Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Culture War Between the States

By Steven Malanga City Journal

For decades, states have competed with one another for businesses by touting local economic advantages in areas like taxation, development incentives, workforce quality, and regulatory policy. Occasionally, states would also pitch themselves to firms on more general principles like quality of life and public investment in schools and infrastructure. Now the battle for jobs and for wealthier residents has taken a new turn, reflecting the increasingly intense cultural wars playing out in America. Facing a steadily more difficult economic battlefield, governors of Democratic-led states are pitching businesses based on social issues: access to abortion, transgender rights, and voting laws. Blue-state officials are hoping to lure firms that object to red-state legislation restricting abortion, revising voting practices, or banning biological males from competing in female athletics. The stakes are high because business and residential migratory patterns, and the economic gains that go with them, have shifted massively toward Republican-led states in post-pandemic America.

California governor Gavin Newsom, who has said in the past that his state is forging a new model for “what America is going to look like,” has summed up the new Democratic approach. In a provocative and controversial video ad that ran on social media and on TV stations over the Fourth of July weekend, Newsom attacked Florida’s policies on everything from abortion laws to school-curriculum legislation that limits what young students can be taught on gender. “Freedom is under attack by Republican leaders in states like Florida. Banning books. Restricting speech. Making it harder to vote. Criminalizing women and doctors,” the ad said. “I urge all of you to join us in California, where we still believe in freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom to choose.” The ad amplified a message that Newsom sent to businesses that have left California in recent years, heading to Republican states. “Some businesses may have left, come on back. It’s a point of pride that we welcome you back, we want to celebrate that we have you back,” Newsom said.

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