The rambunctious orange-tinged fellow that’s been taking election season by storm, Donald Trump, is enjoying a surge in Florida. It’s all but certain that he’ll win the primary tomorrow, even though the sunshine state’s Republican primary base is a diverse melting pot. In a state that is nearly a quarter Hispanic, where historically conservative Cuban-Americans are still a force in right-wing electoral politics, how in the world is Trump winning where there are two other Cuban-Americans on the primary ballot?
Politics are a big deal to Cuban-Americans. After all, our families became penniless refugees after a Communist Revolution left our people with little choice but to immigrate to the United States. A half a century in exile hasn’t erased the older generations’ painful memories of losing it all. For many Cuban exiles, economic freedom is the first on the political priority list, and the ability to be financially empowered overpowers all ethnic loyalty. This is why Trump is cleaning up in my home state.
Florida’s economy is not strong. Underneath the stately palms and clear blue skies are hundreds of communities that have endured a great deal of economic pain in the past decade. Floridians have been among the most stressed out by the Great Recession, and the state has yet to fully recover in some ways. Millions of residents in the Sunshine State remain financially hobbled after years of negligible or negative growth (the economy has been growing slowly for the past four years). Less than one year ago, Florida finally recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession.
Many people were wiped out totally by the Great Recession. Those who lost their life savings during the last downturn are more likely to support Trump, because they feel the economy used to be a lot better in the United States. When my family immigrated here in the 1960s, there were jobs aplenty, and many immigrants were able to climb up the socioeconomic ladder with relative ease.
People like my abuela (grandma) are frustrated at the state of the economy and angry at the establishment–in their minds a vote for Trump is a vote for a significant economic overhaul. My abuela has said on many occasions that Trump “says what he needs to say without worrying about what other people think, while other politicians are far too concerned with Washington politics to consider common sense.”
In the Orlando-area suburban frontier where my family has settled, we often argue in Cuban-American Spanglish about politics. Right now, Trump is a sensitive topic in our household. As a member of a large extended family, I can tell you that the more affluent members of my clan are appalled by Trump’s rise, while those who have been economically marginalized by the boom and bust economy are more likely to find Trump palatable.
Trump’s popularity cuts across race and ethnicity, as the disenfranchised working-class voter finally feels engaged. I’ve run into several Hispanic folks who are also weighing voting for Trump in the general election. They’re willing to look the other way on his often insulting remarks, with the expectation that he can turn around this state’s and the entire nation’s economic fate.
Photo by @IndyUSA
David is the Editor of Bold. He's especially passionate about millennial economic empowerment. A former local news reporter, David is originally from the Little Havana area in Miami, and later became a pioneer resident of the Disney-inspired town of Celebration, Florida. David holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.