Marco Rubio titled his autobiography American Son. The book, whose cover shows the 43-year-old senator without a tie, is meant to convey youth. But it actually explains why, when it comes to Cuba policy, Rubio’s views are so old.
In opposing President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Havana, Rubio speaks not for his own generation of Cuban Americans, but for his parents and grandparents. According to a 2014 poll by Florida International University, Cuban Americans in Miami who are of Rubio’s age and younger overwhelmingly back restoring diplomatic relations with the island. Among those 45 to 64, the margin is 36 points. Among those aged 30 to 44, it’s 56 points. Among those younger than 30, it’s a whopping 76 points. Miami Cuban Americans over the age of 65, by contrast, oppose restoring diplomatic relations by 18 points. In Rubio, they have their champion.
For Rubio, filial piety has meant adopting the very Cold War outlook that most of his peers have shed. Students of generational identity, starting with Karl Mannheim, have long observed that people are disproportionately influenced by the events that occur in their late teens and twenties, once they leave their parents’ homes and begin seeing the world through independent eyes. A classic example is Hillary Clinton, who attended Wellesley College and Yale Law School at the height of the Vietnam War, and in rejecting the war came to reject her father’s right-wing Republicanism as well. Similarly, Rubio’s generation of Cuban Americans entered adulthood as the Cold War was drawing to a close, which helps explain why anti-Communism does not dominate their political outlook in the way it does many of their parents’.