ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida enjoyed unprecedented freedoms during the COVID pandemic but could have ended up with lockdowns and tight restrictions like those in Canada had its governor not battled back hard against naysayers.
That’s the view of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who was repeatedly applauded for his fiery speech Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando (CPAC).
“We protected people’s rights, we protected people’s jobs, and made sure every kid in the state of Florida had an opportunity to go to school – in person,” said DeSantis. “Freedom has prevailed in the Sunshine State.”
Desantis also said he’s been flooded by letters and emails from Canadians who wish Canada had not taken stringent methods in the battle against COVID.
CPAC draws thousands of people annually and is billed as the largest conference of conservatives in the world. As such, the red meat crowd devoured his hard-hitting speech.
“Florida set an all-time record for domestic tourism coming into our state and those record numbers included a number of lockdown politicians who locked down their own people …
“They criticized Florida and the first chance they get, what do they do? They escaped to freedom in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis went for the jugular – deriding Chief Medical Advisor to the President Anthony Fauci – in front of the fawning crowd, many of whom sported T-shirts and hats with phrases like “Freedom,” “Liberty,” or the 2022 conference theme, “Awake Not Woke.”
“And why did these biggest critics and lockdowners come to Florida? From the very beginning, we refused to let this state descend into some type of Fauci-istic dystopia where people’s freedoms are curtailed and their livelihoods are destroyed.
“We protected people’s rights. We protected people’s jobs,” DeSantis roared in an address that could have been mistaken for a campaign speech. There’s still speculation the Florida governor could pursue a run to be the Republican candidate for president in 2024.
“We made sure that every kid in the state of Florida had an opportunity to go to school in person, five days a week.”
The friendly crowd roared its approval when he pointed out that Florida banned vaccine passports and mandates.
He admitted he took huge flak for many of the moves, including in 2020 from the teachers’ union that protested schools being allowed to remain open by installing coffins outside the Department of Education building in Tallahassee.
DeSantis derided both Canada and Australia for what he feels were draconian COVID-fighting measures.
“I really believe if Florida had not led the way, this country could look like Canada or Australia,” he said.
“We cannot take freedom for granted. The left does not want to honour our freedom and we have a responsibility to fight back on all fronts.”
DeSantis said he’s Public Enemy No. 1 to President Joe Biden because Florida bucked the lockdown trend. “He doesn’t like Florida. He doesn’t like me because we stand up to him.”
He lambasted the first-term commander in chief, saying he’s been the worst president in America “since the 1800s.”
The governor’s speech touched on a wide range of topics, including his boast that Florida leads the nation on the strength of its economy and low-tax regime, legislation against online “big-tech censorship.” He also boasted that the state has “the strongest anti-rioting legislation in the country” to prevent civil disorder that rocked many U.S. cities in 2020.
People who riot in Florida, he said, don’t get “a slap on the wrist” as they do “in Portland … In Florida, “you’re getting the inside of a jail cell.”
DeSantis claims all the moves he’s made have resulted in Florida leading the nation when it comes to net “in-migration.
“These are people who are fleeing leftist government in this country and around the world.”
People “are chafing under authoritarian rule all across the world,” he said.
DeSantis saved his strongest comments to deride leftist politics, saying it’s tearing at the very fabric of the U.S.
“Woke-ism is a form of cultural Marxism,” he roared.
He said the corporate world and academia “have been infected” by “the woke virus” in a push to “delegitimize” American culture, historical figures and institutions.
With about 120 journalists in the room for his address, DeSantis pulled no punches on them either, saying the “legacy media” are “corrupt and dishonest.”
A New York Post editorial this week lauded Florida’s approach to COVID, saying that despite no mask mandates or lockdowns being imposed, the state managed the crisis better than many other jurisdictions, including New York state.
The Post editorial concluded: “Remarkably, despite its elderly population and laissez-faire approach, Florida has only the 33rd highest age-adjusted COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 population (251) among the states. That puts it in the same ballpark as mandate heavy Illinois (ranked 32 with 255 deaths/100,000) and California (ranked 38; 234) and well below New York (ranked 7th highest; 334).”
The CPAC conference continues through Sunday and will feature a keynote speech by former President Donald Trump.
Kerry Diotte is a Conservative activist who was a member of Parliament from 2015 to 2021 in the riding of Edmonton Griesbach. He’s a former city councillor and long-time journalist. For interview requests, click here.
The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.
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