AKRON, Ohio — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke to Summit County Republicans at a breakfast at Quaker Station Thursday, outlining initiatives he said set the standard during a critical juncture for the nation.
DeSantis pointed to a quote by President Ronald Reagan who said, “Freedom is one iteration away from extinction.”
The Florida governor said freedom’s fragility is playing out across the country now, mainly through the ideologies of the “woke” culture, which influence education, healthcare, immigration, taxation and other areas of life.
“Freedom is fragile,” DeSantis told attendees. “Freedom can be squandered.”
DeSantis spoke at length about his ideas and approach to governing before detailing initiatives he said are wins in Florida.
When he ran for election in 2018, Florida also was at a crossroads, DeSantis said. So when he won the election by less than 1% of the vote, he was told to not rock the boat.
“Well, I rejected that advice,” he said to laughter from the audience. “My view was, I may have received 50% of the vote, but I earned 100% of the executive power.”
He told attendees about his rejection of polls, and his intention to “lead by conviction.”
“A leader is going to set out a vision, execute the vision, deliver results and guess what happens when you do that,” he said. “The polls change in your favor.”
From the start, he expected members of his administration to carry out his mission of furthering “the best agenda for the state of Florida,” he said. Those who did not were let go.
“I don't have time for drama. I don't have time for policy training. I don't have time for you pursuing a different agenda than the people in Florida,” he said. “So we made that clear.”
DeSantis compared some politicians to “potted plants,” saying they care about what the media thinks and only take action when forced to do so. His administration instead went on the offense, he said.
“I'm going to get out in front of issues. I'm going to be leading on issues. I don't care what the left says. I don't care what the media says,” he said to audience applause. “We're going to deliver big victories.”
By accomplishing his objectives, DeSantis won reelection by more than 1.5 million votes in 2022, he said, calling it the highest percentage of votes any Republican governor has received in a Florida election.DeSantis then recounted his achievements.
“We're No. 1 in economic freedom, No. 1 in education freedom, No. 1 for parental involvement in education,” he said. “And we're No. 1 for public higher education. So we lead in Florida, not merely with words.”
He spent time on education, saying students should not be hindered by political ideologies in schools, but taught to think for themselves.
To audience applause, DeSantis said he eliminated the teaching of critical race theory and renewed an emphasis on American civics.
“They have no idea why people fought and died for our country,” he said. “And to do that, we not only need to teach them the basics about what America means, we also need to teach them the basics about some of the other systems that competed with America.”
To that end, Florida is the only state in which the “evils of communism” are taught every year on Nov. 7, which last May DeSantis proclaimed as “Victims of Communism Day.”
As for LGBTQ rights, DeSantis said it isn’t fair for women and girls to have to compete athletically against females who were once male. He also said Florida physicians who perform sex-change operations on minors will lose their medial license.
Commenting on the economic health of his state, he said Florida has no income tax but has better roads and services, and a better-performing education system than New York, which has twice the budget and fewer people.
He attributed that economic vitality to his rejection of direction by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which DeSantis referred to as a “Faucian dystopia.”
DeSantis said instead he kept the state open to protect businesses and students’ right to education, as well as to protect people from losing their jobs because of the mask mandate.
“I'm just proud that when the world lost its mind, when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, that Florida stood as a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom, not only for our citizens, but other Americans, and indeed even people around the world, who escaped draconian policies to come to our state,” he said.
DeSantis also addressed immigration, saying the U.S. needs strong borders and enforcement of immigration laws, in part, because fentanyl is coming into the country via the borders.
DeSantis said he got extra support for the Coast Guard and so far, has repatriated more than 11,000 illegal aliens coming to Florida by boat.
He also banished “sanctuary cities” in Florida, he said, which are cities around the nation with policies that support immigrants and discourage law enforcement from reporting undocumented immigrants unless a serious crime is involved, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
DeSantis joked about rounding up 48 migrant workers in Texas and flying them to Martha’s Vineyard in 2022. He said the next day, despite the sanctuary city designation there, the Democrats called the National Guard to deport the migrants.
“Here's the thing that shows,” he said. “Liberal elites in this country, they want to impose their vision on society and their ideology on the rest of us. But they do not want to have to face the consequences of those policies themselves. They want you to face the consequences.”
DeSantis said Florida is doing it right.
“One of the things that needs to be done is we actually need to construct a wall along the southern border wall,” he said to loud applause.
DeSantis made no mention of seeking the Republican nomination to run in the next presidential election.