In 2010, Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Angelo Codevilla reintroduced the notion of "the ruling class" back into American popular discourse. In 2017, he described contemporary American politics as a "cold civil war." Now he applies the "logic of revolution" to our current political scene.
A governor details how his state has resisted federal overreach.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered at the Claremont Institute Gala, held on October 23, 2021 in Huntington Beach, California.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve stood up to entrenched bureaucrats and the partisan corporate press to keep Florida open and to protect individual Floridians’ right to work to own and operate their own businesses and to make sure that every single child had the right to be in school in person. We don’t lock people down in the state of Florida, we lift people up.
When you’re a governor and you get elected, they elect you to make the decisions. They did not elect me to subcontract out leadership to Fauci. I had to look to see what needed to be done to protect the people of my state.
In his farewell address, which is well-known for warning about the perils of the military-industrial complex—and that was obviously a very astute observation—Dwight Eisenhower also warned about the increasing prevalence of scientific research intermingling with government money and he talked about there was a danger that public policy could be held captive by a scientific elite, he said the job of a statesman is not to allow policy to be held captive by one faction of society, but to harmonize all the competing interests and to make sure that you’re leading on behalf of the entire country, or, in my case, entire state. And that’s what we’ve done and we did what was right, we looked at the data ourselves, and Florida is better for it. And it’s not just on Covid that we’ve been standing out. Many of you may appreciate this, being from California. In Florida, we have the lowest per capita tax burden in the United States.
We don’t have a state income tax, and as long as I’m in this chair, we never will. The closest state to Florida in population is the state of New York. Florida’s now got about 3 million more people than the state of New York, and yet New York state budget is over twice the size of the budget of the state of Florida. And yet, if you compare our roads and infrastructure and services, Florida is far, far superior. In K through 12 education, Florida right now is ranked number three in education quality by Education Week, and I can tell you New York isn’t even close to that. So, we empower people, we treat them well, we respect the fruits of their labor and the results are we do much more with a lean and efficient government than states like New York and California ever will be able to do.
In September, the United States reported gaining 194,000 new jobs for the entire country, and that was viewed as — and I think correctly — as something that was not that great. Of the 194,000 jobs created in the state — in the month of September, 84,500 of them came from the state of Florida, over 40 percent of the nation’s jobs for a state with 6.5 percent of the nation’s population. Since I became governor in January of 2019, I’ve appointed five constitutionalists to the Florida Supreme Court, transforming the most liberal state Supreme Court in the country into the most conservative Supreme Court in the country.
I’ve signed legislation banning sanctuary cities and protecting women’s sports, and under my leadership, Florida was the first state to legislate against Big Tech censorship. We’re giving individual Floridians the right to hold big tech accountable — that’s in the 11th Circuit because they sued me, but stay tuned. We’re gonna make Big Tech accountable to individual Floridians. When the BLM and Antifa riot started breaking out in other parts of the country, I immediately called out The National Guard and I said that is not going to stand in the state of Florida. We support our law enforcement. We need public safety. And just a few months ago, I signed the strongest anti-rioting bill in the country, which effectively prohibits any local government in Florida from defunding the police
It also says to potential perpetrators in Florida, “If you riot, if you loot, if you engage in mass violence, this is not going to be like Portland where they take your mug shot, slap you on the wrist and put you right back on the street.” In Florida, if you riot, if you loot, if you’re engaging in that type of activity, you’re not getting a slap on the wrist, you’re getting the inside of a jail cell.
This year, under my leadership, the state of Florida banned Critical Race Theory in our K-12 schools. We are not spending tax dollars to teach kids to hate our country or to hate each other, and instead we’re placing a renewed emphasis on American civics in our high schools. It’s back as a requirement. We’ll have our high school graduates take a citizenship style test, like our naturalized immigrants have to take, and we’re creating a civics boot camp for teachers where they can get a $3,000 bonus if they learn about our country’s foundations.
When I became governor, we had, in my election, a few problems in a couple of counties. We obviously had a long history of having election problems in the state of Florida and I pledged to the people of Florida that one generation of botched elections was enough. And so, within my first few days of office, I accepted the resignation of Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of election of Broward County, and I suspended the supervisor of election in Palm Beach County. And then when Covid hit, we did not change any rules, we made no unconstitutional moves. We ran the election the way it should have been run, and by midnight on election night 2020 we had 11 million votes counted, 99 percent of every vote was in, I think it took California a month to be able to achieve that. So we did it right and we ran the most transparent and effective election in the country. But I also saw what was going on in other parts of the country, and so I told my legislature we need to make sure that we’re ahead of the curve. So a few months ago, I signed legislation banning ballot harvesting in the state of Florida, banning mass mail balloting, strengthening voter I.D. requirements. And probably most important, we ban Zuckerbucks in the state of Florida.
