Portrait of Ron DeSantis

Remarks at the Tennessee GOP Statesman Dinner in Nashville, Tennessee

July 15, 2023

Good evening, Tennessee. I had to come up and see where people who leave blue states move to when they don't choose Florida so it's great to be here. I'm excited because 2024 is our opportunity to send Biden to his basement in Delaware where he belongs. Now, we, my wife and I were in Iowa earlier today and so this is the second state on our agenda. Biden, I think has been in two states to today. Confusion and disorientation. But that's just another day at the office here. Look, you got to kind of admire this is a guy that wakes up every morning and his people let him know that he's the President of the United States. Imagine finding that out every morning.

So, we we've got a lot of work to do. This country is in decline. We see it with our own eyes. We can feel it in our bones. Biden is the custodian of American decline. As our country declines, our freedoms have become under assault. I think our mission is very simple. We must reject the idea that as Republicans, our job is to just manage the decline a little bit better than the Democrats. I am not interested in managing the decline of this country. I want to reverse the decline of this country. We need a new birth of freedom in this country. The problems that we face economically are problems that have been induced by the government itself. They have borrowed, they have spent, they have printed trillions and trillions of dollars. Look, if you could just print and spend money with no consequence, why not just do 20 trillion, 30 trillion and we could all just live happily ever after. But we know instinctively that somebody has to pay the bill. So, who has paid the bill for what Washington has done? Average Americans, working class people, small businessmen who have to pay more for everything? The inflation that we've seen in the higher prices is an invisible tax that has affected each and every American in this country. Washington has benefited - seven of the 10 wealthiest counties in this country, our suburbs of Washington DC. How does that happen? They're not producing anything of note except mountains of debt and quite a bit of hot air. No, they are doing these policies because people that are connected to the political class benefit and all the rest of the American people get left holding the bag. In Florida, we've actually done it right. We are just rated by CNBC, which is not a fan of me. We just got rated the number one economy in the United States - massive growth, low taxes. miniscule debt. Our state government footprint is the lowest amount of government workers per capita in the entire United States of America. We get out of people's way and we manage the budget effectively. We've actually paid down billions of dollars of state debt, and we have set the second lowest per capita debt in the country. Don't tell me this can't be done. We need to have a president that can go into Washington and will actually hold the line on excessive spending and we haven't had that probably since Ronald Reagan. If you look at the debt that's been accumulated, yeah, we can sit here and hit Biden and he deserves a lot of it. But it wasn't just the Democrats. Republicans and Democrats in DC are both responsible for putting us $32 trillion dollars in debt. It's time to stop and go a different direction.

And part of the way we do that is we actually grow the economy. We need to open up all of our domestic energy for production. We should be energy independent in this country. And part of that means the federal government should not be forcing you to do an electric vehicle. If you want to do it, do it, that's fine. But to force people in that, like California wants to force people to do electric vehicles within like the next few years, and they can't even keep the power on for their people. Now, when we had hurricane Ian in Florida at the end of September, you know, we had massive power outages but we had people ready to go, got the power back on everything like that. Two weeks after the storm, there was a higher percentage of people in California without power than in Florida. And that was just the normal course of how they do business. So, then you're going to have 10, 15 million electric cars plugging into the power grid. It will not work and oh by the way, who benefits when we force people into electric vehicles? China benefits because all the materials that go into those are produced in China. So, I want our own domestic energy. I want the jobs associated with that. And I want to save the American automobile, so we are ripping out all of Biden's electric vehicle mandates on day one. And speaking of China, we should not have, and in Florida we prohibited land purchases by the CCP, no farmland, no land near military bases, nothing. We should have done that in this country by now. And we need to do that so that we can protect the American people.

