COLUMN: Analysis of Ron DeSantis’s 2021 CPAC Speech

REDPILLED Media Weekly Column

Governor DeSantis began his speech to open CPAC as many officeholders do when given a chance — by trumpeting a laundry list of recent achievements; Though, strikingly, the purpose of such remarks was not to ingratiate himself with the crowd (which already adores him) or to draw light to unreported accomplishments (which are covered universally throughout conservative media): DeSantis’s short tenure as governor has been so wildly popular in Florida, and to a similar degree across America, that simply recounting his contributions to the state over the past two years serves as a crowd warmer in itself, rather than as the usual de facto campaign ad or political plug.

Characterizing the Sunshine State in his opening line as an “oasis of freedom”, DeSantis immediately laid out his philosophy toward and implementation of statewide coronavirus guidance, particularly concerning school and business, audibly striking a chord with attendees from heavily locked-down states. Debunking the media lies surrounding Florida’s coronavirus response, the governor noted that both the state’s per capita COVID mortality rate and unemployment rate are in the lower half of all other states while the state has run in the green budgetarily throughout the entire pandemic.

Pivoting to election integrity, DeSantis highlighted Florida’s evolution as the electoral laughing stock of the nation in 2000 to 20 years later having tabulated 11 million ballots as of election night, while blue states continued to count for weeks with reporting accuracy that is dubious at best, which he credits to his 2019 firing of supervisors of elections in Broward and Palm Beach and his 2020 rejection of adopting “mass mailing of unsolicited ballots” as other states did. Summing up the voting system in Florida, DeSantis celebrates: “Bottom line is this — in Florida, your vote counts[,]” which is saying a lot following the tabulation disasters across the country last November.

“Florida has lower per capita COVID mortality than the national average and lower than 27 other states; Our unemployment rate is lower than the national average even though tourism isn’t fully back; And our budget is in great shape — we have not touched one red cent from our rainy day fund throughout this whole time,” remarked Florida governor Ron DeSantis during his speech opening the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference 2021 on Friday in Orlando, Florida.

DeSantis then used the opportunity to promote his genius three-pronged approach to take on big tech in the free state of Florida, which he has been spearheading for the past few weeks while the legislature has been out of session, which he contends comprises “the most ambitious reforms yet proposed for combatting political censorship and deplatforming, preventing big tech from interfering in our elections, and safeguarding the privacy of your personal data.” DeSantis has unquestionably been at the forefront of the issue since the beginning and is the only elected officeholder in the entire country appearing to be making headway on the infamously stubborn issue.

The next six sentences delivered by the governor cast DeSantis in a new light, on a national stage, and as a serious presidential contender. Consider the following selection:

“Florida is leading on the issues that matter to conservatives — we don’t spout hollow rhetoric; we take decisive action — and what’s true in Florida is true for conservatives across the nation. We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear. We reject open borders and instead support American sovereignty and the American worker. Building a movement on the foundation of amnesty and cheap foreign labor is like building a house on a field of quicksand. We reject weakness in the threat posed by China, including their actions in international trade. We reject military adventurism, and instead support a strong defense solely for the purpose of protecting our nation and its people.”

—Governor Ron DeSantis, CPAC 2021, Orlando, FL

Transitioning from touting local triumphs to observing national issues, DeSantis concisely enumerates the Big Three and lays out their complementarity for the CPAC audience. Leading with calculated clichés, now effectively mandated to appear in all speeches given by Republicans with national aspirations thanks to the political evangelization of the GOP by President Trump, DeSantis spoke ill of “open borders” and championed “national sovereignty”, though continued past the required rhetoric by following up with a strong vocalization of America first policies: Simultaneously slapping the amnesty lobby while walloping work visas, the Florida governor stops just short of detailing the devastating impact of perpetual annual waves of millions of legal immigrants; He then links the issues of immigration and trade through speaking of negative economic effects perpetrated domestically by ‘cheap foreign labor’ in one sentence, and in the next hints at Washington’s decades-long crusade of pursuing international trade at the expense of the American interior — throwing in China as red meat; He concludes with an echo of President Trump’s fusion of the historical Republican position of isolationism with the policy of maintaining an overwhelmingly massive and expanding military as practiced since Reagan.

The sole aspect of the speech likely to attract criticism is the somewhat underwhelming delivery, though in the age of President Trump we might well have forgotten the value of a still strong and decisive but vocally measured politician. Then again, standing next to “Mr. Personality” Matt Schlapp, who has the charisma of an acorn (and that’s being generous), DeSantis appears a rockstar — which he truly is to the hundreds of cheering fans filling the large auditorium at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando. Regardless, the direction and content of DeSantis’s speech far outshines what some might criticize as an unseemly tranquil demeanor when speaking to a crowd of rabid supporters. Moreso, his calm and relatively soft-spoken delivery to a friendly crowd of MAGA voters nicely complements his often-viral attitude taken toward deceptive, dishonest journalists endlessly looking to smear him in the media.

Trumpism as articulated in 2016, however ineptly, while a substantially essential improvement from the establishment GOP of the last 30 years, is evidently insufficient to even begin to approach matters of most concern to Republican voters in this new decade, chiefly: big tech censorship and election integrity. President Trump accomplished in one election cycle what the paleoconservatives failed to do over several decades by dropping the noble attempt of Pat Buchanan and the like to restore Christian morality in an increasingly irreligious nation in favor of instilling the absolutely nation-saving values of immigration restriction, trade protectionism, and military non-interventionism as key in the national GOP.

Following his second all-time CPAC address, last appearing on the year of President Trump’s election, DeSantis emerged as a natural and growingly deserving heir to the Trump legacy as he has uniquely identified the blind spots of Trump’s method of governance concerning the power of the tech monopolies and election integrity and taken on such issues in his own state while still defending the essential transformations made by the former president to the mainstream conservative movement at large.

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