Florida has rejected the biomedical security state by banning vaccine passports, banning the forced injection of school children, and we will soon be holding a special legislative session to make sure no Floridian loses their job over Covid shots.
Now, for all these reasons and more, there’s been a pretty significant migration to the state of Florida. In 2020, we had more adjusted gross income move into the state of Florida than has ever moved into any state in the history of our country. Number two in 2020 was Texas and we had three to four times more adjusted gross income moving than the state of Texas. People always ask, “Well, who are these people coming? Are they gonna vote the way these other blue states are run or do they understand what they’re doing?” And all I can tell you is this: When I became governor in the state of Florida, there were 280,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, and we’ve never had more Republicans registered in the state of Florida in our state’s history. Today that gap is down to under 10,000 registrations.
And probably by the end of the month, or maybe even by the time we’re done with this dinner, we will, for the first time in the history of Florida, have more registered Republicans than registered Democrats.
It’s not just people in blue states who noticed. Covid caused people from all over the world to try to find the locus of freedom, particularly in the Western world. And so I get correspondence from people from all over the world, it’s pretty incredible, not something I thought I would get when I first ran for governor. I got a letter recently from a fellow named Samuel in Australia, and he said, I quote, “There isn’t much hope right now here and many of us are fearful of what our leaders have in store for us. I look to you and your great state of Florida for hope during this dark time. Thank you for standing up for us.”
Now, freedom-loving people are looking to Florida, and I think part of it is because of what we’ve done, but I think part of it, quite frankly, is because things have deteriorated so rapidly in so many other states, and unfortunately have deteriorated very rapidly this year for our country. People are looking to flee blue states to come to Florida, but I think they’re also viewing Florida as a refuge from the Biden regime and what they’re doing in Washington every day. And I think Biden’s failures need to end up being the swan song for what the late Angelo Codevilla called the ruling class in this country.
He saw this probably before anybody, but he was right on the money. This ruling class is a toxic combination of managerial incompetence and cultural radicalism. They have led this country through a generation of policy failures, and that’s probably partially because of their ideology—they consider themselves globalists and citizens of the world, they reject national sovereignty and the importance of having borders. That’s why what you’re seeing at the Southern border is really not incompetence on Biden’s part; it’s intentional on Biden’s part because the ruling class fundamentally doesn’t believe that we have a right to control our own territorial sovereignty.
Look at the foreign policy blunders that we’ve seen in the last generation. We emerged from the Cold War the strongest country in the history of the world. On September 11th, no one had ever been anywhere close to what America was, but if you look since then, if you look at the quagmire that was Iraq, which was a war that I served in, if you look at escapades like Libya, if you look, of course, at the disastrous culmination of the Afghanistan conflict, our country, because of the failure of these ruling elites, we stand here poorer, weaker, and more humiliated than at any time in my lifetime. We look to be rivalled by China in ways that we would not have even imagined 30 or 40 years ago. This ruling class has done more to elevate China than any other group of Americans. They were the ones pushing for China to be in the WTO, to grant them most-favored-nation status, they were instrumental in eroding our own industrial base here in the United States, and that has caused our supply chains to be vulnerable to the whims of the Communist Party of China. And I can tell you, Beijing was watching what Biden did in Afghanistan and you have not heard the last from that regime. They have Biden’s number and it’s going to be a rocky three-and-a-half years from here on out.
This ruling class, though, once you’re in the club, you can fail upward. There’s no accountability for these failures. I mean just think about Afghanistan. Has a single person lost their job over the Afghanistan debacle? No. You look at malfeasance within the bureaucracy. It was actually surprising, because I was in Congress during some of the misdeeds of the FBI, they actually for a minute held McCabe accountable. He was disciplined and lost his pension and all this stuff. Well, guess what? He was doing the bidding of the ruling regime and so now you’ve got Biden in there and they’ve now restored all his pension and benefits and so he’s not held accountable. That’s what they do, they take care of their own. Just look at what they do in terms of Anthony Fauci. He lied to Congress, he funded the Wuhan lab, and he funded gain of function research. And we all know that, but yet when he’s on CNN or NBC, do they ask him about that? Do they hold his feet to the fire for his bungled predictions day after day? No. Because he serves the interests of the ruling class, he’s part of the club and he’s not going to be held accountable.
I mean, heck, the “15 days to slow the spread” was his idea, and that was a catastrophe. And just think about how ridiculous some of the Covid regulations were that were imposed by our elites. In April of 2020, they said you can’t leave your house. I used to get heat because I thought people should be able to go to the beach, we had beaches open. I told people to go for walks, I said, “Don’t stay in your house.” People would say, “No, no, you’ve got to stay in your house, you can’t do anything.” Yet when you had the Antifa and BLM riots, those same elites endorsed massive numbers of people gathering together because they believed in what they were doing. So the emperor truly has no clothes when it comes to our ruling class. And in order to restore America to greatness, we must, must depose these discredited elites from power.