We're also going to make sure on day one, that we prevent the imposition of something called the central bank digital currency. And I think most of you know what that is. For those who don't know what that is what they want to do. And this is people in DC. It's people in Davos that like the World Economic Forum, and this is something that people affiliated with China also want for their country. They want to go to a cashless society. They want to eliminate cryptocurrency, and they want to force all transactions through this central bank digital currency that will be supervised by the Fed. Why do they want to do that? Because they want to impose a social credit system on this country. They want to be able to police purchases that they don't like. So if you're doing too much gasoline, they'll stop a purchase. You're buying too much ammunition they won't like that they'll stop a purchase. It's a way for them to exert total control over your economic behavior. Biden is studying this. The Fed is thinking about potentially implementing it. In Florida, I signed legislation banning it in our state and as president on January 20, 2025, CBDC dies in this country because we are going to toss it in the trash can. And we're not going to let it happen in the United States of America. But make no mistake, your economic freedom is under assault by these people, and they want nothing more than to exert more control over how you use the resources that you burn.

We also need to restore this country's sovereignty. You cannot have an open border where millions and millions of foreign nationals illegally pour into this country. So on day one. - on day one, we will declare the border to be a national emergency. We will marshal all available resources, including the US military to stop the invasion cold. Yes, we will actually build a border wall because I think you do need it. But we will do something no president has been willing to do hold the Mexican drug cartels accountable for what they are doing to our country. And that means be very honest about what we're going to do when I was down. I was down in Texas a couple of weeks ago, it just kind of wide open. I was in Arizona a few weeks before that they actually had portions of a border wall. It's kind of these reinforced steel beams. And I was looking at it and I saw these guys sitting at the base of the wall doing work and I said what do you guys doin? And they're like, we're repairing it. I'm like what happened? They're like the cartels cut a hole through it and started running drugs through it. And so now we're repairing it. And I'm like, What did anyone stop them? Like now the Border Patrol doesn't care. They just kind of let it happen. Well, there'll be new rules on January 20, 2025. Because if a cartel is trying to cut through a border wall and run product into this country, that's going to be the last thing that cartel operative ever did because they are going to end up stone cold dead._

We will restore the sovereignty of this country. We also need to restore religious freedom in this country. We have situations. You know you y'all hear about some of these Supreme Court cases a Coach Kennedy in Washington State wins at the Supreme Court. He lost his job as a football coach, because he wanted to hold a prayer at midfield after a high school football game. So he loses his job. He's got to go all the way to Supreme Court and yes, he wins. And that's, quote, 'a victory.' But our Founding Fathers would have never believed that saying a prayer would have caused you to have to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We see this 303 Creative Case. They go all the way to the Supreme Court to say wait a minute, Colorado can't force you to do messages that you disagree with and that conflict with your Christian faith. Yeah, a victory. But you had three justices that ruled against them. That said the government can compel you to do so here's where we stand with respect to religious freedom. We believe in religious freedom like the Founding Fathers envisioned it in like our Constitution requires. The left in this country - the left in this country wants to take us back to pre-constitution days. What did they do prior to the American Constitution, they had toleration of religion. And that was something that our founders rejected. George Washington wrote a letter to the Hebrew congregation in Newport, Rhode Island in 1792. And he said, how happy it is to live in America, where we don't speak of mere toleration of religion based on the whims of political elites, but we recognize your right to practice religion as a gift from the Almighty. That is what we should be upholding. That is not what the left wants. What the left wants. And at the end of the day, the left's religion is woke ideology and leftist ideology. So they want to establish that as our country's orthodoxy, so they would say you have the right to practice your faith, say as a Christian but only insofar as it doesn't conflict with their agenda. That is not religious liberty, that is toleration. So when we become - when we get in, we're going to make sure that every single American has full religious liberty without regard to what any leftist elite has to say about it. We also see the family and parents are under assault by leftist ideologues. Parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. That's the law in Florida. That needs to be the law in every state in this country. The left doesn't believe that they believe that well, you hear Biden, what does he say? He says, Hey, these are all of our kids, not your kids. They're all of our kids. First of all, Joe, they're not your kids. Second of all, before you're saying they're all of our kids, why don't you spend some time with your granddaughter in Arkansas, or at least recognize her existence before you start worrying about our kids. So we have a right as parents to direct the education and upbringing of our kids. And in Florida, we've had to take very strong stance on that. We had to stand up against critical race theory and we have eliminated that from our K through 12 schools. We stood up. We stood up against gender ideology in our schools, it is wrong to tell a second grader that she may have been born in the wrong body or that her gender is a choice, yet that is what the left wants to impose in schools across this country. Now when we did that in Florida, the left got very upset. The media got very upset. And we actually had a business in Central Florida that some of you may have heard of – Disney - that got very upset. And if you know anything about Florida politics, Disney's basically the 800 pound gorilla anytime they weigh in on something. That's pretty much the end of it. I think they've gotten pretty much everything they've wanted for almost 60 years until me, and so that was people said this isn't going to happen. Governor's not going to be able to sign the bill. Yada yada yada well. I did not take an oath of office to subcontract out my leadership to a woke corporation based in Burbank, California. That's not leadership. And that's not what we're doing. We're going to put our kids first. We're going to put our parents first and we're going to make sure of course that we signed the bill. We've now expanded the bill and everything is fine, but I'll tell you, I have most of these Republicans attacking me for siding with the children versus Disney. And that's a vision of the Republican Party when you're siding with woke corporations over your own constituency that is not going to win elections. And it's not the morally right thing to do. We have to draw a line on the sand when it comes to our children. We oppose the sexualization of minors and we will battle anybody who seeks to rob them of their innocence. Even the biggest baddest Corporation of them all. We will stand for what's right. And if you can't do that, you've got no business being elected dog catcher as a Republican.

