The debate that matters

DeSantis/Newsom debateBy Tom Quiner, Board President, Pulse Life Advocates

Presidential debates are cattle calls which yield unsatisfying results. Moderators ask large questions, such as: “How will you bring about peace on earth and goodwill to men? You have sixty seconds to respond.” These sprawling events allow candidates but ten minutes of total time to expound on a panoply of complex issues. That’s why I’m looking forward to the DeSantis/Newsom debate.

In case you haven’t heard, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, challenged Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to a head-to-head debate on November 30th, hosted by Fox News.

Two visions for America

This debate allows two competing governing and political philosophies to be compared side-by-side. Mr. Newsom has implemented the most progressive agenda in the country, a stark contrast to Mr. DeSantis’ conservative approach to running a state.

Clearly, Gavin Newsom has presidential ambitions and wants to remain in the spotlight if President Biden’s health or popularity sputters and creates an opening in his party’s nominating process.

And Ron DeSantis is already an announced Republican candidate who lags far behind Donald Trump in the polls. He needs to make something happen. This is an interesting and constructive way to do it before the Iowa Caucuses.

Debate precedent

Precedent exists for single candidates from opposing parties to debate during primary season with crowded fields. One such debate took place here in Des Moines on July 20, 1987. It took place at Drake University’s Law School, and I was there.

The debate matched Republican presidential candidate Jack Kemp against a Democratic candidate, Richard Gephardt debating their clashing views on trade policy.

This focused debate allowed them ample time to flesh out a single issue in detail, elevating the audience’s understanding of the complexities of the trade issue. Both served in the House of Representatives at the time, and were actual, real-life friends. The debate lacked the vitriol that so defines today’s debates. Any jabs at each other were made with a twinkle in their eyes, and there was genuine warmth between the two.

This won’t be a warm-fuzzy affair

Expect none such comity in the DeSantis/Newsom debate.

After reaching out to offer to debate, Newsom quickly mocked DeSantis for accepting the “bait.” He claims the Florida governor is “distracted” and “completely unqualified” to be president. He describes him as “weak and undisciplined,” and to be sure we understand his loathing for his Florida counterpart, he calls DeSantis a “cruel bully whose career is defined by “attacking vulnerable communities.”

So much for comity.

Florida and California are each as large as small countries. With a population of 22 million, Florida is the size of Taiwan, while California’s 38 million make it comparable in size to Canada. And yet people are pouring into Florida in droves at the same time they flee California.

California’s -0.66% population decline is the fourth worst in the U.S. while Florida’s 1.9% increase is the best. 

Governor DeSantis must be doing something right, and a DeSantis/Newsom debate will help flesh it out.

The two governors disagree on every single critical issue, whether immigration, education, climate change, taxation, border policy … you name it.

California is in a virtual tie for highest taxed state in the union at $6325 per capita compared to Florida’s 48th ranking at $2264 per capita.

With all that tax money in play, does that mean California schools are better than Florida’s?  No. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Florida #1 in educational achievement and California #20.

In fact, in spite of, or maybe because of, moderate tax rates and a lack of an income tax, Florida ranks high (#10) in overall rankings for all categories compared to California’s #33 overall ranking in 2023. And California is heading in the wrong direction. They were ranked #24 just two years ago. 

Again, with all those ultra high tax rates, you’d think California would at least be fiscally stable. But the U.S. World and News Report ranks them at only #39 compared to Florida’s #13 rank.

Radically different abortion policies

Pulse is particularly concerned with their disconnect over their abortion policies. When the Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, Governor Newsom sent out a press release which said:

“An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services.”

No, pro-life laws do not criminalize women, they criminalize those who perform abortion which kill unique human persons.

Newsom continues:

“We’re doing everything we can to protect people from any retaliation for accessing abortion care while also making it more affordable to get contraceptives.”

No one retaliates against those who procure abortions. In fact, the pro-life community views women as the victim of the policies Newsom promotes and implements. It is pro-lifers who provide the prayers and hands-on counseling for women wounded morally, spiritually, and physically by abortion, not anyone in the abortion community.

Newsom continues:

“Our Legislature has been on the frontlines of this fight, and no other legislative body in the country is doing more to protect these fundamental rights – I’m proud to stand with them again and sign these critical bills into law.”

Technically, California restricts abortion: 1. At the point of viability (approximately 23 weeks) or; 2. When necessary to protect the health of the mother. 

Practically speaking, the latter trumps the former, ushering in unfettered abortion in California.

Newsom signed a whole slate of laws liberalizing abortion even more following the overturning of Roe.

By contrast, Governor DeSantis called the end of Roe an “answered prayer” and signed a Heartbeat Bill into law.

Whether either of these governors ever wins the nomination of their party, a DeSantis/Newsom debate provides a clear contrast to voters, forcing them to answer this question:

Is America better off if it looks like Florida … or California?

[Governor Ron DeSantis is the keynote speaker at Pulse’s November 18th Christmas Gala. Order your ticket today.]

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