Now, our ruling class is guarded by the corporate press, which is practically their Praetorian Guard, and their job is really no longer to deal with actual facts or to discover any facts. Heck, if you had an honest press, they would want to know where Covid came from, they’d be all over the Wuhan lab and Fauci. They don’t care about that. What they care about is crafting partisan narratives. And when there are facts that are inconvenient to the narratives, the corporate press will suppress it. If you speak out and challenge the regime narratives, they will smear you. So they gaslight, they’re dishonest and they’re partisan, all in an effort to create a blizzard of lies to blind people to the actual truth, and they do it day after day after day, and they are more responsible than anybody else for dividing this country.
Just think about what they did with the whole Russia collusion conspiracy theory. They rode that horse for over two years. I was in Congress at the time, I was one of the few who knew it was B.S. from the start, but they rode that for over two years they because they didn’t want to accept the outcome of the 2016 election and they wanted to kneecap Donald Trump’s presidency in the crib. And you know what? He was able to accomplish a lot, but he had to deal with that for two years of a feeding frenzy. And it was all based on lies. There was no factual basis for any of that. But that’s what they do. They are not neutral fact finders. They are partisan enemies of anybody who dines to oppose the ruling regime. And they need to be treated as such by conservatives going forward.
If we were here 10 or 12 years ago I would have had a critique of the corporate press — I think it’s gotten worse since then, but I don’t think we’ve ever thought that they were good, they’ve always been biased, I think it’s gone beyond that. But the one thing I probably would have said is, “You know what, we don’t really need to worry about that because we have access to social networks and different things online and we can bypass them.” And sure enough, when you started to see these things happen, the social networks and online activity, that was a mortal threat to these old, discredited legacy media outlets and they suffered from this. And Donald Trump used online very well and used social networks very well in 2016. Well, the last five or six years, that’s just not acceptable to the ruling class and so we now have a situation where Big Tech, instead of offering open avenues of communication where like-minded people can share ideas, where you can spread ideas to people who may need to be enlightened, they don’t serve as open platforms, they serve as enforcers of the national orthodoxy.
They elevate these failed corporate media outlets as if they are the gold standard of truth in this country. And so Big Tech is not something that you can just say, “Oh, they’re private companies. What are we going to do?” First of all, they’re monopolies that are exercising more power than any monopolies in American history, certainly more—they’re more pervasive in American life than the monopolies of the early 20th century. And so, they need to be recognized and treated as such. But also, they are doing this censoring at the behest of the regime. Facebook will flag you, or Google or Twitter, operating as a kind of subcontractor of censorship. I think some of what they do very well may be under the First Amendment, but at a minimum we have to give people the ability to hold Big Tech accountable. In Florida, what we said was, “You’re committing consumer fraud on the public when you advertise as an open platform, get liability protection from the federal government, and then turn around and exercise editorial judgment based on purely philosophical perspective.” So we’re empowering the state of people in the state of Florida to sue Big Tech under our Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
But you’ve got to be in the fight. You can’t just say they’re private and let them — let them control all the speech in this country. That’s not going to work well for conservatives. And it’s been mentioned before, and I know many people are concerned about it, and honestly 10 years ago I wouldn’t have even known what a lot of this stuff would have meant in terms of woke ideology and things like Critical Race Theory. This is something that I think is a mortal threat to a free and just society, because what this woke ideology is trying to do is not simply advance traditional socialism. Yes, they want to do that, confiscatory taxes, government—yes, for sure, and that’s a problem and that’s something that we need to stand up against, but they’re doing more than that. They’re trying to delegitimize the basic foundations and principles and institutions in this country. This is a form of cultural Marxism. They want to take away the things that hold a society together and rip them to shreds so that they can recreate society in their own twisted worldview and image. And so, we have got to defeat wokeism. I can tell you, in Florida, we fight it on all fronts. And I’ve said my state is a brick wall when it comes to wokeism because we’re not going to let them get a foothold.
But here’s why I think it’s so important. I’m a recovering congressman. Sometimes I’ll see some of my former colleagues and they’ll tell me how much they miss having me in the Congress and I always respond, “I do not miss seeing you guys in the Congress.” But when I ran for Congress in 2012, I ran primarily to stop Barack Obama. I even wrote a book, which has been read by about a dozen people, that talked about some of the problems, what he was trying to do, how I thought it was inconsistent with the founding of this country. And I stand by it. They were big fights, they were important fights. But I look back at that, and honestly, it seems almost quaint to me compared to the threats that we’re facing now.
