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Governor Gavin Newsom of California has aired a commercial in Florida over the Fourth of July holiday weekend urging residents there to fight for freedom, or move to his state in order to find it.
The ad – which pits blue state California against currently red state Florida – exemplified the growing divides in the US as Republican-led state legislatures have pursued rightwing policies on a slew of issues from banning abortion to attacking LGBTQ+ rights and voting issues.
“Freedom is under attack in your state,” California’s Democratic leader said in the punchy advertisement, paid for by Newsom’s re-election campaign and aired on the rightwing Fox News channel.
“Republican leaders – They’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”
Newsom appeared to be taking jabs at Florida’s far-right governor, Ron DeSantis, and his recent efforts to disenfranchise voters, chip away at the civil rights of LGBTQ+ communities, and restrict access to abortion. It’s a picture of the current political landscape in America: two state leaders on opposite coasts of the country with directly conflicting ideologies.
But Newsom’s strategy of fighting fire with fire is one not typically seen from the country’s democratic party.
While Newsom has ruled out any interest in running for president in the near future, some speculate DeSantis, a Trump favorite and fellow rightwinger, will bid for the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2024.
In April, after DeSantis signed the “don’t say gay” bill into law, books were banned across the state. Florida’s department of education has also rejected 41% of math textbooks they believed were pushing ideologies like critical race theory or social and emotional learning in order to “indoctrinate students”.
Last year, DeSantis also signed more restrictive voting measures into law, like limiting ballot drop-box hours and requesting mail-in ballots every year, instead of every four years. DeSantis said the restrictions will curb voter fraud, despite little evidence there is such a problem.
And after the supreme court overturned landmark case Roe vs Wade, which gave US citizens the constitutional right to an abortion, DeSantis signed a law into effect banning abortions after 15 weeks without exception for rape or incest. A state judge temporarily blocked the law, calling it unconstitutional. But a spokesperson for DeSantis said the state plans to appeal the ruling.
By contrast, Newsom signed a bill protecting abortion providers in his state from liability or prosecution for providing out-of-state abortions. California lawmakers also voted to ask voters on their November ballots to add an amendment to the state’s constitution that would explicitly protect reproductive rights.