By Laurel Duggan
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis overviewed several major policy victories during a Sunday speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Florida, emphasizing his resistance to pressure from “elites” in the media and in the federal government.
DeSantis was the subject of frequent negative media coverage, as well as public pressure and scorn from federal health officials, over his decision to eschew lockdowns and other health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic; he was similarly criticized for his more recent education and business-related policies, such as his efforts to restrict the teaching of gender ideology and “woke” workplace trainings. He explained his success in implementing the policies in an hour-long speech, arguing conservatives should reject the idea that private business should be left alone or that government cannot be used for conservative ends.
“We rejected the elites and we were right … not only were they wrong about [closing] schools, the elites were wrong about lockdowns, they were wrong about epidemiological models and hospitalization models, they were wrong about forced masking, they were wrong when they rejected the existence of natural immunity, they were wrong about the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines, and they were wrong when — and I said this — that COVID was seasonal, and now they admit it,” DeSantis said.
Under DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has more registered Republican than Democratic voters for the first time in its history despite the massive influx of residents from blue states like California and New York, DeSantis said. He attributed this to the state’s COVID-19 policies: rather than simply declining to impose governmental vaccine mandates, the DeSantis administration barred private businesses from implementing them.
Throughout the speech, DeSantis rejected a popular conservative argument that private business should be generally left alone by the federal government, instead insisting that the government needs to protect individuals from abuse at the hands of corporate interests, including tech companies, large corporate employers which seek to impose vaccination mandates and racial trainings on workers, and businesses pushing a left-leaning agenda through investing standards.
He also criticized many on the right who defer to private businesses instinctively.
“Corporatism is not the same as free enterprise, and I think too many Republicans have viewed limited government to basically mean whatever is best for corporate America is how we want to do the economy,” he said.
“My view is, obviously free enterprise is the best economic system, but that is a means to an end. It’s a means to having a good and fulfilling life and a prosperous society. It’s not an end in and of itself,” DeSantis said. “The United States is a nation that has an economy, not the other way around, and our economy should be geared for helping our own people.”