USA TODAY US Edition
RUBIO-CRUZ DUEL HURTS LATINOS
‘Hermanos Cubanos’ should tag-team Trump, not air dirty cultural laundry
Ay caramba! Dueling Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz sure have a confusing and complicated relationship.
It has become obvious over 10 debates that despite everything these two have in common — fortysomething socially conservative Cuban-American lawyers, first-term senators from big states who are Tea Party favorites — they don’t like each other. Rubio says Cruz is not entirely honest, while Cruz says Rubio is not sufficiently conservative.
Also, as they showed during a recent debate in Charleston, S.C., when it comes to their shared Cuban culture, they can get preachy with one another.
Rubio says he’s more Latino than Cruz, and the Florida senator even scolded the Texas senator about his bilingual skills after Cruz called out Rubio for what he said on Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language TV network. After all, Rubio reasoned, how could Cruz be sure what he had heard given that, as Rubio told the debate audience: “He doesn’t speak Spanish.”
Meanwhile, Cruz — who grew up speaking some Spanish and was known by the family nickname Felito as a child — insists that he is every bit as Latino as Rubio. To prove it, Cruz dared Rubio to repeat what he had said on television — and he put forth the dare in fairly decent Spanish.
NATIONAL SPECTACLE The spectacle made me wince. Latinos don’t have great political representation. Latino Democrats and Latino Republicans often put their parties before their people. Yet here we have two highly capable, and electable, Latinos running for president and doing a good job, and their first instinct is to air our cultural dirty laundry. They can’t wait to show that we specialize at undermining one another by attacking each other’s personal insecurities.
Behold the essence of the Latino experience in America: You spend your whole life being told you’re not American enough to fit into this country, and too American to fit into any other.
At the same time, Rubio and Cruz are shrewd enough to put aside their differences to doubleteam Donald Trump, as they did during Thursday’s debate in Houston. Instead of firing at each other, the two Latino senators — who have since become known on social media as Los Hermanos
Cubanos (The Cuban Brothers) — trained their sights on Trump. When Rubio pointed out that the Trump Tower in New York had been built through a subcontractor with illegal immigrant labor from Poland, and that Trump had been fined $1 million for being involved in what a judged deemed as a conspiracy to hire those workers, Trump at first denied any of it ever happened. But Cruz, who knows his way around the law, wouldn’t let him off the hook, insisting: “Marco is exactly right.”
CRABS IN A BUCKET I certainly prefer the more cooperative Hermanos Cubanos model to the earlier childish behavior, which resembled the old story about crabs in a bucket. I’d bet that every Mexican American knows the tale of the man who comes up on a fisherman catching crabs and putting them in a bucket with no lid. The man asks the fisherman whether he’s worried that the crabs will crawl out of the bucket to escape. No need to worry, says the fisherman, explaining that these are “Mexican crabs,” and that “every time one tries to climb up, another pulls him down.”
Maybe this isn’t just a Mexican thing but a Latino thing. If you’re one of those Latinos who thinks that we’re our own worst enemies, and that we reserve our most vicious jabs for one another, then the dynamic between Rubio and Cruz should tell you: The struggle is real.
This is supposed to be the best of times for the nation’s 54 million Latinos, who are expected to account for as many as 13 million voters in the November election and who represent a significant presence in three battleground states — Colorado, Nevada and Florida. Add the fact that in a field of GOP presidential hopefuls once containing as many as 17 candidates, after contests in four states, two of the top three contenders are Latino. That’s historic — and amazing.
But this is still politics. The relationship between Cruz and Rubio becomes toxic when the friction between them turns personal. And, as any Latino can tell you, whenever you get two or more of us together, the quickest way for things to get personal is to interject a cultural litmus test.
With Cruz and Rubio in the finals for the GOP nomination, at times, for Latinos, it’s an embarrassment of riches. Other times, it’s just an embarrassment.