Opinion | Migrant Flights Obscure the Real DeSantis Divide

Opinion | Migrant Flights Obscure the Real DeSantis Divide


What phenomenon of our time produces more falsity than any other? The list of contenders is long but we have a winner—political outrage. These days it surges by the minute. The past week produced faux political outrage for the record books when Florida Gov.

Ron DeSantis

flew 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

California Gov.

Gavin Newsom

called it “almost monstrous,” adding, “I say that quite thoughtfully.” White House spokesperson

Karine Jean-Pierre

likened the governor to Guatemalan smugglers. Unsurpassable is a long piece by six CNN staffers that says flying 50 migrants to the Vineyard “has revived memories of strikingly similar tactics employed by southern segregationists 60 years ago.”

You probably didn’t notice that Gov. DeSantis did something else last week that has a lot more relevance to this country’s future. We’ll get to that but not before relating Chicago Mayor

Lori Lightfoot’s

view that the migrants being bused to her city from Texas are a “manufactured crisis” even as the federal government said that since January more than two million migrants have come illegally across the southern border in fiscal 2022.

Shortly before the Vineyard controversy, Gov. DeSantis delivered an interesting speech near Miami to a convocation of conservatives. Some called it a test drive of ideas for a presidential run, and it probably was. One DeSantis idea, though, should have caught the eye of anyone focused on the flow of U.S. history.

The governor described something he called a “Great American Exodus.” In short, he means the recent movement of U.S. population out of California and the North—primarily New York, New Jersey and Illinois—into states in the South and West. He says this shift has a “political character,” which he was happy to describe. Since the pandemic began, he said, “more adjusted gross income [moved] into the state of Florida than has ever moved into any one state over a similar time period in American history.”

For years, demographers have studied this population migration from North to South, a shift with significant implications for the economic health and political power of both regions.

In May, the Census Bureau released data noting a large departure from Northern cities between July 2020 and July 2021. The populations of San Francisco fell 6.3%, New York City 3.5%, Boston and Washington both 2.9%. The New York Post reported this week that, according to Florida driver’s-license registrations, 41,885 New Yorkers moved there this year.

More broadly, the Census Bureau reported in 2019 that “Florida had the most domestic inmovers, with 566,476 people moving from another state within the past year.” Meanwhile, “California had the most domestic outmovers, with 661,026 people moving to another state” in the previous year. Some movement has occurred inside state borders, for instance out of New York City to the suburbs or from Los Angeles and San Francisco to inland California counties. The “political character” point is that many cities administered for decades by liberal, and more recently progressive, Democrats are hemorrhaging population.

It’s not just the 1% fleeing high-tax states for lower taxes. Receiving little attention is the fact that black Americans are also moving south, reversing the Great Migration into the North during the 20th century.

Brookings Institution demographer

William Frey

details this in a September report. Describing what he calls “a virtual evacuation from many northern areas,” Mr. Frey writes the “movement is largely driven by younger, college-educated Black Americans, from both northern and western places of origin. They have contributed to the growth of the ‘New South,’ especially in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, as well as metropolitan regions such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston.”

Mr. Frey notes that these migrations to the South have increased black Americans’ political power there, much of it flowing to the Democratic Party. But an undeniable reality, emphasized by Gov. DeSantis, is that this movement is overwhelmingly driven by the prospect of greater economic opportunity.

Arguably the biggest boomtown in America is Miami, led by Republican Mayor

Francis X. Suarez

and described recently in this newspaper. A primary reason, according to the article, is Miami’s “friendlier business climate.”

You’ve probably noticed that the mayors of New York, Chicago and Washington say they lack resources to provide for several thousand migrants. I believe it. Decades of unrestrained public spending have turned their budgets into a ball and chain. Many once-great American population centers are tapped out.

Here’s the kicker, literally: Last week, 13 treasurers from Democratic states including California and Illinois plus New York City’s comptroller issued a letter attacking West Virginia, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida for resisting public-pension investments tied to environmental, social and governance sustainability goals. The letter accuses these states of acting on behalf of “corporate interests.” What a spectacle—Democratic state treasurers denouncing corporations that are the bedrock of their tax base. Or were.

His critics call Gov. DeSantis “divisive.” The real DeSantis Divide, however, is about public-policy choices that are causing historic losses in the North and gains in the South and West. No amount of political outrage will change that.

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