feel like their experiences were mine,” said Lewis, a politically independent voter who has yet to make a decision on the presidential election.
Reactions like Lewis’s are a blow to Democrats, who in recent years have tried to alienate young Cubans in Florida of the Republican Party, the home of many of his parents and grandparents. The new generation is less focused on the past and more open to change, Democrats said, when then-President Barack Obama adopted an approach to Cuba and in 2014 declared that he would “bury the last remnants of the Cold War.”
But Bass’s comments provide new evidence to the contrary. Although polls indicate that young Cubans in Florida are willing to endorse new policies, they also remain skeptical about what is happening on the island and, experts say, suspicious of politicians who are not. Even for many young Cubans, the congresswoman’s statements are troubling and a reminder of the imprint the late dictator has left.
“Tell me it’s not true, Joe,” read a recent poster posted to a Facebook community called “Cubans with Biden,” a 6,000-member group managed in part by the Democratic candidate’s campaign. And it’s because the Bass issue has Group discussions dominated in recent days.
Hispanics represent a quarter of Florida’s population, a crucial state in elections, and 1 in 5 of its 13.8 million voters. The Pew Research Center estimates that nearly a third of Florida’s Hispanic voters have roots in Cuba.
Republicans have dominated among those voters, in part adopting a tough line to maintain the embargo against the island. But a shift in positions toward the embargo has given Democrats hope.
A 2018 poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County showed a huge generation gap in opinion on Cuba policy. The Florida International University survey found that among those who immigrated to the United States before 1980, 3 out of 5 opposed the restoration of diplomatic relations, while 70% of those who were born in the United States or arrived after 1980, were in favor.
The same poll, however, found evidence that Trump’s policies may have hardened the change of heart. Support for the embargo among those who immigrated before 1980 grew to 68% in 2018, compared to 57% in 2016.
This is not necessarily evidence that Bass and his statements are going to harm Biden’s chances in Florida, said Guillermo Grebier, the lead investigator for the poll. Grenier believes that many Cubans are likely to have already joined in support of Trump.
“People who are pro Trump will continue to be pro Trump. There are a small number of voters who have not made up their minds, but if they are persuaded by Bass’s selection as a vice president candidate, they really were not undecided, “she said.