DeSantis Readies for the National Stage

DeSantis Readies for the National Stage. By Carmel Richardson.

One day before Ron DeSantis took the stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he spoke to what may be the most intimate crowd he’ll address for a while — a room of just under 1,000 Hillsdale College supporters and staff. …

Talking fast and hardly looking at his notes (guests I spoke with afterward said his speed made him sound intelligent), DeSantis spent his hour in front of a friendly audience drawing distinctions — between conservatism and libertarianism, between himself and the broader GOP, and, most carefully, between himself and former president Donald Trump. …

The elites and Big Tech “regime enforcers” need to be taken down a few notches, he said — whether through Section 230 reform or other means was unclear — because “you can’t have a free society if the majority of the discourse is controlled by a half dozen leftists in Silicon Valley.”

These are bold words for an audience of conservative donors, many of whom made their success in business, but a lot has changed in the last few decades. Regardless, the audience was enthusiastic, interrupting frequently with cheers and calls of “Freedom!”

The governor also rejected the idea that free trade fosters democracy: “We are a country with an economy, not the other way around.” …

On the topic of woke ideology, however, the DeSantis was optimistic: “Wokeness is a mile wide — you know, it’s affected a lot of our institutions — but it’s only an inch deep. If you stand up against it, the people, normal people, are with you.”

Likewise with immigration. At least, the governor seemed to bank on as much when he took the conversation a good step beyond mere wall-building: “I think we all want an end to illegal immigration, but even our legal immigration system is not in the best interest of the American people.” H1-B visas and chain migration are on his chopping block; instead, he advocates merit-based immigration. “Common culture is very important. What unites us as a people has to be a belief in the foundations of this country, otherwise it falls apart,” he said.

The transition from DeSantis the governor to DeSantis the presidential candidate was seamless. …

Rather than distance himself from the former president, DeSantis styled himself more as a Trump 2.0 — everything Trump almost was.

DeSantis [said] “I got elected governor to make decisions and lead. I did not get elected to subcontract those decisions out to the Dr. Faucis of the world.” (On the topic of Anthony Fauci, too, he gracefully avoided blaming one former president by blaming another: “Ronald Reagan should have fired him.”) …

Perhaps most importantly, he did not miss a chance to reflect on the gravest error of the previous administration: “At the federal level, personnel is incredibly important…You have to have people in there that actually believe in the agenda, that aren’t going to be flattered by the media. If media aren’t attacking you, you’re not doing it right.”

A more competent Trump? He’s been impressive as Florida’s Governor. Might do ok as leader of the free world.

hat-tip Stephen Neil