The Spectator – No one believes he rules over a magic kingdom.
“Freedom is under attack in your state,” exclaimed California Governor Gavin Newsom in a bizarre 30-second television ad that aired on Fox News in Florida markets over Fourth of July weekend. Unnamed “Republican leaders,” gasped a man who held his constituents under near-house arrest for two years, are “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’s anti-Florida canards cost his 2022 reelection campaign a reported $105,000. They addressed an audience that will vote neither for nor against him. And like hapless New York City mayor Eric Adams’s equally absurd billboard campaign to lure back New Yorkers who’d moved to the Sunshine State, they went over like a lead balloon.
No books are “banned” in our state. Any book may be bought, sold, circulated, and read here, and having books mandated for use in public education is hardly an inalienable right. No Floridian eligible to vote has any difficulty casting a ballot, even if those seeking to vote illegally or posthumously may now encounter obstacles.
The only classroom speech “restricted” in Florida is speech instructing students that they are inherently racists, or that exposes children under the age of eight to explicit sexuality of any type. Florida’s viewpoint diversity law, which came into effect on July 1, expressly prohibits any action in a public education institution that limits “access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” It also mandates surveys to assess whether faculty and students “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” Unsurprisingly, it is now Florida, rather than California, that many consider to have the best public university system in America.
Large majorities of Floridians and Americans favor these provisions. The same goes for Florida’s newly signed 15-week abortion law, the terms of which are supported by 71 percent of Americans. That law has no provision for any form of criminal prosecution and is more permissive than those of many European social democracies, which cut off a woman’s “right to choose” before 15 weeks of pregnancy.
One might wonder what Floridians are supposed to “join the fight” against, given how little the prospect of rallying to Governor Newsom offers to Florida Man. Changing state residency involves a decidedly uneven trade of Florida’s zero percent state income tax — guaranteed by state constitutional amendment — for California’s, which rises as high as 13.3 percent. Floridians might also sensibly resist California’s sales tax, which can reach 10.75 percent depending on the locality, compared to 7 percent in Florida. Gas prices in California push $7 per gallon, compared to a $4.50 average in Florida. Homicides in Governor Newsom’s woke paradise increased by 31 percent in 2020, while Florida’s overall crime rate declined by 14.1 percent, falling for the 50th consecutive year. There are no Floridian parallels to this year’s stunning electoral recall of former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, the spawn of a murderous domestic terrorist couple, whose progressive lunacy turned his city into a morass of violence and filth, or of three woke members of San Francisco’s school board, whose removal was favored by 75 percent of the electorate.
Despite the “freedom” Governor Newsom advertises, his state is hardly a free speech haven. Ask Gordon Klein, a UCLA business professor, who was suspended in June 2020 for the supposed tone in which he declined a request to grade black students more leniently than white students. His University of Southern California colleague Greg Patton, who was suspended later that same year for using a Chinese word that includes the sequential consonants “n” and “g,” might well concur.
In March 2022, the constitutional law scholar Ilya Shapiro, then under investigation by Georgetown University’s Law Center for controversial tweets he posted before he was employed there, was shouted down and prevented from speaking at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. Hastings’s dean, Morris Ratner, tepidly suggested that student protesters were violating school policies, but did nothing to enforce those policies. Astonishingly, he still has his job, while Shapiro no longer works in legal academia. “Governor Newsom should perhaps focus more on his own backyard,” Shapiro wrote me, “as California’s public law schools seem to be turning out lawyers who are against free speech and otherwise can’t handle hearing ideas they don’t like.”
California’s assault on free speech is far from confined to its universities. Last fall, a state law banned public protests against vaccine policies. Earlier this year, the Irvine Unified School Board adopted rules of conduct that prohibit those attending its meetings from voicing any criticism of its officials. The measure was so censorious that even the American Civil Liberties Union complained.
In February 2022, a California judge stripped Apple software engineer Ted Hudacko of all parental rights over his 16-year-old son because he disagreed with his ex-wife’s insistence that their child is really a girl. Hudacko’s opinion, which he shared in his progressive California workplace, may now also threaten his job. At this writing, the California state legislature is in the final stages of considering a law prohibiting social media content that may cause “emotional harm” to young people. Despite Newsom’s claimed commitment to the “freedom” he believes Floridians lack, he shows no sign of vetoing the bill.
“Details, details,” progressives might snigger. Yet it’s in Florida that many Californians have found refuge from Governor Newsom’s strange East German definition of “freedom.” In 2019, even before the pandemic exposed him as the elitist tyrant he is, 28,628 Californians relocated to Florida. Over the next two years, nearly 300,000 more Californians left, with most migrating to red states with lower taxes, less crime, fewer pandemic restrictions, and, of course, more American-style freedom. The demographic shift has inflicted the first population decline in California’s history. In roughly the same timeframe, Florida has welcomed about 330,000 new arrivals. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to have growth rates over 1 percent anymore,” California’s chief demographer Walter Schwarm recently told the New York Times, which grimly concluded that the state’s days of explosive population growth “are quite likely gone for good.”
The financial fallout of California flight adds to the mockery of Newsom’s silly ad. According to the IRS, in 2020, his benighted state lost $17.8 billion in adjusted gross income, following on $33.4 billion in losses from 2010 to 2019. Los Angeles leads the nation’s cities in failed businesses, with some 15,000 disappearing in 2020 alone. In June, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed West Coast migration to Florida, which gained $23.7 billion in taxable income in 2020, to be “the next California gold rush.”
Miami, rather than Silicon Valley, is rapidly emerging as America’s new tech hub, with 30 percent of its new arrivals coming from San Francisco, the second most represented point of origin after New York. Even Disney, which foolishly objected to Florida legislation restricting teaching about sexuality in grade school, is moving 2,000 employees from Anaheim to Orlando, citing Florida’s favorable tax policies and lower cost of living. By 2026, it expects to relocate all of its non-theme park employees from California to the freer state.
If Newsom is reelected in November, he may still be in office when the Disney employees go. Perhaps by then it will be clear that no one believes he rules over a magic kingdom. And his rival governor may very well be in a storied white house.