Democratic America against Republican America: two radically opposed conceptions of politics clashed Thursday evening in an unprecedented televised debate. On a special set of the conservative channel Fox News, the meeting between Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and Gavin Newsom, governor of California, turned, as one might expect, into a total confrontation.
On almost every subject, the two governors of the two large states located at the geographical, but also political, ends of the United States, launched invectives at each other, without practically ever finding common ground.
On education, immigration, taxation, security, they each defended opposing positions, accusing each other of distorting reality, and sometimes calling each other a liar.
Ron DeSantis, who nicknamed his state “the free state of Florida,” accused Newsom of leading California to ruin, and of supporting the policies he considers disastrous by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “He’s a cunning, trickster politician whose state is going bankrupt,” DeSantis said, pointing to Newsom.
“How’s it going for you, Ron? ", Newsom retorted, "you lost 41 points in your own state," cruelly reminding DeSantis that his candidacy in the Republican primaries against Donald Trump was not going as he hoped. “Neither of us will be a party candidate in 2024,” he insisted.
Newsom, considered one of the hopes of the Democratic Party, is not a candidate in the next presidential election, and has supported the policies of Joe Biden. Newsom has frequently attacked DeSantis in recent years, even launching hostile ad campaigns to taunt the governor of a state that has become the model of Republican America. He showed his pugnacity by coming to confront him live on Fox News, acquired from DeSantis.
The debate was “moderated” by the channel’s star presenter, Sean Hannity, who didn’t even pretend to be impartial. It took place without an audience in a television studio in Georgia, a crucial state in the next presidential election.
DeSantis has touted his health policies during the Covid pandemic. He prided himself on having lifted restrictions and refused confinements, while California adopted very strict measures. He also recalled how Newsom was caught breaking his own guidelines, going to dinner at a fancy Napa Valley restaurant while he banned Californians from gathering in public.
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Personal insults were never far away. DeSantis called Newsom a “liberal bully.” “I don’t like the way you demean and humiliate people you don’t agree with,” the Californian retorted.
While the presidential campaign which is beginning remains dominated by two personalities, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, of whom a majority of voters from both camps say they do not want again as candidates, the confrontation between DeSantis and Newsom, devoid of stakes, almost seemed like a rehearsal for future polls. Their uncompromising confrontation and their almost total opposition on all subjects also reminded us of the depth of the divide that separates Democratic America from Republican America.