Ron DeSantis addressed the conference on the first night, and blew everyone away. It helped that he followed a dull but half-hysterical rant by Sen. Rick Scott, who fired a barrage of Republican cliches at the audience (watch it here). A conservative writer friend sitting across the room texted me during the speech to joke that this thing was so bad it’s causing him to rethink all his convictions.
And then came DeSantis. His talk was workmanlike, but extremely effective, because he spoke plainly, talking about things he has actually done as Florida governor to advance conservative goals. I realize that sounds dull, but I assure you that for we who were in the room, it was anything but. After being bum-rushed by Rick Scott, it was great to be spoken to by a politician who addressed us as if we were real people.
I wanted to stand up and cheer when DeSantis talked about how conservatives have got to get over their reflex to defer to Big Business. He spoke about how he believes that when Big Business is oppressing individuals, the state should come to their aid. He also lashed out at Republicans who sit back and allow bad things to happen because they are too listless or afraid to take a tough stand.
“Use the power you have!” he said. “I’m sick of the press releases. I’m sick of the interviews” — meaning GOP pols who talk big but who don’t follow through. …
For me, the best part of DeSantis’s long speech was how he kept coming back to how the GOP has to take on Big Business on behalf of the little guy. This is Reagan-era Republican heresy — but he’s 100 percent correct. “Too many Republicans view ‘limited government’ as ‘whatever Big Business wants’,” DeSantis said. Capitalism is vital, he said, but it is a means to creating a Good Society; it is not an end in itself.
Best line of the night: “The United States is a country that has an economy, not the other way around.”
The governor tore into Big Tech, saying, “We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are doing the Regime’s bidding when it comes to censorship.” And: “They are de facto the enforcement arm of Regime ideology.” …
DeSantis laid in to the administrative state, saying it has been weaponized to serve the Left’s goals — and Congress has allowed it to happen. He used this as an example of how the Left advances its goals through democratically unaccountable institutions.
“So many of these institutions have been captured by a failed, ossified ruling class,” he said. “If you want to have an American revival, yes, it requires electing good people, having good policy. But it also requires a recognition that it’s not just in the electoral realm, it’s also in the administrative realm, and more and more in the corporate and technological realm. I think the Left is playing for keeps.“
Not as charismatic as Trump, but gets things done:
DeSantis is not a great public speaker — he talks in prose, not poetry — but what he said was galvanizing. Besides, his actions as governor speak louder than the empty words of other Republican politicians. …
Talking with conference attendees about the DeSantis speech, I found near-unanimous sentiment that DeSantis should be the 2024 GOP nominee — but also near-unanimous belief that he could not beat Donald Trump in a primary match-up. The feeling is that Trump simply has too great a hold on too many GOP primary voters. …
If DeSantis is the 2024 GOP presidential nominee, we will have a great national argument about issues. If Trump is the nominee, we will have a great national argument about Trump. …
Whether or not DeSantis runs for president in this next cycle, we saw and heard in DeSantis’s speech where the future of the GOP is: with common-sense populism.
That is, with standing up for the little guy against elites and the institutions they run, both public and private — and not just standing up rhetorically, but with legislative and policy action. …
Whether it’s 2024 or 2028, Ron DeSantis is the future of political conservatism in America.
Nothing is inevitable in politics, but this guy is pretty close.