Since I was a young boy, I had hoped to move to Florida one day. My grandparents, like many other New Yorkers, were “snowbirds” who owned a condo there, where they would stay every January through March. From the age of three until eleven my mother and I would always come down to visit them for Presidents’ Week. These annual trips to Florida were the highlight of my childhood so much that I would eagerly count down the days to my next trip, starting from the moment I had returned to New York. In fact, for my fifth-grade yearbook, which had the theme “Dream it, Do it,” I indicated my dream was to simply “live in Florida,” underneath an embarrassing picture of my ten-year-old self. Other kids had stated that they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, millionaires, or even President – I simply wanted to leave New York for the Sunshine State.
Earlier this month I accepted a job offer in Jacksonville; finally, my dream came true. Although Florida was a relatively unfamiliar place as I lack family, friends, or connections there, I jumped at the chance to make the move. I chose to head down south not just to fulfill a childhood wish, but also because of its affordable cost of living, lower taxes, and warmer climate compared to that of New York. However, there was another major factor that enticed me to pull the trigger on relocating to my new home state: politics.
As a libertarian conservative who has lived in a deep blue state all my life until a few weeks ago, I always felt like my vote and my opinion did not count. New York is absolutely dominated by the Democratic Party. The last Republican presidential candidate to win it was Ronald Reagan in 1984 – twelve years before I was born! In my lifetime, it has gone blue in every election by a margin of at least 16%. The only Republican to (barely) crack 40% was George W. Bush in 2004. I have never voted and likely will never vote Democrat in my life (when I haven’t voted Republican, I’ve supported third party candidates), so I was effectively a speck of red drowned in a sea of blue. Yes, you can make the argument that abolishing the electoral college would make everyone’s vote count despite the state they lived in, but this would be a terrible idea for other reasons I wrote about in an earlier article.
While living in New York, I was considered the “token Republican” of my friends (even though I’m not actually a registered Republican anymore). Even the most mainstream Republicans are looked down upon with broad contempt by the majority of the New Yorkers I have encountered. For example, when I told my peers I leaned right, I would often be asked combatively why I “hated the poor” – even though studies clearly show that conservatives give significantly more money to charity than do liberals. That said, it’s no surprise that President Trump, a proud New Yorker, is largely viewed as a monster in the state where he was born, raised, and spent the first 70 years of his life. His supporters in the Empire State are widely mocked and demonized, and on occasion subject to violence, by the progressive majority. There, stereotypes of Trump fans being a “basket of deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton infamously labeled them, are unfortunately widespread. This is why most pro-Trump New Yorkers, including my family, keep their political beliefs completely under wraps. Many are afraid to show almost any public support of the President: they keep quiet from voicing their opinions on social media and refrain from declaring their Trump approval to the world, all while Biden signs and “Not my President” banners fill New York streets with effectively no conservative backlash. This is why, outside of a few close friends, I have not informed most of my peers from New York that I made the decision to vote for Trump, after formerly having strongly opposed him.
Even before I officially became a Florida resident, I noticed the exact opposite sentiment here compared to New York – it’s night and day! When I first arrived, I was surprised when I saw a young boy, around ten years of age, wearing a “Donald Trump for President” shirt while we were in line to pick up shrimp from a local restaurant. No one said anything – it was just like he was wearing a sports jersey. I immediately pondered the reaction the kid would get if only he wore the same shirt in New York – would insults be hurled at him, or his parents, just for being proud of the job the sitting U.S. President is doing? After that night, I saw a number of other things I would never even imagine in New York. The auto body shop where I had my car serviced sported a giant wooden “Trump 2020” sign in its front, visible to all passersby. If that same sign graced a private business in New York, who knows what would happen – would it be attacked online or even vandalized by violent anti-Trump groups such as Antifa? Several other businesses in the area also publicly advertise their support for the president. My locksmith proudly displays his MAGA hat on his van’s dashboard, next to his NRA hat, for all his customers to see. There was even a downtown souvenir shop chock full of a wide variety of Trump gear – and only a few Biden hats in stock.
Florida is not even a red state – quite contrarily, it is a swing state that is widely considered to be the main battleground of this election and the last half dozen presidential elections. President Trump won it by a little more than one percentage point four years ago. President Obama carried it twice. About 500 votes there decided the 2000 election. I do live in a very red area, but it is far from the most conservative in the state. While there are Trump signs, flags, and clothing everywhere I look, there are still a great deal of Biden/Harris and anti-Trump signs, almost exclusively on residential property. Perhaps conservative areas are different from liberal ones, in that the political opposition is allowed to express themselves, without fear of the radical mob coming after them. All Americans should be allowed to publicly support whoever they want for president, be it Trump, Biden, Kanye West, or writing in themselves. This should be one of the hallmarks of living in a free country, where all political speech (except in some extreme circumstances), is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. What happened to the mantra, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?” Are other conservatives moving from deep blue states to red or swing states not only because they want their opinion to count, but also because they don’t want to be told that they’re “despicable human beings” by a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites? Moving to Florida has confirmed what I feared is true in New York – right-of-center people have no place in the public discourse there. Thankfully, I now have a place where my voice will actually make a difference.