The current presidential campaign involves a number of “firsts.” Donald Trump is the first presidential candidate without any political or military experience. Hillary Clinton is the first female presumptive nominee of a major party. Bernie Sanders is the first self-avowed socialist.
On a local scale, there is another first: a political action group of Cuban-Americans in South Florida openly supports a socialist politician. The authors, along with many other activists, comprise Cuban-Americans for Bernie, dedicated to elect Bernie Sanders as president of the United States.
This is significant because of the historical intersection of these “firsts” with the changes that have taken place since Dec. 17, 2014, when president Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. It signals another step in the emancipation of Cuban Americans from the hypnotic siren songs of the Republican Party about the “liberation” of Cuba, and the right-wing ideology that has accompanied their lyrics.
It also shows that increasingly Cuban-Americans (as well as millenials throughout the country) are unperturbed by the bugaboo into which Cold-War scaremongers managed to turn words like “socialist.”
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Because of our historical awareness, we know that Bernie’s socialism is not the same as Cuba’s “sociolismo” (authoritatian cronyism), but a democratic process that can coexist with a well-regulated capitalism.
We understand that some of the best of America’s programs and institutions are socialist: Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, public schools, museums, parks and libraries, welfare and other safety nets for the poor, the court system, the G.I. Bill, unemployment insurance, public transportation, the FDA, clean air and water regulations, workplace safety laws, and innumerable more where the government serves society in ways that private entities cannot or will not.
We remember what kind of country this was when we arrived (mostly in the early 60’s): a land of opportunity where it was true that if one worked hard, prosperity would likely follow. One could reasonably aspire to buy a decent house and offer one’s children a proper education, even on a single income. Many of us benefitted from the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Cuban Students’ Loan Program and the Cuban Refugee Program. All of these were socialist programs that helped Cuban Americans reach the integration and level of success for which they have received credit.
The world described above is gone, however, together with many of our jobs. For the past 40 years, our ballyhooed middle class has been rapidly shrinking because of economic, taxation and trade policies that have favored multinationals and the super rich at the expense of everyone else.
Two years ago it looked like our ruling elites lacked a single statesman capable of addressing these problems — the systemic roots of unbridled capitalism gone haywire. Enter Bernie Sanders.
Bernie understands the problems, and has the progressive ideas to fix them — ideas that we conceived, not imported from anywhere. We faced a comparable situation during the Great Depression, and Bernie identified the similarly progressive, non-ideological tools that are necessary to repair the system in a 21st-Century context. We believe that adopting Bernie’s remedies can cure our serious political illnesses.
Bernie has already won. He brought clarity to fundamental issues that had been absent from our political discourse. He excited young people. He dispensed with large contributors and Super PACs. He moved the pointer on the Overton Curve from the extreme right to mainstream positions reflecting the needs and desires of the American people. He forced Clinton to change for the better. And he made it possible to imagine making America truly great again, not in Trump’s shallow, sloganeering fashion.
There are reports that Bernie Sanders may endorse Clinton this week. But irrespective of who is nominated by the Democratic party, Bernie’s revolution will live on, because people are awakening to demand a government that serves everyone, that is society as in “socialist.” Eventually, progressives will prevail because change and progress are unstoppable once people have raised their consciousness.
Amaury Cruz and Lorenzo Cañizares are directors of Cuban Americans for Bernie.