The governors of Florida and California provide a dramatic contrast and a return to the trend of nominating experienced executives to run the federal government — instead of professional legislative talkers.
The specter of a repeat election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump would be dull, repetitious, and frankly, not very good for the country.
Joe Biden has yet to be president for two years and it stretches the boundaries of one’s imagination to consider what his capacity will be in late fall of 2028.
Donald Trump, for all the passion and devotion he still commands from a majority of Republicans, would be a backwards-looking candidate, mired in the morass of election fraud claims, FBI raids, and who knows how many iterations of legal trouble.
For almost a decade, the United States has centered its political gravity on the style of its candidates, rewarding the most outrageous, excessive, and in some cases, vile behavior with endless media and online attention. To a certain extent, what the United States needs now is less bravado and bluster, with fewer social media ninjas running for office.
No matter what one thinks about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom, both men are serious politicians with serious resumes.
And by the looks of things, serious presidential ambitions.
The first benefit of a Newsom-DeSantis general election contest is that it would feature two sitting governors, a fascinating geographic and institutional dynamic not witnessed in the country for over a century, since 1876. A strong argument could be made that the best presidential candidates in recent times are governors and the worst are sitting members of congress.
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan all had records as strong executives with substantial records of governance. They actually had to keep the water running, the lights on, and the schools open. While the American presidency is a uniquely difficult job — some would say an impossible job that has grown too big with its endless portfolio of tasks and responsibilities — the closest stepping stone is a governor from a mid to large size state.
Senators, on the other hand, talk. And talk. And talk. They talk from the rostrum of the Senate. They talk when they are serving on committees or conducting oversight. They talk when they are bloviating on cable news. This isn’t to denigrate the necessity of talking — but the job of a Senator is to craft legislation, broker compromise, form consensus, and rally constituencies. All of this, of course, is the job of a legislator.
Legislating is not tantamount to governing. Senators don’t run organizations; they run their mouths. Some of them, of course, are extraordinary talkers, and through their oratorical grace have elevated the quality of political discourse — think of Daniel Webster or Henry Clay. Some are simply American heroes whose devotion to the country and the Senate was nothing less than extraordinary — think Bob Dole or Daniel Inouye.
But the country would be better served by contrasting records, not conflicting rhetoric. We don’t need another election cycle with Bernie Sanders traveling the country oozing contempt for “billionaires.” We don’t need young Republican senators talking to voters like they are in a foreign policy seminar at Yale.
Which brings us to the real value of a Newsom-DeSantis contest. First of all, it would be fun without being unserious. Not only do they differ in policy, disposition, and pedigree, they seem to genuinely dislike one another.
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Newsom was explicit in his disdain of DeSantis: “I cannot stand Ron DeSantis and these folks that are using these human beings, children, as political pawns . . . It’s disgusting. The cruelty of that is self-evident to any person that truly cares and has compassion.”
When Newsom suggested the Justice Department investigate the governors of Texas and Florida for sending migrants to sanctuary cities and states, DeSantis fired back, “So the Governor of California sent a letter to the Department of Justice saying, ‘You need to prosecute Texas and Florida Governors.’ And all I can say is, I think his hair gel is interfering with his brain function.”
Time to get the popcorn.
But most of all, California and Florida are the first and third largest states in the country run by governors with colossal policy differences. On an expansive variety of issues — taxes, school choice and education activism, COVID procedures, environmentalism — the American people could contrast their policies by comparing real-world outcomes and by asking the most salient question of all: do people actually want to live in the state run by either of these men?
As the Wall Street Journal observed, “A debate would let voters see the difference between the California and Florida models of governance.”
Both men are also more complicated and nuanced than the national media corps lets on. While DeSantis wins attention by declaring war on woke warriors, over-reaching COVID bureaucrats, and “left-wing oligarchs,” he is profoundly bookish and well-read, attending Yale as an undergraduate and scoring in the 99th percentile on the SAT as Dexter Filkins explains in his sprawling New Yorker essay on DeSantis.
Newsom is more pragmatic than he lets on — while he’d like to be seen as an environmental messiah, he was willing to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to keep the lights on a little longer. I live in California and can attest to the endless miasma of malfeasant statism, having lived through two years of heavy-handed COVID policies, endless fees, taxes, unionism, ubiquitous homelessness, power shortages, water rationing, and half of my friends moving to Texas. DeSantis, on the other hand, seems to be a politician lacking in humor. Serious is fine. Humorless is not. While no one questions his sterling educational and professional resume, successful national campaigns require a certain dexterity of capacity during a presidential race that can render even career politicians inert on the campaign trail.
Does anyone remember the campaigns of Scott Walker or Fred Thompson? I didn’t think so.
Both men are already reviled by large portions of the public. Such is the state of American politics. But that doesn’t mean a robust contest between the two wouldn’t be good for the country. It would be.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation, recently released in paperback. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.