MIAMI — The mayor of the nation’s most progressing and least progressive large city says “a confluence of macro factors” explains both attributes. Abundant sunshine here and equally abundant misgovernance in other U.S. municipalities help Miami. The most important factor, however, is that so many residents of this haven for immigrants have been, Mayor Francis Suarez says, “traumatized by our origin story.” Note the “our.”
Miami has always been a magnet for people from elsewhere, from Northern states, then Cuba, followed by Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other places where socialism and other permutations of abusive, prosperity-preventing government are not abstract theories but vivid memories. In a city where most were born elsewhere, Suarez, 44, is the first mayor who was born here. He is the son of Miami’s first Cuban American mayor: Xavier Suarez, the ninth of 14 children in a family once put under house arrest by Fidel Castro, arrived in the United States at age 12 in 1961 speaking little English. He is the author of six books and the recipient of Villanova and Harvard degrees. The Suarez family, like this city, believes in what Abraham Lincoln called “the right to rise.”
National Democrats’ demography-is-destiny theory reflects the mentality of a party soggy with the tribalism of identity politics: The “browning of America” will supposedly guarantee Democrats’ dominance. This theory is being slain by Florida facts: In 2016, Donald Trump carried Florida by 110,000 votes; in 2020, by nearly 400,000. Until recently the largest swing state in presidential politics, Florida might be following Ohio in removing itself from the list of such states.
“We live,” Francis Suarez says, “in an experiential world.” The Miami experience, which is expected to attract more than 300,000 new residents by 2032, includes:
The lowest tax rate since the 1960s, the mayor says, despite a 65 percent population increase. Two trillion dollars in managed financial assets — equivalent to almost 200 percent of Florida’s gross domestic product, and 8.6 percent of 2021 U.S. GDP — have moved here recently. Suarez says Congress’s cap on the deductibility from federal income taxes of state and local taxes has made Miami 13 percent less expensive than many non-Florida cities, and Florida’s absence of state and local income taxes approximately doubles that advantage. Miami ranks first among U.S. cities in the migration of tech jobs, and first in percentage of tech job growth among cities with at least 10,000 job postings. Because covid-19 popularized remote work, Miami is no longer a net talent exporter: Do your Connecticut job here. Approximately 47,000 residential units will be built in the next 36 months. The homicide rate, down 15 percent in a year, is the lowest since 1957. Despite an inviting climate, Miami has its lowest homelessness rate since 2013.
Miami is the heart of Miami-Dade County, which is two-thirds Hispanic. Hillary Clinton carried it with 64 percent in 2016, but, in 2020, Joe Biden won only 53 percent as Trump nearly doubled his 2016 vote total. Today, Latino voters and non-Hispanic White voters are about equally likely to describe themselves as conservatives. Progressives might try muting their message that this nation was born from racism and remains essentially awful. (See above: Origin story, traumatized by.)
Miami’s mayoral elections are nonpartisan, but Suarez, who was reelected last year with 79 percent of the vote, is a registered Republican, albeit one who did not vote for the party’s presidential nominee in 2016 and 2020. He is not coy about his interest in what he calls “the big job.” His decision about seeking the Republicans’ 2024 presidential nomination will not be contingent on what a 75-year-old, sulking 70 miles north of here, decides to do with his dwindling days.
The ambitions of most of the GOP’s presidential aspirants are larger than any executive experiences that might make their ambitions more seemly. Someone needs to banish the Republican miasma of stale anger. As a candidate, Suarez would offer a generational transition with Miami Republicans’ traditional agenda of lightly taxed and lightly regulated social dynamism. Republicans here say, “Somos los hijos de Reagan” (“We are the children of Reagan”).
Suarez has more pertinent governing experience than a 43-year-old Illinois state legislator had accumulated by 2004, four years before being elected president. The nation has never plucked a president directly from a mayor’s office, but considering the disappointing results of traditional candidate selections, why not try something novel? The nation could do worse. It usually does and probably will, but need not.