During his debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was at his strongest on contentious culture-war issues, such as the merits of transgender medical interventions for kids and parental rights.
The governors from two of the nation’s most populous states offered Americans a preview of a 2028 White House showdown on Fox News, debating red and blue state governance. Both are popular two-term governors presiding over colossal coastal states with overwhelming control of their respective state legislatures, and both are also relatively young (Newsom is 56, DeSantis is 45) and well-funded, with presumably long careers ahead. So while only one of the men on stage Thursday night is officially running for higher office, both eagerly capitalized on the opportunity to frame up a presidential race that’s still five years out. DeSantis was at his best when topics landed on hot-button cultural issues, from parents’ rights in education to California’s endless sexualizing of children.
Fox moderator Sean Hannity brought up Florida’s parental rights bill — which Democrats dishonestly branded as “Don’t Say Gay” — that DeSantis signed last year. The new law bans teachers from bringing mature sexual topics and transgender propaganda into kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
“Should schools be focused on reading, writing, math, science, history, computers — and maybe leaving values, considering parents might have different values than teachers at school?” Hannity asked. “What is the role?”
“The role of the school is to educate kids, not indoctrinate kids,” DeSantis said. “It’s not to impose an agenda, it’s to do the basics.”
“What we’ve said in Florida is it’s inappropriate to tell a kindergartner that their gender is a choice, it’s inappropriate to tell a second grader that they may have been born in the wrong body,” DeSantis added. “California has that. They want to have that injected into the elementary school.”
DeSantis went on to highlight a book used to teach kids about gay sex called Gender Queer.
“Some of it’s blocked out,” DeSantis said with an image held up of a graphic illustrated porn scene. “You would not probably be able to put this on air.”
Gov. DeSantis (R-FL) and Gov. Newsom (D-CA) debate parental rights and book bans.— The Recount (@therecount) December 1, 2023
DeSantis: "This is a book that's in some of the schools in California … This is pornography, it's cartoons"
Newsom: "I don't like the way you demean and humiliate people you disagree with, Ron." pic.twitter.com/Vw63cD0OFq
The demonstration was DeSantis’ second most-effective use of a visual after the poop-map moment highlighting human feces in San Francisco.
"Human feces is now a fact of life. Except when a communist dictator comes to town.”— The First (@TheFirstonTV) December 1, 2023
Ron DeSantis brought a San Francisco poop map to the debate to illustrate California’s decline.
(Courtesy of Fox News Channel)
Newsom sought to justify the salacious content in K-12 classrooms, calling DeSantis’ efforts to sanitize leftist activists’ curricula a “banning binge.” The West Coast governor went on to list a series of authors Democrats falsely claim are prohibited in Florida.
[READ: There Are No Banned Books]
A moment later, DeSantis called out California’s radical efforts to become a refuge for trans-identified kids. Last year, Newsom signed a bill allowing gender-confused teens to seek irreversible medical interventions in the Golden State without parental consent.
“How in the heck is that honoring parents’ rights when you’re bringing people in from out of state to go around their parents’ backs and getting life-altering surgeries?” DeSantis asked. “It’s not for you to decide. It’s for the parents to decide.”
Ron DeSantis SKEWERS Gavin Newsom over his "radical" and "extreme" policy overriding parental rights in the name of "gender-affirming care." His bill prioritizes sterilizing drugs that will medicalize kids for the rest of their lives. #Debate https://t.co/PGdw9oRDSL pic.twitter.com/spEvUuGaQe— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) December 1, 2023
Newsom turned to emotional blackmail, citing the debunked left-wing talking point that transgender-identifying children are more prone to suicide. The data points to the contrary, however, with individuals more likely to suffer mental anguish when given easier access to transgender medical interventions.
Transgenderism and parental rights in education are winning issues for Republicans. The twin topics let the party go on offense just as the Virginia GOP did in 2021 with statewide triumphs in what had become a blue state.
Recent polls suggest more and more Americans are with Republicans on transgenderism and parental rights. A March survey from Parents Defending Education found, “75% of registered voters support legislation requiring schools to get parental consent before helping a student change their gender identity at school, while only 18% oppose this policy” (emphasis theirs).
A Gallup poll in June found that 55 percent of Americans believe it is “morally wrong” to attempt to “change” one’s sex, up from 51 percent two years ago. An overwhelming majority opposed bending sex requirements for athletic competitions.
[RELATED: Support For Transgenderism Is Cratering]