Congressman Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z member of Congress, is in the middle of his freshman year as the youngest person serving in one of the oldest Congresses in history.
I’ve been covering generational change in American politics for years now, and when Frost won his seat in 2022, he brought Gen Z priorities to Congress for the first time. But Congressman Frost is more than just the new kid on the block. He’s also the first Afro-Cuban to be elected to Congress. He’s a former organizer for March For Our Lives, the Gen Z movement against gun violence. And his district includes parts of Orlando, a democratic stronghold in a state with a Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, who’s running for president.
All this makes Maxwell Frost the perfect person to help us better understand this weird moment in American politics. In this episode, we talk about octogenarian politicians, dynamic young voters, how gun violence has radicalized an entire generation, and what it’s really like to be in Congress in your 20s.
Tune in every Thursday, and join us as we continue to explore the minds that shape our world. You can listen to the full episode in the player above, but here are a handful of excerpts from our conversation:
On why Bernie Sanders is Gen Z’s Barack Obama:
I think a lot of Gen Zers would probably talk about the campaign of Bernie Sanders in 2015, 2016, as a movement that put a lot of people into politics. You know, Bernie is probably—this is not to compare individuals, but more movements—Bernie is probably the Obama of Gen Z. You know, just like a figure that pushed you into politics. And Obama was that for me too. But I’m older than most Gen Zers, so a lot of them probably don’t remember Obama’s campaign, I volunteered on it. I think all these very progressive social movements and political movements have really built off of one another to create this politically active generation that we see now. If you look at the numbers, the United States has some of the most active young people in politics in the entire world.
On how younger leaders have a different perspective:
I think your generation and where you’re from and who you are, and your family story and your experiences, all these things change the lens through which you see the same issue. So if you were to talk to me about economic opportunity, I might talk to you a little bit more about student debt, food insecurity, housing, and becoming an entrepreneur and building wealth. And an older person might have a different way of thinking. They might first want to talk about home ownership. But for me as a young person, I understand that home ownership is very important, but damn, we can’t even get into a rental.
I’m thinking about how can we make renting easier for people so then we can build wealth to get a house. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about buying a house. It’s that I just realized that there’s steps to getting there and the first step is having a place to live. And that’s personal for me.
On how he keeps having fun even with a busy Congressional schedule:
Last week I went to a concert here in D.C. and then had some friends in town I hadn’t seen in a while. I hung out with them and then I had an interview here in the office very early. I was doing a morning show in Orlando remotely, and so I just kind of stayed up. I came to the office very early at like five, and I took a nap on this couch and then I did the interview. It definitely sucked. Would not recommend. But, you know, it is what it is. I UberEata some McGriddles and I got through the day.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- In the Belly of MrBeast
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19?
- The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time