As it seemed the deluge of MAGA flags would never end, we made a sharp turn to get away from the chaos. I saw one Biden sign and tried to reassure myself that maybe Biden supporters just aren’t showy like that.
It was a devastating blow that all but handed Florida to Trump, and it proved that his red-baiting tactics had been effective.
Each race involved unique issues, but there was one constant: the Republican candidate’s exploitation of the Latino community’s trauma at the hands of socialism, coupled with a blind support of Trump.
As my mother drove away from the Trump caravan that Sunday afternoon, her anger was palpable. She recalled the first years she spent in Miami in the 1970s as a Cuban refugee. Her family had just moved to an affordable house in Homestead and they were among the few Latino, let alone Cuban, families in the mostly rural area. She was routinely left alone while her parents worked at a factory to support their new lives. She remembers seeing, on a dark night, a blazing cross atop a nearby grassy hill with a car set on fire next to it. Later, they would learn it was their Cuban neighbor’s stolen car. At only 14 years old, my mother didn’t understand the symbolism. Years later she would realize it was most likely members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were signaling their presence.
The question remains: how will Democrats address this gross misnomer?
Daniela Ferrera, co-founder of the group Cubanos con Biden, says she had been warning the Biden campaign of the effectiveness of the socialist rhetoric for months, to no avail. At one point, Cubanos con Biden and other Latino groups such as Venezolanos con Biden were conducting radio-monitoring programs, in which they listened to Spanish-language radio stations and would call in to try and counter the falsehoods they were hearing. They reached out to the Biden campaign for talking points to help get their message out, but it always fell on deaf ears, Ferrera says.
“[The Biden campaign] dropped the ball. We had been pretty much screaming at the top of our lungs about what was going on in South Florida, not just with the Cuban American community, because what people don’t realize is that the socialism and communism messaging doesn’t just have an impact on Cuban Americans, it has an impact even outside of the Latino community. We saw that messaging was effective,” Ferrera said.
The campaign simply didn’t take the attacks seriously, Ferrera says, because of how absurd the claims were. But, when a candidate does not spend enough time in a community, constituents are prone to believe a narrative that exploits their trauma.
“Frankly, the campaign didn’t do enough to communicate to our community who Joe Biden is and what his values are,” Ferrera said.
During early voting in Miami-Dade County, Ferrera was told that she shouldn’t bother going to Westchester or Hialeah (two predominantly working class Latino neighborhoods) because those are places “where we didn’t have many [Democrat] voters,” Ferrera said.
Beyond triggering language about a place where none of them live anymore — Cuba — Cuban-Americans benefit from Democratic policies. By voting for Trump, working-class people in Miami are voting against their own interests. The Democratic Party needs to do the challenging work of going into these communities and communicating what their party stands for.
“It was very frustrating that my community was just an afterthought, and I felt like the campaign really gave up on us,” Ferrera said. “But I will never give up on this community.”
After days of minimal sleep and frantic refreshing of the election map dashboard, on the Saturday after the election, my mother decided to turn on the TV to see if there was an update. Coincidentally, at that very moment, outlets had just called Pennsylvania for Biden. The house erupted in pride and joy — a joy that I saw spill out onto the streets of downtown Miami. Cubanos con Biden organizers mobilized supporters to the iconic Freedom Tower to celebrate at the site that welcomed the first waves of Cuban refugees decades ago. The group danced salsa, banged on pots and sang “echa pa ya” (go away).
For a brief moment, Miami Democrats were vindicated, showing the world that we’re here to stay. All we need is to be heard.