Discover more from The Up and Up
A dispatch from two days in Miami - where a tangible political current is running through the city, according to some of its youngest residents
I spent the past two days chatting with young Floridians at Miami Dade Community College and the headquarters of Engage Miami, a youth civic engagement organization. These are some of the takeaways.
👋🏻 Hi from a flight out of Miami, Florida where I spent the past two days chatting with young people at Miami Dade Community College’s Institute for Civic Engagement & Democracy and the headquarters of Engage Miami, a youth civic engagement organization in the city, in an attempt at identifying the key issues on their mind and their thoughts on the political landscape as the 2024 election cycle ramps up.
While our conversations weren’t centered on politics alone, it was impossible to ignore the impact local government is having on their lives. It’s also worth mentioning that these two groups focus on civic and community engagement more broadly — so they are predisposed to identifying problems and working on solutions in their neighborhoods.
Yet, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and former President Donald Trump (a Florida resident) all running for the Republican presidential nomination, a clear political current is running through the city. And for these young people, it’s tangible.
While Florida isn’t representative of the entire United States, and though the young Miamians I spoke with mostly self-identified as left-leaning (though not all called themselves Democrats — more on that later — and one said he’s rooting for Trump/DeSantis), Florida has been a testing ground for many of the country’s hot button issues from abortion, to LGBTQ rights, parental rights and debates over what’s permitted in the classroom (K-12 and higher education), immigration, climate, guns, and more.
Across both conversations, here were some of the topics they brought up:
Politicization of Florida’s public education system: New laws have changed the landscape of schools in the state and affected what can and cannot be said about gender, sexuality, and race in the classroom
Politicalization of the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent, gutted affirmative action, blocked President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, and Supreme Court justices’ ethics practices have recently been called into question
Political polarization, overall, and aggravation with the need to identify as one party or the other
“I hate people telling me what to do. I hate being put in boxes,” said Neuteyshe F., who’s 24. She stressed frustration with ”the whole box of, these values are strictly Republican, these values are strictly Democratic.”
Neuteyshe, who just started a job working at Engage, is an independent voter.
“That’s hurt me,” she said, adding that she’s been blocked from voting in party primaries as an independent. “Political partisanship is the root of a lot of damage.”
In the conversations at Engage and Miami Dade College, there was a general concern for climate change, gun violence, mental health, and housing affordability — issues that have come up in every listening session I’ve ever held.
None of this is that new, or that surprising. But here’s the thing. Hearing the tension in these young Floridian’s voices, I asked if they wanted to stay in Florida, or if the opportunity presented itself, would they move elsewhere?
Some said they’re starting to question leaving.
“I would love to stay but there’s an ever growing list of cons to stay here,” said Karla A., who’s 24-years-old. “I have to think, ‘Do I want to raise a family here?,’ ‘Do I want to get pregnant in this state?’…I start thinking, ‘Do I want my kids to go through education system here, which is now totally different?’ I would love to stay. Miami is my forever home. But there’s an ever growing list of, ‘Do I want to stay here?’ Not just for myself, but my partner, my future kids,” she said.
Others said the political climate is encouraging them to get more involved in their communities.
“It would be scary to not be able to raise my children in the city I call my home,” said Samantha B, who’s 25. “If anything, it will push me to be even more engaged in politics. To shake things up.”
“For so long I thought about going out of state for college,” said Arquimedes R., who’s 18. “But in recent years when it comes up, regardless of whether I go out of state or not, I want to come back. I grew up with the problems, I need to come back to fix them.”
What does this mean for 2024? Policies > Politician/Party.
For all the talk about the DeSantis administration’s policies, there was little talk about him as a governor, or a 2024 contender, for that matter. Instead, the young Floridians remained focused on how laws he’s signed recently are affecting them in the Sunshine State. For them, the policies are more important than the politician and the political party they belong to (or don’t belong to, for that matter). To me, that’s critical.
A note to readers
This week’s conversations in Miami are part of a larger series of listening sessions I’ve held while serving as a fellow with the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 Education Team. They piggyback a post-midterm election research project with the Walton Family Foundation, Murmuration, an education advocacy nonprofit, and the research firm SocialSphere. I hope to conduct more listening sessions with young Americans, in all corners of the country, in the months to come. If you’re interested in convening a group, or have suggestions of where I should visit next, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you.
Youth vote in the news 🗞
Young voters are getting less likely to identify as Dems. It spells trouble for Biden., Myah Ward for Politico
Rural voters lean red, young voters lean blue. So what's a young, rural voter to do?, Elena Moore and Ximena Bustillo for NPR
Biden Needed Young Voters in 2020. Democrats Warn He Can’t Take Them For Granted in 2024., Dan Merica and Amie Parnes for The Messenger