Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Slams ‘Failed Republican Establishment’ at CPAC

Getty Ron DeSantis speaking at CPAC 2021.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis opened the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2021 in Orlando on February 26, 2021, by calling Florida an “oasis of freedom” and slamming the “failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.”

“We can not, we will not, go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” he said to a round of applause. “We reject open borders and instead support American sovereignty and the American worker. Building a movement on amnesty and cheap foreign labor is like building a house on a field of quicksand.”

The governor said these are “leading issues that matter to conservatives.”

DeSantis focused on a conservative agenda in his speech, saying that Florida has lower COVID-19 and unemployment rates than the national average. He said the state has not taken “one red cent” from its rainy day fund. In September, DeSantis lifted COVID-19 regulations on businesses, according to Politifact, which analyzed his previous rhetoric on the effects of lockdowns.

“Florida got it right and the lockdown states got it wrong,” DeSantis said.

He referenced lockdowns by saying that Florida “lifted people up,” by “saving the economy and safeguarding the freedom of people,” while also protecting vulnerable residents from COVID-19.

“In Florida, schools are opening,” he said.

“Every Floridian has a right to earn a living and all businesses have a right to operate. We are stronger as a state and much happier as a people because of this leadership,” said DeSantis.

Here’s what you need to know:

DeSantis Is Mentioned as a Possible 2024 Presidential Contender

GettyFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

CPAC 2021, which chose a theme of opposing cancel culture after moving to Orlando from Washington D.C. due to the pandemic, is hosting a series of conservative speakers, to culminate with former President Donald Trump on Sunday. The conference is also sponsoring a straw poll that queries attendees about their preferences in the 2024 presidential election. The results will be released on Sunday, February 28, the last day of the convention.

DeSantis, mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential contender, did not bring up Trump during his speech at a conference that will, in part, be a referendum on the former president’s standing in the conservative movement going forward. However, his speech did echo many of Trump’s policy positions and some of his rhetoric.

Other speakers, such as U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, did reference the former president, with Cruz telling the audience that Trump “ain’t going anywhere.”

DeSantis slammed cancel culture in his speech.

“You will be attacked, you will be smeared, you might be cancelled by…the political left. The question is when we the klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you, will you stay strong or will you fold? …hold your line, stand your ground, and don’t ever back down,” said DeSantis.

The Florida Governor Slammed Big Tech

GettyFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

DeSantis said Florida is also working at “ensuring the integrity of our elections,” such as “leading on banning all forms of ballot harvesting.” He also slammed big tech.

He said the state is “holding big tech accountable” against the power of the “oligarchs” in silicon valley by instituting reforms banning political censorship from big tech as well as election interference and “safeguarding the privacy of your personal data.”

All of this, said DeSantis, is “more difficult without the voice of one of our greatest field generals, Rush Limbaugh.” He said Limbaugh was “one of the first to fight and win against cancel culture. Conservativism devoid of backbone is doomed to fail.”

According to The Hill, Florida “has recorded some of the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the nation due to the coronavirus.” However, the state has the nation’s third highest population and its third highest number of COVID-19 cases; some have criticized DeSantis for “threatening to divert vaccines from communities that had criticized his pandemic response.” He fared well in a recent poll on the 2024 presidential race when matched against other Floridians, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio.

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