After months of social media jousting, the not-so-anticipated debate between Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom is officially a go for Nov. 30, Fox News announced Monday.
Which means that a debate seemingly no one asked for, between two extremely online officials, is being foisted upon us by one of the world’s most unscrupulous propaganda outlets. And it seems there’s not a soul involved who’s sensible enough to stop it.
This is the hell the internet hath wrought — one in which recreational conflict, and the catharsis of “owning” the other side, equals entertainment gold.
Have a seat, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe. Step aside, Skip Bayless and Michael Irvin. There’s a new pair of sparring partners vying for the cameras.
The two governors have been needling each other over policy for months. I wrote a bit about their back-and-forth in August, when DeSantis responded to Newsom’s debate challenge with a list of conditions he’d require — ones very favorable to DeSantis.
On the plus side, for those of us who are fans of good speech writing, we’re likely in store for some of the most well-rehearsed prewritten one-liners in recent memory. Both men have had months to practice in the mirror by now. And, look, I want to be fair here: I don’t think a debate between Democratic and Republican governors as diametrically opposed in policy as these two is completely useless on its face.
In a sense, I get it: These men are being promoted as representatives of Red State America and Blue State America. And their faceoff likely appeals to the lot of people who enjoy argument for sport and who derive pleasure from seeing their political opponents dragged for filth.
But for me, that’s part of the problem here. Or, at least, the annoyance. Why these men? Why should viewers care that this debate is happening at all, other than the fact the participants want us to? Who — other than these participants — stands to benefit?
Until those questions are answered, I won’t be able to shake the “Who do you think you are?” feeling I’ve had at the thought of these two men — who’ve both been portrayed as the heirs apparent to their parties’ thrones, so to speak — arguing on TV. I think both men, in their own ways, have given us reason to doubt that narrative, even as they essentially lean into it with this debate.
So I’m trying to keep perspective here. Is a Newsom-DeSantis debate harmless? Probably. But it’s also extremely presumptuous — so much so that it’s nearly unwatchable.