And we see the same thing with how they want to keep parents out of knowing what curriculum is being used in the schools. Florida we pass curriculum transparency, you as a parent have a right to know what is being taught in your kids school and you have the right to blow the whistle. And object. If you have something that's inappropriate, and unfortunately, they are trying to jam pornographic materials in the schools. So we've done it in Florida and the parents have blown the whistle. The media says Florida is banning books. They're trying to ban books. First of all, you can go to Florida and get whatever you want. I actually did a press conference where I showed all the books that had the parents had objected to and we put it on a big screen. The news stations had to cut their feed because they said it was too graphic to air on TV. Well if it's too graphic for the six o'clock news, how's it okay for a 10 year old school child? You got to wonder the motivations of some of these people. If as an adult if you want adult material, the proper place is not a fourth grade classroom. Okay, go view Hunter Biden's laptop for all I care just keep it away from our kids. But it all goes back. I think a lot of these problems we see in the economy at the border with the indoctrination of schools and all goes back to this woke mind virus that is really swept through a lot of liberal elites and a lot of elite institutions and I know there's some people that say, Don't worry about Whoa, you know, who cares all this other stuff. And first of all, let me tell you woke is a form of Cultural Marxism. It is trying to take apart this society, it is trying to ignore things like merit and achievement and base our society on identity politics. It represents a war on truth. Don't tell me that a man can get pregnant and expect me to accept that because I will not accept that because it is not true. Don't tell me that you can swim on the men's team for three years, then switch to the women's team and somehow be declared the women's national champion. I won't accept that because it is not true. The truth will set you free. You need to have a foundation of truth in this country. So there's value in defeating the world just on the plane of ideas alone, but woke when it corrupts institutions. It has a devastating impact on our society. I remember, I was just in Iowa, we did an event for congressman Zach Nunn and it was a salute to the troops and it was about our veterans. And I remember when I was a blue collar kid growing up in Florida as a baseball player, you know, my parents were working class and so you know, I didn't have anything handed to me. I had to work hard. I worked minimum wage jobs to get through school and everything like that, but I had accumulated some degrees and I had opportunities to be able to make a lot of money and I had different plans to do that. But 9/11 happened. And you know, we don't have a draft or anything, but I felt that I should do my part, however small, to be able to serve the country when we are in a time of conflict. And so I volunteered to serve, ended up deploying to Fallujah, Iraq. I was attached to Navy SEAL Team One during the Iraqi surge against Al Qaeda in Iraq way back in the day.

And I've always reflected on the experience I had and said, you know, I would have made a lot more money doing something else but being able to wear the cloth of your country, being able to serve honorably alongside fellow patriots, and being able to serve a mission greater than yourself, well, that provides a sense of satisfaction money just can't buy.

And I've always been proud to be associated with the military. I'm proud of our veterans, from World War Two all the way to the present. And I know a lot of people feel that way, and for people that have served, thank you for your service.

And yet, having said all that, we now have a situation where veterans come up to me frequently and say, "I don't know if I'd want my son, daughter or grandkids to join today's military given all the nonsense that's going on." And you don't even need to believe me. Just look at the numbers. Morale is low. They've driven off a lot of warriors and recruiting is at a post-Vietnam low. Why is that? It's because they're doing social experimentation. They're doing woke and political ideology. They are taking away from the core mission, and they're taking their eye off the ball. That is not a military that's going to be able to stand up to China. It's not a military, when the Navy is using drag queens to recruit new people, that's going to be able to defend American freedom abroad. No, that's a military that's on the wrong path. So I think on day one, we need a commander in chief that's going to remove some of the people that have created this, like General Milley, and will take the woke out of our military, rip it to shreds. focus back on the mission of what it means to serve in uniform.

So woke matters when it gets into something like the military. Woke matters when it takes over parts of our economy. You see these things like ESG that they're trying to do- in Florida, we banned ESG. It's not allowed in our pensions, no social credit scores, none of that. No woke banking, they can't discriminate against you if you're a gun owner, conservative, or Christian or any of that. So we've leaned in on it. We actually took from our pension that was being managed by Blackrock--$2 billion--we took it away from them and said we don't want your nonsense in Florida.

We stood up against it, but it's percolating in other parts of society. We're going to need to rip it up on January 20 2025. Because if ESG and other woke ideas take over our economy, the average person will end up poorer as a result of that. It will hurt people's standard of living.

Our education system. When woke overtakes the education system, and ends up indoctrinating kids into a bunch of nonsense, and the average student becomes dumber as a result of this. Do you see test scores going up in any of these woke liberal states? No, they're going down because they're focusing on all the wrong things. And look at some of the cities around this country when they get overtaken by a woke agenda. San Francisco--I was there a few weeks ago and you hear different things about San Francisco, there's--I don't know if you have ever seen on the internet there's like a map where they have dots on every place where there's been public defecation and it like fills up the entire city. It's like you can't walk anywhere that's not somebody having done, you know, done their business on the sidewalk. Not great when that's happening in the city.

So I show up. Within 15 minutes, I see some guy on the sidewalk, relieving himself, and I'm just thinking to myself, this is just standard. I saw people doing fentanyl, smoking crack right in the open. People can get mugged and nothing ever happens to the perpetrators. And that is all a function of leftist ideology. And so, the city's been hollowed out, there's not one jurisdiction in this country, city, or state that has been governed by leftist ideology that is succeeding. They are all failing and many of them are failing spectacularly.

This is a huge thing. Because if this continues to take over other institutions throughout our country and continues to take over the federal government, it will destroy this country. In Florida, we are the only place in this country, that on all these different issues, we have beat the woke; we've made the state of Florida the place where woke goes to die, and now it's our mission. It is our mission as Americans to ensure January 20, 2025, that starts where we leave woke ideology in the dustbin of history -- where it belongs.

You have some of the most important issues facing this country: what kind of energy you can use, what kind of car you can drive, that are decided not by your elected representatives, but by nameless, faceless bureaucrats sitting in the bowels of the bureaucracy up in Washington DC. We are going to return this government to its rightful owners, we the American people.

That means we're going to take parts of these agencies and parcel them out throughout the country. We're going to reduce the number of employees in DC by 50%. We are going to end the weaponization of this government once and for all.

We can't have a system where there are two standards of justice: If you're connected to the DC ruling class, then you get away with murder. I mean, if Hunter were a Republican, he would have been in jail years ago,a nd we all know that. Yet, if you're on the other side, you can get put into prison for jaywalking in DC. That is not a system that is consistent with American liberty and with the rule of law.

