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Salvo 02.09.2021 5 minutes

Want Hispanic Votes? Loosen Up

South view of the Miami Beach Federal Building at 407 Lincoln Road.

Trump won in Miami because he was just too much fun to resist.

Everyone’s been writing about Miami and Cuban-Americans, trying to figure out why this perennially pesky demographic went hard for Trump last November. One favorite explanation: Miami Cubans are distinct from other Hispanics on account of their disdain for anything resembling socialism. A more woke account is that Cuban-Americans identify as white, unlike other Hispanics.

These takes aren’t wrong, but they miss the larger point of what happened in 2020. Many Cubans identify as white—but so do many other Hispanics. And from my experience, as a Miami Cuban who was born and bred in the 305, I can tell you that most Cubans identify as Cuban-American, with an emphasis on American.

Cuban-Americans, as well as the Venezuelans who went all in for Trump, live in Miami, a city unlike any other in the country. The weather is better, the women are hotter, and the people, above all else, want to have a good time. People know this, which is why they flee the frozen misery of their Northeastern and Midwestern cities for a taste of the tropical life. I’ve seen you tourists, all sunburned and dazed as you gawk at us ridiculously sexy locals. You are constrained by your utter seriousness, your inability to succumb to the chill vibeeees no matter how many mojitos you suck down.

Why So Serious?

Polling can’t fully capture what is happening on the ground anywhere, and it especially can’t capture a place like Miami, where sexual aesthetics, human vitality, and the party lifestyle, and not traditional politics or ideology as understood by nerdy wonks, set the tone of the city. There is a tropical energy in Miami—once again, it’s why you come here—that doesn’t allow “serious” politics to even exist. This is why operatives from both parties often have trouble constructing a plan on how to attack the city and its outer suburbs. 

I live in Westchester, a suburb of Miami-Dade County. Westchester is a blue-collar, middle-class neighborhood, where nearly every street was covered by Trump paraphernalia. There were—and still are—Trump signs and flags all over my neighborhood. And there were caravans, now infamous, of screaming and whooping Trump supporters who took to the streets and swept us all up in their excitement. More times than I can count, in the six months leading up to the election, I got caught in one of those caravans.

I would sit in my car as the honking and flag-waving engulfed me, mulling over what the polling and the expert analysts were saying, attempting to understand the craziness of my neighborhood. Did the polling truly capture what I was experiencing in my neighborhood, or was another narrative, outside the Beltway consensus, taking shape? 

Miami Shit

Amid the honking and the yelling, amid my neighbors’ demands that I join their hilarious—and I have to say, fun—display of Miami-style Americanism, it finally hit me: it’s fun to honk. I like to lower my windows and scream in Spanglish on a Sunday afternoon, because, you guessed it, I’m from Miami. 

So I honked and screamed and had a good laugh, raising my windows when the caravan had left me behind. It was in the silence of my car that I said the phrase I’ve quite possibly said more than any other: “That’s some Miami shit.” For those of you not from Miami, let me break down what this means with a few choice examples of peak “that’s some Miami shit.” 

When your neighbor releases six roosters in your neighborhood because he misses the rooster-life back in Cuba, that’s some Miami shit. When you see your ex for the first time in six months and you realize that she wasn’t so bottom-heavy when she left you for the coked-out DJ, which can only mean that she finally got that culo-enlarging surgery she was always going on about, that’s some Miami shit. After the Heat win the NBA title and everyone takes to the street with their pots and pans, dancing and drinking and meeting up at La Carreta as cops look on and do nothing, that, my friends, is some Miami shit. 

“Miami shit” is what can only go down in Miami. And the 2020 Trump campaign aesthetic, with its car caravans and boat parades and block parties, carried with it the energy of a Miami weekend in which you hit the club with six of your boys in a car that has disk brakes color-coordinated to the body. 

