Ozzie Guillen and the Electoral College

Florida Marlin manager Ozzie Guillen voiced some opinions on Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was immediately suspended by Major League Baseball for five games. Among his words were, “I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro, you know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother****r is still here.”

It was actually fifty-three years ago, in 1959, that Castro led a revolution that overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista, In 1952, Batista, with army backing, staged a coup and seized power. Batista also had very close ties with the American Mafia, making it easy for organized crime from the States to do business in the island country.

So the question rises, “If Batista was a military dictator who collaborated with the Mafia, what was so terrible about overthrowing him?”

It’s important to keep in mind that like any society, Cuba is pluralistic. There clearly were honorable hard-working citizens who were being abused and discriminated against by Batista. They had every reason to want him removed from power.

There were others who saw the vulnerability of Batista, which created an opportunity for them to try to seize power. Some of these people wanted power for their own aggrandizement; others were adherents of different political philosophies, including Communism.

In the case of Castro, he seemed to be somewhat of a hybrid. He had a genuine concern for the well-being of the Cuban people, but at a time when Communism was strict, rigid, and in some cases ruthless, he was sympathetic to some Marxist-Leninists, such as Che Guevara. Castro did not acknowledge his Communist sympathies until two years after taking power.

There are more than a million Cuban refugees in Florida, as well as several generations of their descendants. Many have a balanced view of what has happened in Cuba since the middle of the last century and find neither Batista nor Castro to be a hero. However, there are other Cuban-Americans who resent the fact that Castro seized their land, often land that was obtained through bullying and with the aid of the America Mafia. These are the people whose perceptions of how Castro came to power are most ingrained in their memories. Most of them are now American citizens and have become a very strong voting bloc in Florida.

This is where the Electoral College comes in. The United States has a population of nearly 330 million people. If we did not have an Electoral College, the one million or so Cuban-Americans would be a minority, much smaller than other Hispanic groups or African-Americans. However, since the population of Florida is slightly more than nineteen million, Cuban-Americans represent more than 5% of the citizens in America’s fourth largest state. In 2012, Florida will have 27 electoral votes, exactly 10% of the amount needed for a candidate to win the election.

Florida is a very competitive state; won by Barack Obama in 2008, George W. Bush in 2004, and no one knows by whom in 2000. Every vote is vital. This is why Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen had to walk away from his comments about Fidel Castro, and do so quickly. He clearly offended Castro opponents in Florida. Even if his words would not tip the election, they certainly undermined his credibility as a legitimate and popular manager of team that is trying to redefine itself.

For years, Florida has been the “poster state” for the shortcomings of the Electoral College. Ozzie Guillen may have put his job in peril by indirectly pointing this out. The question now is whether the media and others can move away from the particulars of what Guillen said and address the real problem – the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College.