DeSantis Barnstorms the Great Lakes State to Test the Political Waters

DeSantis Barnstorms the Great Lakes State to Test the Political Waters
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Greg Alexander)
Steven Kovac

On April 6, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a two-stop foray into the battleground state of Michigan as he continues to evaluate a run for the GOP nomination for president in 2024.

DeSantis was the keynote speaker at a breakfast to raise money for the Midland County Republican Party.

That afternoon at Hillsdale College, he made two well-attended addresses before jetting home to Florida for the Easter weekend.

All of the day’s events drew large and friendly crowds but his breakfast appearance was greeted by a group of protesters.

A view of some of the demonstrators who turned out to protest a visit by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)
A view of some of the demonstrators who turned out to protest a visit by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)

About 50 demonstrators brandishing signs that read “I Am Proud to Be Woke” and shouting “Go Home, Fascist” played cat and mouse with local police as they tried to occupy the middle of a busy four-lane highway and attempted to block the driveway entrance to the banquet hall.

Some protesters yelled pro-transgender slogans.

At the start of his remarks to a sell-out crowd of about 600, DeSantis joked that his one disappointment in coming to Midland was that his visit hadn’t attracted “more protesters.”

Shades of Ronald Reagan

In a smooth, conversational tone, which some in the crowd likened to the style of Ronald Reagan, DeSantis addressed the topics of restoring prosperity and optimism to America, securing the southern border by “building the wall,” parental rights, reforming the education system, school choice, keeping boys out of girls’ sports, outlawing gender modification for children, and the need to use American oil and natural gas for energy.

One man in the audience told The Epoch Times: “You couldn’t slip a piece of paper in between DeSantis and Trump on the issues. This sounds like a Trump speech.”

DeSantis dismissed Joe Biden as a “floundering, weak president that is controlled by the most radical elements of his own party.”

He criticized what he called “potted plant Republicans,” who are always on defense and too afraid “of a bad news cycle” to take the hard positions necessary to turn this country around.

“I’m going on offense,” he said. “We can never, ever, back down. Have the courage of your convictions. Leadership isn’t cost-free.

“In Florida, we don’t shirk from this responsibility.”

Success in Florida

DeSantis told the crowd that under his administration “more families have moved to Florida than ever before,” and he went on to tout his accomplishments as a model for the nation in terms of rational public health policy, education, election reform, law and order, low taxes, responsible budgeting, and economic growth and prosperity.

He decried what he called “the weaponization of prosecutorial power” for political purposes that advance the leftist agenda, as well as government-inspired censorship by Big Tech.

Quoting George Washington about the continuous struggle to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty,” DeSantis said we are still fighting for “the foundational principles” of our republic—that our rights come from God and not from government.

Pointing to his own recent landslide reelection, and the GOP’s super-majorities in both houses of the Florida State Legislature, DeSantis said the Left can be defeated.

“You can beat these people,” he said.

Fight ‘Woke Capital’

But regardless of big electoral victories by the forces of freedom, “the Left is still trying to impose its agenda through corporate America,” with tactics such as “woke banking,” according to DeSantis.

“Woke banking” is where financial institutions refuse to make loans to Christian conservatives or gun owners, he explained.

The Left is marshaling economic power to make “an end run around the Constitution” and change policies without a single voter voting on it, said DeSantis.

“Woke ideology is a threat to our freedom” that must be fought in government, schools, and the marketplace, he said.

A ‘Mini-Trump’

After DeSantis’s remarks, Earl, a former Democrat and United Automobile Workers member from Bay City, told The Epoch Times: “It was a great speech. He is my candidate in 2028. He’s a mini-Trump. He’d make a great vice president.”
Trump loyalist Earl, a retired UAW worker and former Democrat, at a DeSantis event in Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)
Trump loyalist Earl, a retired UAW worker and former Democrat, at a DeSantis event in Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)

“Right now, I feel uplifted. It’s the same vibe I get from a Trump rally.”

A woman told The Epoch Times: “I’m for DeSantis. Donald Trump’s talk is too divisive. I’m afraid if he is our nominee we will lose again.”

‘Get DeSantis!’

A Native American and retired Green Beret said he was for Trump from the beginning and still is.

“The woke coalition and the media will take the hatchet to DeSantis just like they do to Trump. Trump is the only guy in America that can withstand it.”

