Tom Wolfe’s Miami

Peter Berkowitz, Policy Review, February/March 2013.


In 2012, both presidential candidates agreed that America is a divided nation. In private remarks to wealthy donors in May that were secretly taped and released to devastating political effect in September, Mitt Romney declared that 47% of Americans are heavily dependent on government entitlements, pay no income taxes, see themselves as victims, and will never vote for a Republican who calls for personal responsibility. In contrast, no hostile actions designed to cripple his candidacy were necessary to reveal President Obama’s view that poisonous divisions disfigure the nation. The president openly, emphatically, and every chance he got proclaimed that America suffers from an ugly and unjust rift between the wealthy and the rest. And unlike the former governor of Massachusetts, whose opinions about what divides us were spoken in private, the president and his team did what was in their power to stoke resentment by spending hundreds of millions of dollars in swing states alone on negative ads that sought to convince women, minorities, the young, low-income earners, and much of the middle class that the rapacious rich and the heartless Republicans who coddle them are the people’s enemies.

Tom Wolfe, master chronicler of American society and culture for half a century and going strong, also sees America riven by deep divisions. Or so he sees Miami, the seething setting for his entertaining and ambitious new novel about the heroics, travails, and chivalry of young Cuban-American cop Nestor Camacho, and the ill-fated romances of Nestor’s beautiful and basically good-hearted ex-girlfriend Magdalena Ortega.

Hoover Institution