If the go-to Republicans on Cuban policy, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), find themselves persuaded that the pro-embargo argument is flawed, it will prove to be of political benefit to them and the Republican Party at large in the future.
The future of American politics demands more engagement with Hispanics. The future of the Cuban-American vote, typically stronger for Republicans, similarly demands attention due to the changes that appear to be on the horizon. Different polls following the November election offered differing margins with a Bendixen & Amandi poll showing a 52% – 48% margin in favor of Romney and Fox News reporting a 50% – 47% Romney win amongst Cuban-Americans. Both point toward a shrinking Republican majority in the Cuban-American vote when compared with the margins that McCain carried in 2008 and especially against the numbers that Bush carried in 2004.
Many experts suggest that this swing away from the Republican majority is due in large part to the growth amongst Cuban-Americans who have reached voting age as 3rd and perhaps 4th generation Americans. Not only do they self-identify with Americans more than with Cubans but their grievances against what the Castro regime has done to them and their family are much less personal. They are much more inclined to seek dialogue and reconciliation with the Cuban government than their parents or grandparents are.
Therefore, Republicans would be wise to take the lead on this issue instead of following the path that has been opened by the easing of restrictions from the Obama administration. Demanding that human rights be respected in Cuba and that the government be held to account by the international community for human rights violations against political dissidents is a position to which many pay lip service but few politicians follow through on. Speaking out against political oppression in Cuba will also serve Republicans well among the Hispanic community at large. A number of Hispanics in the United States have lived through or can identify with restrictive governments found throughout the region, whether it be in Venezuela, Nicaragua, or Ecuador.
It presents itself as an opportunity for Republicans to build back up some trust with Hispanics by identifying concern for issues that may resonate with some of them. Demand for an end to human rights violations by the Cuban government is principled policy built on a sound moral foundation. Simultaneously calling for an end to the economic embargo would signal a realization that it has been ineffective and would be a politically smart move for the future of the Republican Party. But a combination of principled policy and political calculation has not been common for Republicans as of late.