“DeSantis is a father with three small children,” he added. “I wish for the sake of his children he would wait four years until they grow up a little bit. It’s a shame what the woke mob will put that family through.

“And DeSantis is on a honeymoon with GOP majorities in both houses of the Florida legislature. He hasn’t had to deal with a Democrat majority like Trump had to deal with under Pelosi.”

Not America’s Agenda

Michigan state Rep. Greg Alexander (R-Carsonville) said: “I’m impressed with DeSantis. He has the morals, ethics, and principles America was founded on.”

He said media negativity toward Trump moved him to look at DeSantis as a potential alternative, but if Trump is the nominee, Alexander will vote for him.

“The woke agenda is all about creating issues of race and gender that are not really big issues with the voters. They have been inflated by the Biden administration,” Alexander said.

Macomb County resident Eric Castiglia at a DeSantis event in Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)
Macomb County resident Eric Castiglia at a DeSantis event in Midland, Mich., on April 6, 2023. (Steven Kovac/Epoch Times)

Eric Castiglia of Macomb County said: “I thought DeSantis was amazing. He has a track record of measurable results.

“If Florida is a free state, Michigan is a failed state. Higher taxes and less jobs. I’ll soon be moving to Sarasota.”

An Uncertain Future

When asked how he felt about the future of America, 14-year-old DeSantis supporter Kierceson Pego, son of Malinda Pego, co-chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, told The Epoch Times, “I walk a line between pessimism and optimism.”
His mother said, “I wish we could keep DeSantis here in Michigan. I hope he will be strong.”

Hosted by Hillsdale

Later in the day at Hillsdale College, a small, conservative, Christian, classical liberal arts school located in southern Michigan, DeSantis talked about his philosophy of government, style of leadership, and the breakdown of representative democracy.
Hillsdale College's Central Hall. (Courtesy of Hillsdale College)
Hillsdale College's Central Hall. (Courtesy of Hillsdale College)

DeSantis said his management method requires everyone in his administration to share the vision and bring no other agenda with them.

“We don’t do palace intrigue. We don’t talk to the media. No leaks. Our actions speak.”

Drifting Away From the Constitution

“Our constitutional government has become unmoored from constitutional ideals,” he said.

DeSantis bemoaned what he called the “gap” between the governed and their leadership, saying many recent policies do not reflect the will of the people.

He cited the Left’s “delusional view of criminal justice” as an example.

A three-term former congressman himself, DeSantis blamed the federal legislative branch for allowing the government to operate on “autopilot” through omnibus bills and continuing resolutions.

Abdication of Responsibility

DeSantis said Congress has delegated much of its authority to administrative agencies that wield “large power with little accountability.”

According to DeSantis, the legislative branch has failed to use the power of the purse to rein in some of these agencies and the executive branch is failing to exercise many of the powers given it under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.

As a result, he said the American people are governed by a “ruling class” without the consent of the governed.

To help restore accountability, 50,000 unelected federal employees who participate in policymaking would lose their Civil Service protection if DeSantis has his way.

Surrendering Sovereignty

“Self-government has been subcontracted” to international entities such as the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he said.

Being an executive rather than one of the 435 House members suits DeSantis, who said he would be “comfortable with leaning into the issues and facing the blowback.”

He said the executive should “get in front and set the agenda,” prodding and pushing the legislators as necessary.

“When you take a hard stand, you are going to alienate somebody,” he said. “Make a decision. Pull the trigger. And stick with it.

“If we campaigned on it, we should do it,” he said. “You can’t let media criticism prevent you from doing the right thing. Enact the desired policy.”

Heads May Roll

He pointed out that the executive has the authority to fire people and said as governor he removed officials who were “not operating according to our constitutional system.”

He called the “independent” functioning of the Justice Department and the FBI a “trope.”

“They are unaccountable,” he said.

A big believer in the American system, DeSantis said that teachers in Florida were offered the option of taking 50 hours of civics training and are given a $3,000 bonus for doing so.

Florida schools also set aside a day each November to teach students about the past and present sufferings of people living under communist rule.

At the university level, DeSantis said that after five years tenured professors ought to be subject to review and fired if found to be indoctrinating rather than educating.

Steven Kovac reports for The Epoch Times from Michigan. He is a general news reporter who has covered topics related to rising consumer prices to election security issues. He can be reached at [email protected]
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