By Tom Ozimek
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in speeches in Iowa on Friday that Republicans taking a firm stance in the nation’s culture wars will help win elections and pledged never to surrender to the “woke mob.”
DeSantis traveled to Iowa on March 10, where he took part in separate events in Davenport and Des Moines, which were part of his “freedom blueprint” tour for his newly-released memoir, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”
The book, which charts a roadmap for the conservative fight against the excesses of progressivism, is the number one best-selling non-fiction book in the country, DeSantis said at the event in Des Moines.
“There’s a lot of people that aren’t happy about that, I can tell you,” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
While the Florida governor is said to be considering a presidential run, he has not yet announced his candidacy. DeSantis’ taking part in the two events came ahead of the 2024 Iowa GOP caucuses, which will kick off the presidential nominating season for Republicans.
‘Woke Mind Virus’
In Davenport, the Republican governor highlighted his crusade in Florida against leftist priorities, touting such accomplishments as prohibiting mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates, banning the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to young students, and preventing biological men from competing in women’s sports.
“We’re very sensitive to what parents are facing in terms of the different influences that are trying to be imposed on our children,” DeSantis said. “It is wrong to tell a second grader that they were born in the wrong body. It is wrong to have gender ideology imposed in our schools. And in Florida, we don’t let it happen.”
The Florida Board of Medicine recently banned transgender surgery, hormone therapy, and puberty blockers for children, with DeSantis touting these efforts in his speech.
“Our children are not guinea pigs for medical experimentation. We don’t want people making money off mutilating them in ways that are irreversible,” he said, blaming the explosion of transgender procedures in recent years on the “woke mind virus.”
“It’s warping people,” he said. “It’s infecting medical practice.”
‘Never Ever Surrender to the Woke Mob’
DeSantis continued his speech in Davenport by saying that Florida has managed to remain “free” despite “woke ideology” taking hold in many institutions, such as medicine, universities, and corporations.
“Because ‘woke ideology’ has infected so many institutions, if you really want to protect the freedom of your folks, you’ve got to be willing to defend them against the left imposing their pathologies on your people in any of these institutions,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve got to fight.”
“In the state of Florida, we will fight the ‘woke’ in the legislature, we will fight the ‘woke’ in education, we will fight the ‘woke’ in the businesses.”
“We will never ever surrender to the ‘woke mob’—our state is where ‘woke’ goes to die,” DeSantis added, holding up conservative efforts against “woke ideology” in Florida as a roadmap for other states to follow.
DeSantis also denounced efforts by corporate America to impose a progressive ideological agenda through ESG, which he said was a way to use economic power to push an agenda that would face opposition at the ballot box.
He pushed back against what he described as financial sector discrimination against fossil fuels and Second Amendment rights. DeSantis also vowed to protect conservatives and Christians against “woke banking,” presumably referring to the denial of financial services based on ideology.
‘You Watch Iowa’
At both events, DeSantis drew comparisons between Iowa’s and Florida’s politics and praised Iowa for being one of the “best run” states in the country.
“There is an effort to sexualize these young kids, and it is wrong. And we’ve got to stand up against it. And we can’t allow it to win the day. And you’re doing it in Iowa. We’re doing it in Florida. But that needs to be all across the country,” he said.
DeSantis’ speech to Iowa Republicans came as the Florida legislature began its 60-day session this week.
“I always tell my legislators, ‘You watch Iowa. Do not let them get ahead of us on any of this stuff,’” DeSantis said. “So, we’ve got our legislature in session now. So buckle up. The next 60 days should be fun in Florida.”
While the crowd at the events responded to DeSantis’ anti-woke rhetoric with enthusiasm, there was a cooler response from the Biden administration.
During a press briefing Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about DeSantis’ remarks about “woke” going to die in Florida.
“When Republicans—extreme Republicans, these MAGA Republicans—don’t agree with an issue or with policy, they don’t bring forth something that’s going to have a good-faith conversation. They go to this conversation of ‘woke.’ But that is not actually policy,” Jean-Pierre said.
“This is not having a good-faith conversation on how we can move the country forward. This is about attacking young kids and their parents because of how they view themselves, because of how they see themselves, because of how they want to live. What that turns into is hate,” she added.
Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Rita Hart on Thursday took a similarly critical line.
“I don’t know who’s going to come out of this GOP primary, but the bottom line is that Iowans—and Americans—cannot afford the extreme agenda that these folks are peddling,” Hart told reporters at a press conference.
Former President Donald Trump, who is running for president in 2024, is scheduled to visit Davenport on Monday.