But in order to get there, you ,as president, have got to be willing to wield your Article 2 power. It's not something that they're going to give up. The power that they've committed, they're not going to give that up willingly. They're going to fight you tooth and nail. The bureaucrats will fight you. The media will fight you. The left will fight you. Hell, a lot of big businesses will probably end up fighting you. So in order to do it, you've got to be focused. You've got to be disciplined. You've got to know what levers are available to pull, and you've got to have the backbone to be able to pull those levers even when you're going to face intense political opposition.

In Florida, we've done without question, draining our swamp. I got into office. I removed the bad election supervisors in southwest Florida so that we could have integrity in our election system. I removed the sheriff down in Broward County who bungled the Parkland massacre the year before I became governor. And when we had a prosecutor, like you see in San Francisco, LA, Chicago, who was funded by George Soros, and said that he was not going to enforce laws in Florida that he didn't agree with. I removed him from his post. He is gone.

So what that means is you've got to be committed, and with me you don't have to worry about where I stand. You will have a new director of the FBI on day one.

You will have an Attorney General with a backbone made of steel who is going to turn the place upside down. And as President, I'm going to be willing to stand in and make the tough decisions. You can't coddle bureaucrats like Dr. Fauci. The way you treat somebody like Dr. Fauci is very simple. You tell him, Anthony, you're fired.

So here's the thing. 2024 I think gives us the best opportunity to put the country on a significantly better path for the first time since Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980. I think the American people look at Biden, they know he's failed. They know the country is in the wrong direction, and they want a fresh start. They want to go in a different direction. I think we need to have a vision of that in a way that's going to be able to attract those voters who haven't voted for Republicans in recent years like we did in Florida, like some other candidates across the country have been able to do. Because we if don't do that, we're going to end up in a pit that we're not going to be able to get out of. The Democrats are playing for keeps in this country. If they're able to win the presidency again, they will almost surely take the House of Representatives and win the US Senate and with that power. They're not just going to try to hike the tax a little bit or do a little more welfare. They may try to do that, and I'm not saying those aren't important issues. But our politics right now is not about what the tax rates going to be or how many welfare benefits are going to be distributed. Our struggle right now is that are we going to reject the heritage of freedom that our founding fathers have bequeathed to us, or are we going to revive that heritage of freedom. The Democrats know that if they get in, they're not going to worry about all the small stuff. They're going to try to pack the US Supreme Court with liberal justices, erasing the conservative majority on the court. They're going to try to eliminate voter ID across the country and mandate ballot harvesting. They're going to make Washington DC a state, and they are going to eliminate the electoral college. That is a party that's trying to ensconce themselves in power for a generation, and it'd be very difficult for our voices to be heard in national affairs if they're successful about doing that. So, we cannot let them get away with it. There is no substitute for victory. We can sit here and talk about this, that, all these other things. We cannot have a culture of losing in this party where we give up winnable elections all across this country, and then have recriminations or excuses about why you can't win. Don't tell me you can't win. Go out there and get it done.

In Florida, we showed it can be done. When I got elected, our state had been one point state. President and governors' races for a decade prior had been decided by one point or less. My race was decided by half a percentage point, 32,000 votes. A lot of people said okay, because it's close, bide your time. eep your head down. Don't make any waves. You don't want to upset this political balance. I rejected that advice. My view is I may have gotten 50% of the vote but I earned 100% of the executive power. I intend to use it to advance an agenda that I believe in and that I think is the best agenda for the state. It was by governing not in pale pastels, but in bold colors that has caused Florida to have a growth and success the likes of which we've never seen in the modern history of the state. We're the first state probably in the country that has had people come from all the way across in massive numbers because of the way the state is governed. We had people, I just ran into someone the other day. So yeah, I met some guy in Orlando that came from California. Why did you come? And he's like, well, I came because I like what your governor is doing and that's usually not the way it is. But our boldness was so much different than what they were seeing in these other states that we attracted people to our cause. We ended up winning reelection, not by 32,000 votes, but by 1.5 million votes. We won the largest Republican governor landslide in the history of the state of Florida. And it's not just about me, we got in super majorities of the Florida legislature. We added four Republican members to the US Congress. We even elected, with our support, 29 new conservative school board candidates across the state, because all this is important. Politics is a team sport. You gotta do it.

