At the start of Florida’s legislative session, the state’s outspoken Generation Z representative talks about the governor’s abuse of power and why he will continue calling DeSantis “a fascist.”
“Nobody wants to hear from you,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told Maxwell Frost as security swarmed the Generation Z activist when he crashed a June 2022 interview with the governor to call for action on gun violence in America.
However, it turned out that many people did, in fact, want to hear from the 26-year-old Democrat. So, in November of last year, Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who was born in Orlando, Florida, to a Cuban mother and an American father, became the first Gen Z American to be elected to Congress for District 10 in Orlando.
Since then, he’s moved to Washington, DC, from where he continues to work for the people of his state and talk truth to power, calling out Gov. Ron DeSantis as “a fascist,” while assuring his constituents that he will not back down.
Frost spoke with Floricua at the start of Florida’s Legislative session, which runs from March 7 to May 5, 2023.
‘We’re Actually Taking Notes’
Can you tell us about any bills that you will be introducing during the March legislative session?
Our top first three bills coming out of our office will be around gun violence, housing, and music, arts, and culture, which is really central to the economy of Central Florida with the theme parks, museums, and performing arts centers. Housing, because Central Florida has the worst affordable housing crisis in the country per capita; gun violence because we lose 100 lives a day in this country due to gun violence, and then arts and culture because we need more equity in that.
Can you tell us specifically what is in the housing, gun, and arts bills?
We’re still fleshing out a lot of these bills. But something that’s really important to me is the concept of co-governance. And so, for our housing bill we’ve started doing a series of roundtables with community partners, advocates and organizers. We’re actually taking notes on what they want to see put forth, and we take it back with our legislative team and we figure out what’s the best strategy and what we should do. We’re still fleshing out a lot of these bills. But what you can expect in terms of housing, are bills that work to increase the power of tenants and renters in the marketplace.
Speaking of which, you famously tweeted about losing your application fee after being denied an apartment in Washington, DC. Were you able to get an apartment?
[Laughs] Yes, thankfully I was able to get an apartment, and I can walk to work, which is a blessing. [Housing] is personal for me, and I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can so that what happened to me isn’t happening to other people, and it is happening to other people all across the country. People can’t even get accepted to rent an apartment because of our arbitrary old ways of thinking that don’t really look at the holistic sense of a person, that don’t account for the fact that housing should be an affordable human right for all people.
‘The Book Definition of Fascism’
It has been said that the government in Florida is more concerned about a student checking out a book banned by the DeSantis administration, than about people being able to brandish a gun in public without a license, training, or a background check. What do you say to that?
Governor De Santis is more interested in running for president than in actually running this state. And so all of these bills we see coming out of Tallahassee have everything to do with setting himself up for a 2024 presidential run. An article that just came out shows that he’s making these decisions because of internal polling within the Republican primary, that says that if you target Black history, if you target LGBTQ+ people, if you target marginalized communities [you’ll please your base]. This whole culture war that we’re seeing is more than a cultural war, it’s real violence against communities. When he targets marginalized communities and that’s all he focuses on, he’s not working on affordable housing, he’s not working on lowering costs for working families, he’s not working on raising wages or helping small businesses. All he’s doing is abusing his power to target people who disagree with him. That’s not freedom, that’s not liberty, that’s not what this country was founded on. I believe that true freedom is the ability to start your small business. Do what you want to do in life, feed your family without the economic barriers that currently exist. Ron DeSantis is actively working to prop up those barriers and silence people who disagree with him. And that’s purely un-American.
You have publicly called DeSantis a fascist, and stated last month that you won’t stop referring to DeSantis in those terms. Can you tell us why you chose that particular word?
It’s not something I say lightly. I don’t believe that hyperbole [should play a part] in politics; exaggerating things can be really negative in politics. It’s something we see the Republican party do all the time when they call Democrats communists. But what I’m saying is not exaggeration or hyperbole. It’s just a fact. I encourage people to look up the definition of what fascism is. It’s an authoritarian right-wing leader that uses their power to silence people who are working in opposition, or people who disagree. And that’s what we see from Governor DeSantis right now. For example, you can [look up] how he weaponized the state government to take away the liquor license of a local venue that had a drag show, and he doesn’t agree with drag shows. If you take away the liquor license from a music venue, they close down. That is how they pay the bills. So, he’s closing down small businesses. He’s completely taken over schools. We saw what happened at New College of Florida. And for people who don’t know what De Santis did, disagreed with the fact that the college is a very liberal college. So, he took away the entire board of trustees and put in a bunch of conservative far right lap dogs that agree with him. They fired the president of this college that was making about 200 grand a year, and they installed a new president, who is the former Republican speaker of the House in Florida and made his salary $699,000 a year. He’s using the state, using the power that the people who voted for him gave him, to silence people he disagrees with. And that’s not American. It’s literally the book definition of fascism. It might just be Florida’s problem right now. But it could be the nation’s problem in a year.
Yet there are people who view DeSantis’ actions as patriotic. What do you say to that ?
Patriotism is more than just the flag. It’s about loving and caring about the people in the country. He wants to silence the press, he wants to silence the people, and he is not working on actually helping working class folks. And so, I’m calling out to people, progressives, moderates, conservatives, everybody, to look at what’s going on through a very objective lens. What that means is put aside [party affiliation] and just look at the actions, and you’ll see someone who is very dangerous, worse than Trump.
‘It Isn’t Democrats vs Republicans. It’s People vs the Problem.’
As Floridians, we are seeing the GOP majority state government work to pass bills like HB 543, which would change current Florida law, eliminating a concealed-weapons licensing process that includes people undergoing criminal background checks and completing firearms-training courses. Or SB 254, that would make parental child abduction legal if the parent believes that the minor is receiving gender-affirming health care, or suspects there is a “risk” of getting that care. What is your response to that?
There’s just so much work that needs to be done, and the first part is talking about it and the second part is acting. And I think that for me, my job here is twofold. One is making sure that what’s going on in Florida gets national attention so we can get the resources we need, we organize locally, we rise up with students, activists, organizers, workers, people across the state to make sure that this doesn’t happen without a fight. The second thing is figuring out how the federal government can step in now. Obviously, we don’t control Congress, but we do control the presidency. I’m supporting the president and think he’s been doing a great job. And I think there’s things he can do better in protecting states and people like Florida from governors, like DeSantis who are completely abusing their power. But we’ve got to be honest. Republicans have a supermajority in the state of Florida. So, they don’t even need to talk with the Democrats about what they’re doing. In fact, they’re not even talking with them, they can just pass whatever they want, whatever the governor wants. And then on the other hand, we need to figure out what power we can use. Right now, we hold the presidency, we hold the Senate, and figuring out how we can use that to help the people of Florida.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I would just let people know that the way we’re going to change the state is by building a multigenerational, multiracial movement of working-class people no matter who you are. And this isn’t about Democrats versus Republicans. It’s about the people versus the problem.
And so, we need people to see that this governor is not fighting for working families, working people, people who are living paycheck to paycheck. He’s trying to figure out how he can position himself to gain more power. And that’s not what our leaders should be doing. So, we got to keep fighting.