Media Check: Tampa Bay and LA Times attack DeSantis debate talking points with “science”

by | Nov 30, 2023

Tonight marks the highly anticipated debate between Florida Governors Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a political showdown with pundits ready to pounce. Fair-minded political observers have been braced over the last few days for the inevitable slew of news stories poised to cushion Newsom and undermine DeSantis, particularly on the lopsided topic of state migration.

They didn’t have to wait long. Right on cue, a pair of newspapers stepped up to the plate with a jointly published article that contorts itself into a logical pretzel to provide excuses for California’s problems and undermine one of DeSantis’s key selling points on the campaign trail.

The story, written by an LA Times reporter and republished in the Tampa Bay Times,  is headlined “California vs. Florida: Why are people moving from one state to the other?” but it comes packaged with a subheadline that gives away the game immediately. The subheadline reads:

Despite the rhetoric, people primarily relocate to other states for economic reasons like high housing costs, not politics, one political scientist said.

There’s the argument in a nutshell: science proves economics aren’t related to politics.

But let’s dive deeper. Just a bit. The “rhetoric” referenced in the subheadline is that of DeSantis, who has repeatedly skewered California on the campaign trail for a raft of failings ranging from restrictive COVID-19 policies and a smothering regulatory environment to the high cost of living and general economic conditions, the blame for which DeSantis lays at the feet of Democrats like Newsom.

Now compare that “rhetoric” against the “political science” offered by the Times’ headline writer and try not to laugh when the state’s largest newspaper tells you that economic issues are somehow unrelated to politics. To the Times, it’s as if the California economy and quality of life issues exist in a separate universe, divorced from the insignificant triflings of public policy.

Beyond that absurdity, the Times also engages in a classic example of constructing a strawman only to triumphantly knock it down. The story sets out to undermine DeSantis on a claim he’s never made: that individuals are flocking to Florida or fleeing California specifically based on their personal political beliefs and nothing more. But the Times’ misrepresentation is as subtle as a neon sign in a monastery. Of course most people can’t just pick up and leave based on personal political ideology.

And that’s not DeSantis’s argument. On the campaign trail over the last two years he’s focused his anti-California barbs on the broader impact of each state’s political policies on its respective citizens, regardless of their individual political leanings. So when an employer chooses to leave California for Florida (there are many recent examples, here, here and here), the employees, regardless of whether they are Republicans or Democrats, will probably choose to move with the company. Yet the Times wants its readers to view those reasons as a mere personal decision, divorced from the underlying impact of California’s liberal policies that undoubtedly serve as a contributing factor.

The Times’ narrative, bolstered with a quote from a “political scientist,” conveniently sidesteps this distinction, opting instead for a biased approach that gives California Democrats like Newsom a free pass. Meanwhile, when analyzing the significantly lower number of people leaving Florida for California, the article paints Florida under DeSantis in strokes so dark that it’s hard to distinguish the Times’ version of the Sunshine State from a Hollywoodesque dystopia. It hones in on individuals who have packed their bags in disdain of DeSantis’s policies, portraying Florida as a state in political turmoil and its departing residents as persecuted political refugees.

Contrast the Times’ Florida dystopia with how the economic exodus from the Golden State is treated, with a breeziness that borders on nonchalance, and the bias couldn’t be more clear. The Times wants its readers to believe that Californians are leaving merely because they fancy a change of scenery, while Floridians are fleeing the Sunshine State due specifically to DeSantis’s conservative policies.

If you doubt any of that, well, you shouldn’t.  A good citizen “trusts the science.” Fortunately the legacy media have no shortage of “political scientists” who will explain everything for you.


%d bloggers like this: