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First Gen Z Congressmember? Maxwell Frost on Guns, Palestine, Cuba & Reaching Trump Voters in Florida

StoryAugust 30, 2022
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Image Credit: frostforcongress.com

We go to Florida to speak with 25-year-old gun control activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who made history last week when he won the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House seat in Orlando. Frost is set to become the first Afro-Cuban and first member of Generation Z elected to Congress if he goes on to win November’s general election for Florida’s heavily Democratic 10th Congressional District. Frost discusses his decade as a movement organizer in Florida and breaks down his stance on Palestine, Cuba and how to reach Trump supporters in Florida.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we end today’s show in Florida with 25-year-old community organizer Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who made history when he won the Democratic primary for an open U.S. House seat a week ago today. Frost will become the first Afro-Cuban, first member of Generation Z elected to Congress, if he goes on to win November’s general election for Florida’s heavily Democratic 10th Congressional District. He’s the former national organizing director for March for Our Lives, which was formed by survivors of the Parkland shooting in Florida, and campaigned in support of abortion rights. He’s also supported Medicare for All, legislation to combat the climate crisis, the legalization of cannabis, and says he will be a, quote, “pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian member of Congress.”

Maxwell Alejandro Frost, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why you feel this victory, which could well be a victory in November, is so important for this country?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Well, thank you so much for having me on. I think this is important for this country because it sends a message to not just young people, but all folks, to not count young people out of the conversation, and the fact that in a democracy, in a representative one, we need a Congress and a government that looks like the country. And yes, that means in terms of our race, but it also means in terms of age and experience and where people come from.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to ask you — in terms of your activism, you’re very young, but you’e already had about a decade of experience in grassroots campaigns. Could you talk about some of the campaigns that you’ve been involved in and how that propelled you to want to run for Congress at such a young age?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Yeah. Well, for me, this journey started 10 years ago because of the Sandy Hook shooting. I remember seeing what happened on the television screen. It actually really pushed me to go to the vigil that was going on in Washington, D.C., where I met one of the brothers of one of the victims. And the experience I had with him just changed my life forever. And I left that experience saying that for the rest of my life, I’m going to fight for a world where no one has to feel the pain I saw him feel that night.

Since then, I’ve been working in politics and in the movement world in movements that I feel like will bring justice to folks. And so, when we talk about Amendment 4, I worked for the ACLU, leading their field effort here in Florida, knocking doors, making phone calls, working to win the hearts and minds of folks, to say, “Hey, look, people deserve second chances. People deserve to vote once they get out of prison, and, you know, people with previous felonies.” And so, I had the honor of being a part of that struggle, too. At March for Our Lives, I became the national organizing director, where I worked hand in hand with young people from all across the country, over 200 chapters, training, educating and resourcing them to have what they need to make a difference in their local government, and whether or not that’s working to get more money for community violence intervention, so communities can stop violence before it happens, or fighting for safer gun laws. And so, you know, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of some very important struggles in our country’s history over the past decade and want to take what I learned there as a movement organizer and bring it to Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about your views on Israel and Palestine. A few weeks ago, you published a position paper in which you said U.S. military aid to Israel is, quote, “one of the most important parts of the foreign aid that we contribute to.” You also said the boycott, sanctions, divestment movement — the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, or BDS, is “extremely problematic and undermines the chances of peace.”

Many Palestinian Americans in your district said they felt deceieved and betrayed by your views, after supporting your run. I think it was Rasha Mubarak who told the Middle East Eye, “Essentially, he built his campaign off our pain and our hope to elect another voice into Congress who advocated for a free Palestine.”

And I also wanted to ask you about that issue of money in the campaign. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports position “did not provoke enough opposition for super PAC spending.” You received a million-dollar pledge of support from the new super PAC, Protect Our Future, funded almost entirely by the crypto-billionaire Samuel Bankman-Fried. Can you talk about that?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Yeah, for sure. Well, you know, for myself as an organizer, as a progressive, I mean, when I close my eyes and I think about the world that I want to live in, it’s a world where Palestinians are able to live free, have the resources they need and just be able to live their lives, you know, very, very similar to what I believe Americans should have, as well. And same thing with Israelis. I close my eyes and think of a world where Israelis are able to live in a world free of violence and without the fear of being gunned down or any missiles or anything like that.

