As Americans head into the 2024 presidential election and find themselves in a dust cloud of news and pundits, let’s think more broadly about what matters most: priorities.
What do our two main political parties value? What issues are they focused on and how do those issues align with each voter’s vision of what the world should be?
Looking at Democratic-led states and Republican-led states, the differences couldn’t be more stark, like pitting open arms against a barbed wire fence.
What is the difference between right and left? Look no further than Florida, Michigan.
Consider this, from a March NBC News report previewing the 2023 legislative session overseen by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican-controlled Legislature: “Expect a number of bills which will be red meat for the majority Republican base. Among them are major proposals to expand gun rights, further restrict diversity efforts at public universities and expand the ability to sue media outlets for defamation.
And then this, from an Associated Press article in August discussing the issues Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking her Democratic-led legislature to tackle the rest of this year: “Family leave and paid medical bills, a 100% clean energy standard, and codifying the protections provided by the Affordable Care Act.
How about a 2021 title: “Fla. becomes latest state to enact restrictive voting law as DeSantis signs bill on Fox News.
And this one from July: “Michigan governor signs law expanding voting rights. »
Florida and Michigan are laboratories for Republican and Democratic priorities
In each state, one party has the governor’s office and legislative majority. And in every state, the priorities reflect radically different worldviews, giving voters bipartisan laboratories nationwide to examine them and ask themselves: What world do I want to live in?
DeSantis’ GOP presidential primary race has put the spotlight on Florida, the state he proudly touts as “the place where wokeness goes to die.”
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Here are some of his major accomplishments, reflecting the MAGA-centric priorities he espoused:
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Whitmer’s Michigan strengthens gun laws, codifies abortion rights and protects LGBTQ residents
And here are some of Whitmer’s accomplishments in Michigan:
Don’t listen to what a political party says, watch what its legislators do
There are, of course, myriad other issues addressed by these two governors, and there are endless ways — from weather to activities to tax structures to job opportunities — to determine which state an individual would find it preferable.
But those things that each governor touts as accomplishments reflect many of the priorities of each political party. And I dare say that the differences matter.
You have one side that sharply restricts access to abortion and voting rights, expands access to guns, and denounces diversity, equity, and inclusion, while another side expands access to abortion and voting rights, strengthens gun control, and embraces diversity while expanding the legal rights of marginalized groups.
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As presidential election season begins, ask yourself: What kind of world do I want?
And these differences are evident in other states as well. Gov. Greg Abbott in Republican-controlled Texas is laying dangerous buoys and accordion cables along the Rio Grande to deter migrants. Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed a law this year allowing immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status, making it easier for them to work.
Where you stand on these priorities is your business. I want a society that respects diversity, recognizes gun violence as an epidemic, gives women the reproductive freedom they had until the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and finds ways to welcome and help people rather than push them away.
I think a majority of Americans feel the same way. For all our faults, we tend to lean toward decency and compassion, and when comparing the two sides, it’s not much of a competition. Younger voters, in particular, are not about to choose Florida over Michigan, a fact that Republicans won’t be able to outrun.
As we head into the dust cloud of a crucial presidential election, it’s worth taking the time to get a clear picture of the priorities adopted by each party through its actions in states across the country.
Discussions are cheap and there will be plenty of them. But these are the actions we need to pay attention to when we think about what kind of country we hope to be.
Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook facebook.com/RexIsAJerk