Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 presidential election victory was largely fueled by a whopping 29 electoral votes from the Sunshine State of Florida. Now, experts are predicting that a tidal wave of post-Hurricane Maria migrants moving from Puerto Rico to Florida could tip the formerly Republican state solidly toward the Democratic Party. If so, Trump (and other prominent Republican candidates) could find themselves struggling in the state in the near future.
As Yahoo News reported, the devastation wrought in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria is slated to propel potentially millions of migrants to Florida in the coming days, weeks and months. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and U.S. citizens to boot. However, citizens of the territory aren’t permitted to vote in U.S. general presidential elections when they live on the island – only the primaries. If they move to the U.S. mainland, though, that all changes. And Puerto Rico is known to favor Democrats over Republicans.
In all, roughly 3.4 million people live on Puerto Rico, and the devastation of Hurricane Maria is forcing a good portion of those folks to make the life-altering decision to relocate to the U.S. mainland. It’s possible that hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans will be coming to stay with their loved ones in the continental United States in the near future, and (after New York City) most of those migrants are expected to be headed to central Florida cities, such as Tampa and St. Petersburg, which feature large Puerto Rican communities.
While Donald Trump has already expressed a desire to run for re-election in 2020, many on the devastated island of Puerto Rico fault the POTUS for his “too slow” response to the crisis presented by the devastating Hurricane Maria. The war of words between Trump and Carmen Yulín Cruz, the Mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, escalated on Twitter over the weekend, with Donald blaming Democrats for her being critical and “nasty” regarding his hurricane response.
On an island of U.S. citizens facing massive power outages, no water, food shortages and no ETA for a functional infrastructure, the POTUS accused the people of Puerto Rico of wanting “everything to be done for them.” He also called Cruz’s leadership “poor.”
The drama has left many of the island’s millions of residents critical and distrusting of Trump, calling him out for being too slow to respond to the unprecedented tragedy that befell the island. And when those who are part of the expected post-Maria exodus relocate en masse to Florida as expected, the largely anti-Trump and Democratic Puerto Rican voters could spell trouble for Trump and the GOP.
“He needs to come down here, see how this is. He needs to see for himself, with his own two eyes, what we are going through.”
Whether the fault of a slow Trump response or not, the current conditions on Puerto Rico are so bad that many residents who are capable of leaving are planning to do so at the first available opportunity. They are bringing their children, they are bringing their parents, most are Democrats, and the exodus on the island isn’t constrained by economic class.
“Everyone is trying to get out. Everyone: middle class, upper class, lower class, everyone, either for a short time or for good.”
Jorge Duany, an anthropologist specializing in migration at Florida International University (FIU) claims that the political impact of the anticipated exodus from Puerto Rico to Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is expectd to be “very widespread.” While it’s unclear how many migrants from the U.S. territory will stay for the long-term and how many are simply looking for a temporary home while Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is rebuilt, it’s entirely possible that the new wave of migrants could sway the next presidential election.
“It is not clear if they are people who are going to stay permanently. But it is quite clear that there will be an even greater exodus because of the hurricane.”
While residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens with U.S. passports, their voting in presidential elections is restricted to primaries when they live on the island. If they are move to the U.S. mainland, however, Puerto Ricans can register to vote for POTUS, no matter what state they live in. If they are living in Florida in large numbers, they have the very real potential of swaying the 2020 presidential election.
And a good number reportedly have a beef with Donald Trump and his handling of the Hurricane Maria crisis now plaguing the island. If as many come to Florida as are expected, they could potentially sway the Florida vote against Trump in the next election cycle, despite the fact that the state helped him handily defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Definitely an influx of Puerto Ricans could have a political impact in Florida.”
Anthropological experts also believe that the anticipated exodus out of Puerto Rico and into Florida could have an impact far beyond politics and Democrat vs. Republicans. It’s expected that the incoming wave of Puerto Rican migrants may cause norther Florida to sway from being primarily white and conservative-leaning to Hispanic and primarily Democratic. What’s more, Florida will likely see its population of Hispanic American citizens rise substantially.
“Although some are bilingual, they maintain their Latino culture and all this will reinforce Florida’s Latinization,”
What do you think about the potential exodus from Puerto Rico to Florida? Do you think it could have a substantial impact on the 2020 presidential election? Do you think that Donald Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria could cost him his re-election bid and Republicans control of Florida? Let us know in the comments below.
[Featured Image by Carlos Giusti/AP Images]