I know what serious political analysts are thinking: could it be as simple as that? Well, why not? The guys from my Westchester neighborhood, guys who were previously apolitical and became leaders of Trump caravans and rallies, could not, for the life of them, explain their politics in the coherent style of a think-piece. These Miami bros, whose only discernable ideology is that they wear Heat jerseys, didn’t have political awakenings and start reading William Buckley and Thomas Sowell. If you were to poll them, they’d answer according to what their politically active elders might say, or what they overheard from a cousin or a friend who’s tapped into the social media political sphere. But what drew them to the Republican Party this time around, was indeed not the Party but the party—because that was some Miami shit, bro. 

The Triumph of Aesthetics

It is hard to accept that masses of people would vote for the candidate who induces a greater party atmosphere. But it’s the only explanation that really fits. Trump’s Cuban support makes most sense if you believe, as I do, that politics is more about aesthetics than policy. This is especially apt given the dichotomy between the Democratic Party’s optics and the Trumpian vibe. The Trumpian aesthetic that took over massive sections of Miami was that of a carnivalesque, raucous good time: where the energy of a tailgate, and not of politics, carried the day. The Biden aesthetic, in direct and purposeful contrast, was one of regimented and almost militaristic seriousness. 

The Democratic Party, increasingly the party of technocrats and woke bureaucrats, is one in which the work is never done—you are always on the clock. When you are not at work, you are expected to do “the work” of ridding yourself of your privilege, incorporating new woke words into your vernacular, and policing the attitudes of your friends and family. The Democrats are the party of the scold and the HR lady, which is why, unsurprisingly, it is now run by scolds and HR ladies. Its aesthetic and sensibility cannot possibly deviate any further from the aesthetic and sensibility of a place like Miami, a city that primarily operates on feel and fun.

Miami is possessed by its own carnality, not just in a sexual sense, but in a superabundance of vitality that demands an outlet. Trump, in his male vigor, represents a crude though positive discharge of human energy towards a productive end; this propulsiveness is appealing to people who work with their hands, whose physicality is the source of their livelihood. 

The animating principle of Trumpism harkens to the classic American idea of “work hard, play hard.” This is a concept lost on the woke, who seem to believe that play is inherently problematic. But “work hard, play hard” is wildly popular with Cuban-Americans and Miamians in general—and not only them, of course. Working for the sake of the weekend is familiar to all working-class people, which might explain in part the new multi-ethnic realignment that may be forming. 

Insofar as this realignment exists, it is a Trumpian phenomenon and has nothing to do with classic Republican tenets: Cuban-Americans and Hispanics might not turn out for the GOP as strongly as they did in 2020 if the party turns its back on the clownish, good-timey ways of Trumpism and readopts tired, bowtie Republicanism. 

The Big Red Carnival

The popularity of Miami’s Trumpian boat parades and the caravans grew as COVID restrictions were instituted. Calle Ocho, the largest Hispanic-themed block party in the country and a celebration of Miami’s diversity, was cancelled last year. So were the Ultra Music Festival and Art Basel, the city’s two biggest parties. The pent-up party energy was looking for somewhere to go, and it found a travelling home in the Trump carnival. In the final month leading up to the election, the Trump team, whether intentionally or not, leaned into its Trump-on-the-road card and basically turned the campaign into a concert series. The election was about a simple question: are you for the paternalistic safetyism of the Democratic Party, or the Trumpist freedom to party—to live your life as you see fit? 

I know how all this sounds, you serious thinkers and pundits: There must be more! This can’t be! America is a serious country! Maybe, but there isn’t much more, which begs the question: have you considered that it is your sensibilities that are the outlier? Liberals, especially, will be mystified by the thesis of this piece—and possibly even think it racist—because the liberal mindset, as previously mentioned, is increasingly identifiable, especially in the time of coronavirus, by its po-faced sobriety. This sensibility, so often tied to its distaste for anything resembling the “American good time,” is in direct opposition to the working-class Hispanic ethos. 

It is no surprise, then, that a party which caters to spiritless woke commissars will continually fail to misunderstand the spiritual good-timers. But if you must poll people in order to understand them, here’s the question to ask working-class Hispanics, as well as blue-collar whites: which party is the party of partying?

Now that’s some Miami shit, bro. 

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