“I am going to teach [them] to elect good men.” –President Woodrow Wilson, referring to his decision in 1914 to invade Mexico. (Quoted in Peter Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. page 51.)
When the American electorate handed the Republicans a majority in the national legislature, the world gave it some thought and decided this would not do. No way. The Republicans, after all, refused to recognize Cuba. Indeed, they had from time to time attacked Cubans. They enforced a boycott of Cuba. This was anathema to the world-or that part of it that referred to itself interchangeably as “the international community,” “the free world” and “the Western world.” So, it cut its financial dealings with the United States. Aid and trade stopped dead.
To many Americans, this seemed unfair. Perhaps it was. But if the Republicans would not recognize Cuba, the argument went, then they were not fit to govern the United States. The electors were in no position to change the world’s mind, so they stood by their choice. To the Democrats, who had not accepted defeat at the polls, cutting the Republican state apparatus from its sources of funding (even taxes under this strange arrangement were collected by foreigners) seemed an eminently sensible solution to their-or, as they called it, their country’s-plight. Sanctions came into force, supported by the Democrats. The western embargo-which led to the closure of America’s factories and schools-did not drive the Republicans from office. They did, however, unite more Americans-who generally preferred defiance to capitulation-behind the Republicans. The Democrats responded to public intransigence by arming their militants with weaponry donated by the countries that had never recognized American independence anyway, but who, somehow, had America’s best interest at heart. Thus, from their bases in suburban Maryland, the Democrats attempted to drive the Republicans from Washington.
Alas for the Democrats and their foreign sponsors, the Republicans were ready. They not only held their ground, they drove the Democrats out of most of the South. But the Democrats held onto the north, forcing Republicans underground. This led to an impasse that pleased the Democrats’ new friends and, of course, Cuba. The Democratic president simply assumed legislative powers in the North and declared the government in the South null and void. Money poured in to pay civil servants who belonged to the Democratic Party. Republicans in the armed forces, governmental departments and agencies could starve. And, starve they did.
Someone pointed out that the Republicans made a few coherent arguments. If Cuba would not recognize America, why should America recognize Cuba? If Americans elected one party rather than another, what business was that of the rest of the world’s? After all, the Republicans were chosen by the people. Yet the world demanded that America adhere to the norms of democracy-that is, accept the right of outsiders’ to choose their leaders. It seemed a strange sort of democracy to Americans, who were trained in civics classes to believe that no state had the right to govern without the consent of the governed. Strange, but reality can be strange. The strange reality suited the Democrats, who gleefully endorsed a state of affairs that condemned their Republican opponents to starvation and international obloquy. Next, they would concentrate on taking back the South-not via elections they could not win, but through siege, warfare and propaganda. And, in this, they would have allies-to be sure. The guarantors of international peace and security would compel the Republicans to recognize Cuba and, indeed, cede large portions of the United States to Cuban settlers. That would be a fair and sensible outcome, right?