DeSantis Touts Florida’s Successes, Paints Stark Contrast to Blue States

Florida has become a “refuge of sanity in a world gone mad.”

That was Gov. Ron DeSantis, R.Fla. speaking at Saturday’s third National Conservatism Conference in Miami.

DeSantis’ speech focused on the core theme of how Florida has become a bastion of liberty—a refuge for those seeking better governance and a freer life. His state has moved in many ways in the opposite direction to many other states and the federal governments.

“It is said that our federalist system creates ‘laboratories of democracy’ where different states can approach things in different ways,” DeSantis said. “But I don’t think we’ve ever seen such sharp contrast between different governing philosophies as we have in the last few years.”

He said that what we have seen is that there’s been a “great exodus” from states and localities governed by “leftist” politicians. 

Refugees from those places have fled to Florida, which DeSantis said has become a “promised land” for record numbers of people.

The Florida governor laid out several statistics about how Americans—since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—have flocked to Florida, not only to visit, but to live.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said, “there’s been more adjusted income moved into the state of Florida than has ever moved into any one state in a similar time period” in American history. DeSantis pointed to the contrast with states “hemorrhaging” wealth and people, such as California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.

That hasn’t meant that the Sunshine State has become bluer politically as people arrived there from other places. DeSantis stated that it caused a political seachange, with Republican voting registration now higher than Democratic.

That occurred, he said, because Florida followed a specific “blueprint.”

Instead of following the path set by “media elites,” DeSantis said Florida became grounded in “core principles” derived from the philosophy of the nation’s Founders.

“We are not afraid to buck the discredited ruling class and elites,” he said, citing President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address in January 1961. 

That is what I mean. speech, Eisenhower warned that “public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,” and he called on “statesmen” instead to guide our system “aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

“My view was that we needed to choose freedom over Fauci-ism in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said, in reference to federal public health official Anthony Fauci. “We had to make sure these policies weren’t excluding important values just because you had people with a very narrow-minded view, with some credentials behind their name … telling us that those values didn’t matter.”

DeSantis pointed out that Florida’s success was due to its willingness to follow this path, which was why other states were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also the reason 2021 was a record year in terms of tourism. 

And it wasn’t just tourism that benefited. Schools remained open. He said that this prevented the drop in student test score in states with strict restrictions and school closures.

In addition to keeping Florida generally open, DeSantis said, he thought it was important to protect an individual’s right “to participate in society.” In particular, he referred to so-called “vaccine passports” used by some businesses to bar entrance to people who didn’t have proof of vaccination.

DeSantis forbade the use of vaccine passports or employer-mandated vaccinations. He claimed that this led to Florida’s reputation as an open and liberated state.

He acknowledged that conservatives had criticized his policies for being too intrusive for business, but he continued to fight the criticism.

“Because we didn’t have vaccine passports, 2021 marked the best year for domestic tourism in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “… We were right on that, both from a freedom perspective and from an overall social-good perspective.”

DeSantis also cited other areas he believes have helped the state move in a positive direction, in addition to his COVID-19 policies. DeSantis cited an efficient system that has produced better government services than those in other states with larger budgets. He pointed to New York state, which has 3 million fewer people than Florida, but a state budget that is “twice the size.” 

Despite that, Florida has provided better roads, schools, and other services while at the same time having no income tax and the “second-lowest per capita tax burden” in the country, DeSantis said.

The Florida governor also pointed to his state’s robust set of school choice programs that have provided opportunities for millions of children. But it wasn’t just school choice DeSantis offered; he said he also pushed for laws to prevent critical race theory and other fringe ideologies from taking over classrooms.

He said that by making Florida a “a law and order state,” and punishing those who rioted and destroy ed property, he prevented the chaos, destruction, and social decay seen in other states amid and after the 2020 riots.

DeSantis also spoke out about the unique challenges Americans face today, even compared to the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan faced them. He said that the threat to freedom does not come from the size or location of the government. It’s coming from the power of unleashed bureaucracies and radicalized institutions, public and private.

He stated that too many institutions had been absorbed and transformed by an ideologically homogenous and aggressively left-wing ruling class.

It isn’t going to be an easy fight, he said, “because they have so much support across the commanding heights of society.” Yet the challenge isn’t simply about having common sense or the right policies, it’s about having courage and standing for what’s right.

“If you stand up for what is right, you are going to get attacked by corporate press. Big Tech might censor you. You’ll get smeared by the opposition,” he said.

Ultimately, however, DeSantis concluded,  it’s better to do the right thing and “let the chips fall where they may.”  

Are you a fan of this article? To sound off, please email and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Be sure to include the article’s URL, headline, and your name.