Guide to the 2020 Democratic Debates in Miami | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


The 11 Types of People You'll See at the Democratic Debates in Miami

Bernie is Miami bound.
Bernie is Miami bound. Karli Evans and Win McNamee for Getty

June 26 and 27, a whopping 20 Democratic candidates for president will take the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts just north of downtown Miami in the first debates of the 2020 election cycle. They will bicker, slam Donald Trump, and almost certainly embarrass themselves by speaking bad Spanish.

You can be sure of all that.

Every Miami hanger-on worth their weight in overpriced club champagne will show up with the purpose of appearing on national television — or maybe just to be part of the scene. They'll wander around outside trying to worm their way in. They'll pander to anyone who will listen. And they'll try their damndest to act cool.

While the fat-cat national media are handicapping what the candidates will say, here are New Times' predictions about which jackasses will wander around our Magic City.

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Jake Tapper
Photo by Ståle Grut

Jake Tapper in a Guayabera

When in town, visiting members of the media act as if their only knowledge of the city comes from the Will Smith song "Miami." Expect to see TV crews trailing Lester Holt on Ocean Drive as he clutches a fishbowl-size beergarita or capturing B-roll of Savannah Guthrie getting chummy with the locals in Domino Park. At least one Chris (be it Cuomo, Cillizza, or Hayes) will be caked in makeup to cover his post-airboat-ride sunburn. Miami-born Chuck Todd will almost certainly declare himself "305 till I die" despite saying just last summer he would never want to live here again. And don't be surprised if you find Jake Tapper reporting live in an ill-fitting guayabera outside the Arsht Center. You might even hear him hablando un poquito de español.

Photo by Michael Reeve / Flickr

Resistance Grifters (and Their Followers)

They've built Twitter followings of hundreds of thousands of accounts with avatars of Donald Trump in diapers and, probably, a good helping of bots. With hot takes like "Orange man for prison! Retweet if you agree," these folks have turned hating Trump into a personality, and many of them are hoping to turn it into a career. You think these grifters would miss the chance to see their Lord and Savior, Joe Biden, in the flesh? Nope — that's one thing they won't be able to #Resist.

Lobbyists, Donors, and Other Leeches

The Florida Democrats like to talk tough about Republican political corruption. And, sure, Republicans are generally corrupt as hell. But the Florida Dems are not immune to ethical lapses of their own: Big Sugar openly sponsored the Florida Dems' Blue Gala this year — and you can bet that many of the Dems' skeeziest buddies have reserved top-level seats for the coming show. Let's be honest: The apex of human slime will attend this thing, from prison-industry lobbyists to former pharmaceutical reps to real-estate impresarios who think they somehow matter because they dump $18 million into campaign coffers every year. It's gonna be a Met Gala for the sort of ambulance-chasing lawyers and #Resistance dentists who fund the party nowadays.

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Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Cuban Grandpa Still Talking About the Bay of Pigs

John F. Kennedy was president almost 60 years ago, but that doesn't stop this grumpy Miamian from complaining about him — and, by extension, the Democratic Party — at every family outing. It seems like only yesterday that Kennedy pulled support for the invasion in Cuba, affirming for abuelito that Democrats can rot and the Republican Party is the only choice — even if it gets him deported. You'll find him outside the debates muttering about the Reagan era and calling everyone papo as he pulls them into his in-depth political analysis. Then he'll bum a cigarette.

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Michael Grieco
Photo by Romain Maurice / Getty Images

Disgraced Political Hucksters

If you're a politician who's been busted, there's no better way to turn your career around than to show up at a big-time political event and pretend to be important. In Miami, who you were in the past means nada. It's all about who you are today.

Michael Grieco gets this. So the former Miami Beach commissioner and current state representative — who pleaded no contest in 2017 to charges of collecting money from a foreign straw donor — is sure to be there. Also likely to show is David Rivera, who was accused of masterminding a plan to help steer more than $70,000 — sometimes through envelopes stuffed with cash — to fund a mail campaign and data-targeting operation for a ringer Democratic primary candidate to weaken his opponent. Then there's Stephen Bittel, former chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, who resigned in 2017 after calling black lawmakers "childish," harassing a succession of women, and even keeping a breast-shaped stress squeeze ball on his desk. The Dem debate is the place to turn it all around for these gents and many others.

