Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will have to settle for debating his West Coast colleague after Vice President Kamala Harris gave the cold shoulder to a rhetorical showdown with Mr. ‘Slavery Was Good’.
You’ll recall that after DeSantis—who still hopes he can be president despite trailing in polls behind a guy currently indicted so many times he could actually spend the rest of his life in jail—challenged Madame VP to a televised debate after she flew to his state and read him chapter and verse over new teaching standards which require that students be taught that there were actually tangible benefits to chattel enslavement in the United States. As the first Black woman to hold the second-highest elected office in the land—and an HBCU graduate at that—it’s pretty obvious why A) Harris exercised her prerogative to set DeSantis straight and B ) then ignored his ploy for attention. Well-played, indeed.
Enter Newsom, a politician who may have higher ambitions of his own, who’s using the opportunity to raise his profile—and is once again standing on the shoulders of a Black woman to do so. While any attempt to slap down DeSantis’ efforts to dehumanize Black people on his way to the White House is welcome, Newsom filling the void could be viewed as problematic. After all, he had the opportunity to appoint a qualified Black woman to fill the U.S. Senate seat Harris left vacant but chose otherwise. And for years Newsom has dangled the possibility of nominating a Black woman for the Senate if Dianne Feinstein resigns from her seat. Earlier this year, there were renewed calls for him to do so after Feinstein suffered from a severe case of shingles.
When L.A. Mayor Karen Bass—a Black woman and lifelong Democrat—faced ex-Republican-turned-Democrat Rick Caruso in the city’s mayoral race last year, Newsom refused to endorse her despite her long allegiance to his own party, and despite Bass having mobilized her forces to help him in a 2021 recall attempt.
The California governor has yet again been presented with the opportunity to elevate a Black woman by aligning with Harris in condemning the DeSantis administration. Instead, he opted to use her momentum to cast the spotlight solely on himself.
Florida’s latest “anti-woke” Black history teaching standards include middle-school curriculum that says slaves “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” After Harris publicly expressed disdain, DeSantis invited her to Tallahassee to discuss these provisions. However, the Vice President has made it clear that the harrowing effects of slavery on Black people is not up for debate.
“There is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: there were no redeeming qualities of slavery,” Harris said during an African Methodist Episcopal convention in Orlando on Tuesday. On Wednesday—just 24 hours after Harris said no—DeSantis told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he’d be willing to settle for Newsom.
“I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where,” DeSantis said. According to a statement from Newsom’s campaign, he had been “challenging Desantis to debate for months” and that “a formal debate offer” was sent just last week. Though Newsom has yet to participate in an official event with Harris in California, he has no problem furthering his own agenda by profiting off of the Vice President’s political capital.
Newsom’s pattern of using Black women whenever it’s convenient for him is as prevalent as it is repugnant. Hopefully, it will be put to an end soon.