The Newsom-DeSantis debate was largely pointless. It involved Ron DeSantis who is running for president but trailing far behind the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and Gavin Newsom who has stated he doesn’t intend to run for president this election cycle but has been suggested as a potential replacement for Joe Biden if he chooses to drop out. The debate was essentially a fistfight over who had the better state.
DeSantis claimed Florida had a lower crime rate. Newsom claimed California did. DeSantis claimed Florida was more attractive for people to live in. Newsom claimed California was. DeSantis claimed that Florida was protecting parental rights by fighting “woke indoctrination” and outing LGBTQ+ students to their parents. Newsom pointed to the state constitution that enumerates parental rights. The two couldn’t agree on anything. When the moderator Sean Hannity asked Newsom to state something, just one thing, he liked about Florida, he evaded the question.
Needless to say, one area where Newsom won was youth rights. DeSantis was keen to point out that he wants to prohibit students from accessing certain books which he labels “porn.” These include books with LGBTQ+ themes such as Gender Queer. Newsom pointed out that DeSantis wasn’t banning porn in schools; he was censoring books he disagreed with, outing students to their parents, and creating unsafe communities for LGBTQ+ people. DeSantis tried to snap back by suggesting that Newsom didn’t respect parents rights and that he was sexualizing young children, but Newsom kept steady. He continued emphasizing that what is most important are the rights of students to be who they are, not their parents to know everything about them, and noted that sex education doesn’t even begin until middle school in the state. He made it clear that DeSantis was merely trying to impose his conservative worldview onto Florida citizens, even if that meant infringing on youth rights.
It’s hard to tell who won this pointless debate. But Newsom sold me on youth rights. His vision of California is one where teenagers are free to be themselves regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity and where high schoolers can borrow virtually any book they wish from their school library. That’s not only a freer place than DeSantis’ Florida, but a more inclusive one too.