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Fox & Friends
Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Fox & Friends and Friends

Soothe your Friday-morning debate hangover with the coverage and analysis you love to hate from the kind folks at Fox & Friends. What better companion for coffee and Advil than doomsday proclamations and warnings of a communist revolution within the Democratic Party? And the Miami debates are sure to attract other faces familiar to Floridians, such as far-right conspiracy theorist John Cardillo or frequent Fox contributor and disgraced former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. You might even see the notoriously thin-skinned Dan Bongino, fresh off of a new social media meltdown and ginning for an opportunity to "own the libs." Who knows? It's like Pokémon Go, but for Trump sycophants.

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Photo by David Shankbone

All 12 Members of the Miami DSA

The fight for the soul of the Democratic Party is going to take some serious manpower. And who could ask for better foot soldiers than all 12 members of the Democratic Socialists of America's Miami chapter? Like an army of Spartan ants, these DSA members will do whatever it takes to carry Democrats to the left. Expect gratuitous laughter from the DSA in response to Bernie Sanders' various granddad jokes during the debates. If you're Joe Biden, expect to be called out on your bullshit. We recommend any Venezuelans attending the debates do their best to avoid these guys lest they be subjected to a long-winded rant on why dictator Nicolás Maduro is in fact a legitimate leader and how any attempt to unseat him is tantamount to invading Iraq all over again.

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Photo by Phillip Faraone / Getty Images

The Proud Boys, Laura Loomer, and D-List Alt-Righters

Look, don't be surprised if Laura Loomer unchains herself from Twitter HQ or stops prowling outside Nancy Pelosi's house to show up at the Democratic debates. For her and other far-right provocateurs peddling mind-numbingly insane bullshit, this is a prime opportunity to make a scene and post the video of it online for their legions of logic-challenged followers. Maybe Jack Posobiec will accuse Elizabeth Warren of running a child-sex cult out of her suitcase. Maybe Jacob Wohl will hold a news conference about it. Maybe the Proud Boys will try to beat up the 12 members of Miami's DSA. Just be glad that Milo Yiannopoulos didn't really own that Brickell house and that Roger Stone is preoccupied with trying to avoid prison.

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Photo by Daniel Bendjy / iStock

Campaign Consultants Wearing Khakis to the Club

Like any great tourist town, Miami often sees its clubs and nightlife spots full of visitors from whichever major conference is in town on a given week. Sometimes those people are cool. Other times they're members of a Bitcoin conference crammed into a strip club. But for one weekend, our world-class bars and restaurants will be chock full of the lamest group of people on Planet Earth: Democratic campaign consultants, political hacks, and the media members who track their every move. It will be Art Basel for Wonks. (Wonk Basel, if you will.) Sure, you likely won't catch Joe Biden shirtless and chewing on a cell phone at LIV like he's 2016-era Cuba Gooding Jr., but lower-level political nerds are sure to flood our local watering holes. Mac's Club Deuce will be packed with dudes in gingham shirts and khakis. Someone will get his lanyard stuck on the flamingo-shaped centerpiece at Gramps. Cocktail waitresses at E11even might even offer drink discounts just to get bar-goers to stop blathering about marginal tax rates or universal basic income. These staffers will show up to the debates bleary-eyed and hung-over, and Miami's nightlife scene will welcome their exit.


Cuban White Supremacists

Being in Miami, the first Democratic debates will almost certainly see the candidates asked questions about immigration policy. So it's a good bet that the local population of white supremacists, including those of Cuban descent, will be out in full force. You know the guys, the ones who use racial slurs and hysterically shout about the need for a border wall despite having immigrant parents. Their mentality is basically, I got mine, so fuck y'all. They'll deflect any criticism by telling you they can't be racist because they're Cuban.

Photo by Jerry Iannelli

Michael the Black Man

Michael the Black Man is also known as Michael Symonette, Maurice Woodside, and Mikael Israel. He gets in line hours before Trump rallies so he can hold a "Blacks for Trump" sign behind the podium. Once a member of the murderous Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, he was charged with, then acquitted of, conspiracy to commit two murders in the '90s. The guy says crazy stuff, like Cherokees were the original slave masters (take that, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) and Trump is great because of his plan to "take taxes down... doing the same thing that Abraham Lincoln did." In 2008, Michael the Black Man and a group of other protesters interrupted Barack Obama at a campaign rally by shouting, "Barack, go home!" and waving signs declaring, "Obama endorsed by the KKK." When Bernie, Liz, Joe, and company take the stage at the Arsht Center, you can bet Mikey from Miami will jeer and try to make them look bad. Who knows? That could earn the former cult member another thumbs-up from the mindless orange doofus in the White House.

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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos
Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli
Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb
Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas

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