We did it by winning voters who had not voted for Republicans in the past. Miami Dade County is our biggest county -- 2.8 million people. How have Republicans done in urban areas in recent years? Not very good. Hillary Clinton won Miami Dade County in 2016 by 30 percentage points. We not only won Miami Dade, we won Miami Dade County by double digits. Nobody thought that was possible just four or five years ago, and yet we did it. We did it through boldness, and we did it through leadership that I think at the end of the day is the key ingredient in terms of where we find ourselves. You can be right on policy, and, Lord knows you have to be right on policy, because what the Democrats want to do is disastrous. But being right on the issues is not enough. In this day and age, when you step forward and you stand for what's right, and you speak the truth. Whether you're a governor like me, whether you're a school board member, whether you're a parent who's concerned about your kid's education, you are going to face blowback. You will face blowback from the media, from the left. You may face blowback from the federal government itself, as we've seen where the FBI was going after parents who were going to school board meetings in Northern Virginia. You are going to have to sacrifice, whatever level you are, you're going to face blowback. So the question is, is that something that you're comfortable with? Are you going to be willing to sit there and take the arrows and continue to soldier on. That, ultimately, is the key ingredient to Florida success. Because when the country had lost its mind during COVID, when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, Florida stood as a citadel of freedom and a refuge of sanity not only for our citizens, but for people all throughout this country. We fought the media. We fought the left. We fought bureaucrats like Fauci and we kept our state open. We kept our kids in school, and we ended up booming like never before. But it was not easy. Every single decision I made was met with a torrent of criticism from the usual suspects on the political left in the media and even by some Republicans. A lot of people said your political career is over. First of all, I don't care about a career. I can do a lot of other things. I'm here to serve. It's not about me. I was totally fine with that. But they're saying you got to reverse course. You can't be doing this. People are after you. But you know, a leader has got to stand in that fire and stand up for the people that he represents. You have to be more concerned about protecting the jobs of the people you're elected to serve, than you are about protecting your own political hide. And that's what we did in Florida, on COVID, on Disney, and all these other issues where we stood up and did what was right. That's the type of fortitude, that's the type of backbone that it's going to take to be able to unwind all these problems in Washington, DC. So, we're going to have to work hard. There's going to be some sacrifices, but I'm confident that it can be done. I think we have no other choice but to get it done. Not just for ourselves, our kids, our grandkids, but we owe a debt to people in prior generations who have fought for us and preserved our freedom.

I used to take the flight to Washington DC from Florida. There was a particular route you could take where you went flush parallel to the National Mall. If you looked out the left side of the plane, you would see the great monuments, Lincoln, the reflecting pool, Washington, and the other monuments. Ten up on the Hill, the beautiful US Capitol dome, and you felt a sense of pride as an American because that was symbolic of the principles that has made the country unique. I remember the tourists love that because that was kind of the first time a lot of them saw it. What I realized after doing that trip a few times was the best monuments to freedom were not seen on the National Mall looking out the left side of the plane. Because if you looked out the right side of the plane, you looked over the Potomac River, you saw a very small nondescript monuments arranged over the rolling hills of a place called Arlington National Cemetery. It occurred to me then, and I believe now that you can have the best Constitution in the world; you can have the best Declaration of Independence in the world; these things do not run on autopilot. They require people, at critical moments in history, to stand up sometimes put a uniform at risk o their lives and indeed give the last full measure of devotion and service to this country. And we can look back at those sacrifices and look what we have to do now. We're not called upon to do anything even close to that. Yeah, people may attack you. They'll say bad things about you. There are people that have given it all so that we can be free. So, we owe it to them to not squander the legacy of freedom that they have bequeathed to us. And we will get it done. We will stand firm for the truth. We will not back down to these people. We will fight the good fight. We will finish the race, and we will keep the faith. No excuses in 2024, we have got to get the job done. Thank you all. God bless you. We appreciate you. Thank you so much. God bless you, Tennessee.

Ron DeSantis, Remarks at the Tennessee GOP Statesman Dinner in Nashville, Tennessee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/364052

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