And so, I support a two-state solution, because I believe that’s the strongest and quickest path towards peace for the entire region. And all subsequent policy for me has to point to that two-state solution, ensuring that Palestinians have their own sovereign state where they’re able to live. And I think there’s things that Israel needs to do in ensuring that the mass demolitions, evictions stop, that the settlement expansions stop, so we can move towards peace. And then, you know, Hamas needs to stop lobbing missiles towards Israel. It’s putting families and children at risk, as well. And I think when we get to a place where peace is possible, a two-state solution is the best way forward. And that’s what I champion, and that’s what I’m going to push for in Congress.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Maxwell, you live in Central Florida. How do you speak to the Trump supporters, especially the conspiracy theorists and election deniers? Do you think there’s a way to win them over, or do you just have to mobilize a bigger vote from people who don’t hold their views?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: You know, I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult, but it is important. I mean, we can never give up on anybody. As an organizer myself, I really believe that this has to be about the battle for hearts and minds. And that means never giving up on people, no matter how far gone they might seem. Again, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, especially with the rhetoric we’re hearing from the right, what we’re hearing from those leaders, but we can never give up on the flight of just talking to our fellow human beings about what we believe in and why we believe in this future.

And at the end of the day, the message that we carried in this primary, part of the reason we won and why we’re going to win this general in November, is that it’s a platform all about love. And that’s something that anyone can get behind. It’s bringing together common, shared values behind an agenda that means: Because I love you, I want you to have healthcare, I want you to have safety, and I want you to have the opportunity that you deserve.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you — your family, your adopted parents, your mother was from — the grandmother was from Cuba. And I’m wondering your perspective, given the importance of Cuban relations with the electorate in Florida, how you feel about the Biden administration’s current stance and policy toward the nation of Cuba.

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: Yeah, I mean, the way I approach Cuba — and a lot of times it’s me just thinking about my family there, me thinking about the most vulnerable people there. I believe that there are multiple truths to be had. You know, the current regime in Cuba is oppressive to the Cuban people, has been. That is why my grandma, my abuela, my mom, my aunt, they came here during the freedom flights in the late 1960s to escape that and find a better life. But at the same time, also recognizing that U.S. and Cuba policy that’s been normalized hasn’t been working, in fact, and a lot of times has been affecting the most vulnerable people and not the folks we need to affect to create the policy change that’s needed on the island. So, you know, there’s multiple truths that need to be held there. I think it’s important to normalize those relations and move to a place where we are centering the poor and working-class families in Cuba that are crying out for help and support from a violent, oppressive regime.

AMY GOODMAN: Maxwell Frost, are you for lifting the embargo?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: I am.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, President Biden is going to Pennsylvania today, calling for an assault weapons ban. You’re a major anti-gun activist. Do you feel that this is enough?

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: I’m sorry. Can you repeat it, the question?

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, President Biden is going to Pennsylvania today, calling for an assault weapons ban.

MAXWELL ALEJANDRO FROST: I think an assault weapons ban is extremely important. I think the bipartisan bill that was passed just a few months ago is also important in taking the steps necessary to end gun violence in this country. And what we know is the leading cause of death for children recently went from automobile accidents to gun violence. And so our children are literally on the frontlines of this. There’s a lot more that needs to be done, but I think these steps are important and significant, especially when you don’t allow yourself to get clouded with the statistics and the numbers. Behind every number, there’s a human, there’s a person, there’s a family, there’s a story. And when we learn that, legislation that can save one, two, three, four, five lives a day is more than worth it. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, but I think these are important steps.

AMY GOODMAN: Maxwell Alejandro Frost, we want to thank you for being with us, won the Democratic primary, first Generation Z’er. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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