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A Tale of Two Miami Town Halls — As Told by Gen Z Voters

Joe Biden (left) still holds a small lead over President Trump in Florida in most polls.
President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have both participated in town halls in Miami in recent weeks.

In the last two weeks, Miami has taken center stage for the presidential election, despite the cancellation of the second presidential debate. Both President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden had the chance to connect with South Florida voters.

Here’s what some Gen Zers thought of both Miami town halls.

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Robert Palacios is an 18-year-old Cuban American affiliated with the Democratic party. After viewing both events, Palacios noted a drastic difference between the candidates. He said that Thursday night he saw what he described as typical Donald Trump behavior, where the president answered questions in the same dominant character that has defined his administration and campaign from the start.

When it came to answering South Floridians’ concerns, Palacios said Trump didn’t really address any of them. For him, Trump’s answers were weak and careless.

“Let's recall the same town hall Joe Biden had in Miami,” he said. “We watched a man who listened and paid close attention to the concerns of Floridians. He answered their questions in detail and straight to the point.”

The biggest talking point that stood out to Palacios from Biden’s town hall last week was Biden’s answer on socialism.

“We live in Miami-Dade County where [the label socialist] is something that’s always used against Democrats like myself,” Palacios said. “Joe Biden addressed that concern and fake notion better than anyone in the Democratic party has done in years.”

Palacios said he wanted both candidates to address climate change and healthcare in South Florida — including the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Palacios said he has seen, firsthand, the benefits of the ACA for both his family and his community. He found the president’s answer on the future of the ACA worrisome.

“We have a president who hasn't considered how lifesaving this has been for thousands of Americans like my own parents, who both have pre-existing conditions,” Palacios said. “Let's face it, Donald Trump doesn't care about my parents' health or the American people. He prefers to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it was established under the Obama administration, rather than build on this milestone.”

Elias Castilla Marquez is a 20-year-old college student studying at Florida International University. He said the recent presidential events shouldn’t focus so much on the pandemic because it’s a transitory issue for America.

“There are more issues beyond what they say in debates and in town halls,” Castilla Marquez said. “I think for voters to be informed, they need a holistic view of everything that’s going on in America.”

One of the questions that stood out to him from Biden’s Miami town hall was the final question asked by a fellow Colombian Gen Zer. Castilla Marquez said Biden failed to connect with people like him by mentioning how one of his granddaughters was struggling to get a job after graduating from Columbia University.

“By him saying that, you want to seem in touch with the young generation, but most young people don’t go to Columbia,” he said. “They are not found in the privileged situation your granddaughter is in.”

Castilla Marquez is a registered Republican and plans on voting for Trump. What resonates the most with him about Trump is the fact that he’s an outsider in politics that "says things how they are." He said the challenges that his generation face are a result of years of incompetence from politicians like Biden.

“Joe Biden made a mistake in acting like all the Democratic candidates before him,” Castilla Marquez said. “He’s trying to be presidential. He fails to realize that the reason why Trump won is because in many ways, the American public, we're tired of career politicians.”

Carolina Menache, 24, was born and raised in Miami by her Cuban parents. She stands out in her Republican family as a registered independent. Menache said she will remain undecided until she bubbles in her ballot.

“You basically have two very old men, and neither of them are accurately appealing to people my age,” she said.

Menache said Biden’s campaign is focusing on the social issues that appeal to young people, such as LGBTQ rights, while Trump’s campaign has mostly refrained from addressing them.

She emphasized that her generation sees through both party’s pandering to their respective bases. Menache said she thinks Trump didn’t have such traditional social ideals before he got into politics, but running as a Republican he knew that he needed to embrace them to win.

“If he had a neutral, logical stance, he knows that he would unfortunately lose certain traditional bases that he has,” she said. “He’s not willing to risk that and his team is not willing to risk that. They’re comfortable existing in that binary because they know that’s better branding for him.”

Regarding both candidates’ overall performance at their respective Miami town halls, Menache said that neither gave substantial answers. She thinks Biden communicates like a career politician, with long-winded stories that don't get to the point. Menache said that Trump’s responses got lost in the adjectives he uses "that sound good but don’t mean anything."

She also pointed out her disapproval of Trump’s response to whether he would encourage Americans to wear masks now that he’s had the virus.

“We don’t need you to play devil’s advocate on national TV as the president,” she said. “You have nothing to lose, from a logical standpoint, to just say wear masks.”

Natalia Clement is a freelance journalist and former summer intern for WLRN, South Florida’s public radio news outlet. She enjoys producing multimedia content that covers community news and current topics of interest.
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