Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent the weeks since his re-election at war with “wake up” foes: He picked a $2 billion fight with the world’s top financial manager over his environmental policies and vowed to go to court to defend a new law that bans teaching about racial oppression and white privilege.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been taking some time off Since his re-election attacking DeSantis – on Twitter And in an opinion piece he spoke comments — while promising to make his state a haven for many of the practices Florida Republicans oppose.
“He’s tough,” the Democrat said of DeSantis in a recent interview. “I have no respect for bullies and people who have made their entire political careers attacking vulnerable communities.”
“If Gov. Newsom is looking for any indications about successful governance, he can follow Florida’s lead,” DeSantis spokeswoman Lindsey Cornuti said in response to Newsom’s comments.
The two countries have become some of the nation’s foremost ideological adversaries. Superman has Bizarro, a powerful opponent who remotely resembles him but has opposite instincts. Florida and California have each other.
Advisers to Newsom and DeSantis, who scored landslide re-election victories, expect the competition to intensify between the two governors, who could at some point run for president. But their differences are greater than one rivalry between two men. They also reflect widening national divisions over culture, lifestyle, and the definition of freedom—between those who see institutions as forces to lift people up and those who see them as pressures on people.
From afar, the two coastal nations look the same: beaches and natural disasters; kitschy theme parks full of tourists; orange groves studded with residential projects; and populations that swell with people from elsewhere seek to reconfigure themselves in places free from the burdens of their past. But their differences have often dominated national conversations in recent months.
said Diane Roberts, a Florida-based writer and critic for DeSantis who writes about her state’s culture and history. “While in Florida, we’re investigating a drag queen’s Christmas show.”
Newsom sees demographic and cultural changes as part of the progress toward a more equitable society, and views the biggest challenges as the systemic obstacles that have prevented the participation of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups in American society. He has promoted California as a haven for people seeking abortion rights and gender affirming care for children, while vowing to make the state a leader in reversing climate change and workplace inequality.
He is selling California as a place that will be valued for this openness because it serves to attract tech companies and other innovators who want to cash in on the green energy transition while benefiting from a more educated, progressive workforce.
No state has had a greater influence on the direction of the United States than California, a prolific incubator and exporter of foreign policy and ideas. This spin-off series looks at what that means for the state and the country, and how far Washington is willing to go to advance California’s agenda as the state’s struggles threaten its status as the nation’s think tank.
Recently, Newsom released a plan to curb oil industry profits and visited the US-Mexico border to emphasize support for asylum seekers and push for changes to federal immigration law. He said his second term will be about implementing the programs he started in his first term to curb drug addiction and homelessness that contribute to Fox News’ caricature of his condition as out of control.
DeSantis sees Newsom’s powers of change as its own form
oppression. In his recent inaugural address, he defined Florida as a “refuge of reason” and “the citadel of liberty.”
campaigned for his resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates; support laws prohibiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in public kindergarten through third grade; Teaching about racial oppression runs throughout the public education system. He argues that all of these attitudes empower parents and attract business.
And his allies say they see Florida, where the Republican advantage has been modest for decades, as a completely red state since DeSantis’ re-election by about 20 percentage points. That included a victory in Miami-Dade, the state’s most Latino county, just weeks after he used taxpayer money to ship unsuspecting Central American immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
DeSantis has also been keen to fight what he calls “awakened capitalism”. He signed into law a bill in April to repeal Disney’s special tax status after the company criticized Florida’s “Don’t Say Like Me” law.
His advisers and allies expect the term to see heavy criticism from tech companies that have drawn complaints of censorship from the right. The former DeSantis adviser also expects the governor to dig deeper into gender issues, including potential legislation to restrict youth attendance at drag shows. Two medical boards appointed by DeSantis voted last year to ban sex confirmation treatment for minors.
The country announced in December that it would divest $2 billion from BlackRock, the world’s largest financial manager, because the company considers social and environmental impact in its investment decisions.
Despite the rhetoric and their relative popularity, neither conservative can claim absolute success.
A key part of DeSantis’ law against public school debates about white privilege and racial oppression has been brought up in court; The legislature may need to reverse stripping Disney of its special tax status to avoid burdening taxpayers with nearly $1 billion in Disney debt; And home insurers are charging 30% hikes in rates or leaving the market entirely, in large part because hurricanes are made more ferocious by climate change.
Meanwhile, Disney has delayed plans to move thousands of its theme park employees from California to Florida, hurting the latter’s development goals.
Newsom grapples with a homelessness crisis that has paralyzed major cities, an energy crisis that threatens the country’s prosperity, and a water crisis that has not abated. After decades of population growth, the state is seeing more people leave for other states than come from elsewhere.
Florida attracts some of them. And many still go for Texas, which for more than a decade has positioned itself as California’s premier sparring partner.
Texas leaders actively promoted their state’s business-friendly climate, which included no income tax, low regulations and cheap land. They sued to block Obamacare and pushed the boundaries on abortion restrictions. said Kenneth P. Miller, professor at Claremont McKenna College and author of Texas vs. California: A History of Their Fight for America’s Future.
“Florida wasn’t really on the radar screen until Ron DeSantis single-handedly made Florida a contender for California,” said Miller.
In earlier eras, conservatives with national ambitions generally presented themselves as moderates who could rise above partisan strife. Texas Governor George W. Bush promoted himself as a “compassionate conservative” and touted the benefits of immigration in his presidential bid. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton has pushed for a “third way” with a more business-friendly Democratic party.
But in a country deeply divided and increasingly partisan, where the number of states under one-party rule is at its highest level in 70 years, many rulers have bet on a different approach, selling their states as national models of the left or the right. The verdict.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another potential candidate for national office, has championed her state’s strict abortion ban and signed into law a law banning transgender children from participating in sports according to their gender identity. Moderate Republican governors in Massachusetts and Maryland have been replaced by liberal Democrats who promise more aggressive policies on fairness and civil rights.
The result is that more Americans live in ideological bastions—millions feeling isolated as political minorities if they live in a country run by an opposing party.
In California, for example, 70% of Republicans are interested in getting out of the state, compared to just 27% of Democrats. And in Florida, 49% of Democrats and only 19% of Republicans said they would consider leaving, Miller found in an October poll of voters from the two states plus Texas and New York.
Minority party members in California and Florida cited politics before economics when asked about the main reason they would consider leaving.
In fact, few people move for political reasons, given the limitations of jobs, housing, and family ties. But Americans increasingly see themselves as part of the red or blue national teams—a change from the past, when politics and culture were based more on region than on political party, Jacob M. Grumbach, author of Labs Against Democracy, a book on the nationalization of state policies.
With fewer news outlets covering local and state issues, voters, donors, and party activists are increasingly responding to politicians like DeSantis and Newsom, who focus on national issues that resonate with like-minded partisans on social media.
DeSantis is certain to run for president in 2024. Newsom has said he won’t run in 2024, but he might change his mind if President Biden so chooses, or he might try his hand in 2028. An election involving either man would likely offer a referendum on the culture and politics of his country.
But it’s not just the rulers who are looking to go up. School boards and other local officials—especially on the right—have a say in hot national issues such as critical race theory, whether or not it’s taught in their districts.
It’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future, Grumbach said — nearly every political contest provides a cultural poll on issues that often have little specific political content, such as wearing a mask in public or how people participate in a multicultural society.
“Even to run for local dogfight,” Grumbach said, “you better have a say in national tug-of-war issues.”
Times staff writer Taryn Luna contributed to this report.