DeSantis Unleashes the Truth About the Left in Pennsylvania Speech

(This article first appeared in the American Spectator.)

Last Saturday, a huge crowd at the Penn Harris Hotel outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, listened to a keynote speech by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The event was the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, which its organizer, Lowman Henry, describes as “the largest state-based conservative, grassroots, activist conference in the nation.” It’s like a Pennsylvania version of CPAC. This was the event’s 34th year.

As usual, the event featured speakers not just from Pennsylvania but from around the country. Both Jeffrey Lord and I, two of your faithful columnists here at The American Spectatorspoke in the morning session with Newsmax’s John Gizzi and moderator Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring.

But of course, it wasn’t Jeff and I who drew over 60 members of the media to the ballroom that Saturday, including CNN. They came to hear Ron DeSantis, with pretty much everyone getting their first in-person look at one of the leaders for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2024, even as DeSantis hasn’t formally declared, yet.

DeSantis was introduced by former Rep. Keith Rothfus, a principled conservative Republican who ought to pursue the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, whether it be against the senior senator from the state, Bob Casey, Jr. — the worst Catholic senator in America and truly a betrayer to his late father’s great pro-life witness — or possibly even for the Sen. John Fetterman seat. Rothfus noted DeSantis’ Pennsylvania roots: his father grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, a steel town outside of Pittsburgh that is home to legendary football players like Mike Ditka. DeSantis’ mother grew up just across the Ohio border in the old industrial town of Youngstown. Among DeSantis’ connections to Pennsylvania is that he played in the 1991 Little League World Series in Williamsport when he was 12.

But on this day in Harrisburg, DeSantis talked about what he has done in Florida. He noted that in 2018 he won the gubernatorial election (against Andrew Gillum, who after losing that election proceeded to lose his mind) by not even a half percentage point (49.6 percent vs. 49.2 percent), a mere 32,000 votes. DeSantis noted that the governor’s race in the state had become “a one-point” competition. In 2022, he exploded that, winning by 1.5 million votes over Democrat Charlie Crist (59.4 percent to 40.0 percent), the highest gubernatorial vote margin in the history of Florida. He flipped and won by double digits Miami-Dade County and was the first Republican nominee to win Palm Beach County since 1986. He received 58 percent of the Latino vote in 2022, including 69 percent of Cubans.

Ron DeSantis is a testimony to the vital importance of simply winning: “My view was that I may have received 50 percent of the vote,” he said, “but I had earned 100 percent of the executive power and I intended to use it to advance our agenda.” He would now govern as he intended, according to “conviction and not by polls.” And the voters have responded. According to DeSantis, Democrats in 2018 had a 300,000-plus voter registration advantage over Republicans. There had never been more registered Republicans than Democrats in Florida. Now, it’s 448,000-plus Republicans. Many of those are people who switched to the Republican Party, and many also are people who moved to Florida to escape COVID mandates, insane income tax levels (Florida has no state income tax), and more.

“We have left the Democratic Party for dead in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis.

In a 54-minute talk, DeSantis showed a telegenic element and energy that I didn’t expect. I also didn’t expect someone so thoroughly ideologically informed and unafraid. I have never heard an incumbent Republican politician make so many references not to “liberals” or “progressives” but to “the Left.” That is indeed who they are. They are not liberals. They are leftists. DeSantis gets it, and he made numerous references to “the Left.” It was refreshing to hear.

It was also great to hear someone on the Republican side brandish terms like “Faucism.” “We refused to let our state descend into some type of Faucian dystopia,” said DeSantis, who was vilified by the Left during COVID. “We chose freedom over Faucism…. We served as a roadblock to Faucism.”

DeSantis referred to DEI not by its deceptive “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” misnomer but by what DeSantis dubbed “Division, Exclusion, and Indoctrination.” He also took on ESG and “woke banking.” He took on CRT: “We have banned critical race theory in our K–12 schools. We’re not going to teach our kids to hate our country or to hate each other.” Conversely, his state is now the only state that formally sets aside one day each year to teach kids about the evils of communism.

DeSantis in this speech took on “woke medicine,” from the COVID fanatics who wanted to shut down businesses to junk-science vaccines — which he rightly referred to as simply “mRNA shots” — to the doctors butchering their Hippocratic oath and butchering minors with “gender transition” mutilation surgery. Of these doctors, DeSantis said to wild applause, “Physicians that do that with minors will lose their medical license in our state. It’s just that simple. It is ideology run amok. It is woke medicine.”

That line brought everyone in the room to their feet.

DeSantis took on gender ideology, especially the bully biological males “identifying” as females and beating girls in sports.

DeSantis also spoke of his anti-rioting legislation in Florida and standing against BLM and various other revolutionaries in the summer of 2020. He mobilized the National Guard and dispatched law enforcement throughout the state against the violence that “the Left was fomenting.” “We were not going to let cities in Florida burn to the ground,” said DeSantis. “In Florida … if you riot, loot, and engage in mob violence, you’re not getting a slap on the wrist, you’re getting the inside of a jail cell. We’re going to hold you accountable.”

The Florida governor passed a law preventing “yahoos” on local city councils from defunding the police. If they tried to defund, the state of Florida would put the funds for the local police right back into the budget.

DeSantis also talked hilariously about the Left’s hypocrisy when his state flew illegal immigrants into Martha’s Vineyard, only to have the compassionate progressives there ship them off the next day: “These liberal elites want to impose their policies on you, but they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences of their ideology or policies. We were able to expose that.”

The Pennsylvania audience was thrilled to hear a Republican unafraid to take on the Left and its woke mobsters. “Florida will never surrender to the woke mob,” pledged DeSantis. “Our state is where woke goes to die.”

In all, the speech needs to be watched to be appreciated. Just yesterday it was shared by the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference organizers.

Finally, amid all of this, Ron DeSantis refrained from saying anything negative about Donald Trump. To the contrary, he called out Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for going after Trump, noting that the law had been “weaponized for ideological purposes.” He called out “these Soros-backed DAs [who are] a menace to civil society; they are a menace to the rule of law.”

Donald Trump has taken shots at Ron DeSantis with names like “DeSanctimonious,” but DeSantis is clearly following Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. Trump is lucky to have his state’s governor, who, incidentally, was a Navy JAG with a law degree from Harvard, in his corner. He might want to thank him rather than mock him.

Ron DeSantis clearly knows where the real threat is coming from. It’s from the Left. That’s his focus. And this past weekend in Pennsylvania, he let that be known in a way that was winsome, tough, effective, and articulate. I haven’t seen something like this from a leading Republican presidential contender in a long time.