Just think of how radicalized the political left has become. Now, there’s a 50/50 Senate and a five-vote House majority that they won after the 2020 election. And yet, what were the main things they wanted to do and what would they probably have done if they just had a couple more senators? They wanted to make D.C. a state so they would have two radical Democrat senators forever. And I can tell you, the senators that D.C. would elect would make San Francisco politicians look like Ronald Reagan. These would be very, very radical people. They want to pack the Supreme Court so they’d have a permanent activist left-wing majority. They want to abolish the Electoral College so California could have even more sway in our presidential elections, and they wanted to federalize ballot fraud.
So all the problems we saw, they wanted that to be mandatory throughout the country. Those are not issues that very many Americans are sitting around their kitchen table saying, “Oh, man, I just I wish they would abolish the Electoral College or make D.C. a state.” No, that’s not going to help anybody’s life. That is purely to be able to make conservative Americans second-class citizens. They want to ensconce themselves in power and they do not want people who dissent from the orthodoxy to have a voice. And that’s why you see that in New York City, they’re taking Thomas Jefferson’s statue out of their city hall. You see places in California have taken Abraham Lincoln’s name off schools. They are trying to erase history so that they can create a new order, which would be very, very dangerous for our freedoms. And in order to achieve that, one of the things that I think has been way, way beyond anything that would have been acceptable just 10, 20 years ago, they have weaponized the machinery of government and the bureaucracy to go after their enemies in ways that I think the Founders would have been really surprised at.
I was in Congress when the IRS scandal hit. Republicans didn’t do a very good job of holding anyone accountable, but that was absolutely weaponized against conservatives. Of course, Crossfire Hurricane was manufactured to take out Donald Trump. And then most recently, you have the attorney general of the United States siccing the FBI against concerned parents who are attending school board meetings because they’re upset that these union-controlled school board members are imposing radical curriculum like Critical Race Theory and forcing their kids to wear masks for eight hours a day. So the stakes are very, very high.
And you think your liberty is at risk? Maybe you go into the courts of law and you can get it vindicated there. Yes, for Trump judges and some of those maybe, but I can tell you the Democrat judges, these Obama judges, if there’s an issue of political salience to the ruling class that’s before them, they will rule for the ruling class every single time, law and Constitution be damned. They are not going to defend your freedom. You look at corporate America and how woke they’ve become. And some of this with corporate America is that they are weak, these CEOs are weak, they don’t want to have any controversy. So if an online mob descends on them, they think genuflecting is the quickest way to just put it behind them and move on. And for maybe 24 to 48 hours, maybe that’s actually true, but you genuflect once, they’re coming back after you.
So it’s a terrible long-term strategy, but it’s something that they do because I think that they think there’s no cost on the other side. Georgia passed an election integrity law, not as strong as what Florida ended up passing, but they needed to pass something, voter ID, all these things. And so all these companies start issuing statements denouncing the law. They were furthering phony narratives, what they were saying wasn’t true, but that’s what they were doing. Major League Baseball even moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, all on a lie.
And so, I was watching this because I knew we were going to do the election integrity package that I mentioned, where we banned ballot harvesting and Zuckerbucks and other things, and I just let it be known to folks in Florida, I said, “Look, if you’re a corporate CEO, it’s a free country, you have every right to stick your beak into these legislative matters if that’s what you want to do. I mean, I’m not going to tell you you can’t do it. But just understand, if you are pursuing and furthering false narratives, if you’re virtue signaling to the woke mob, if you’re trying to placate the hostile media at my expense or my legislators’ expense or the people of Florida’s expense, I’m fighting back against you, this is not going to be cost-free.” And so, when you’re getting into that political arena, just understand you’re going to end up tussling with me and I don’t know that you want to do that. And so the result was, when we signed the Election Bill, the media had an absolute spasm, the left had an absolute spasm. The businesses didn’t say anything, because I think they understood I’m not going to let you walk all over me and I’m not going to let you walk all over my state!
So you got to think twice about whether this is something you really want your corporation to be doing. If you look at our freedoms under attack, we probably never saw—if I was here in 2019 and I told you, “You know, within two years you’re going to have governors forcibly close down churches and not let kids go to school for a year,” there’s not a single person in this audience that would have said, “Yeah, I think that that’s going to happen.” But look at what we lived through with the Covid authoritarianism. I mean, you had places where people couldn’t go to church, but they could go to a strip club or a liquor store. You had families who could not get their kids in person in school for over a year. We have people, a lot of the people that moved from California to Florida because they couldn’t get their kids in school in California and you can do it here. And so, we never saw more infringement on freedom than we have with Covid authoritarianism. And the scary thing about it was, there wasn’t much resistance in the population to it, there wasn’t a lot of fight. And the Left saw how far the envelope can be pushed, they saw if you whipped up enough fear, if you made people really apprehensive, you can get away with an awful lot. So I promise you this: that playbook is going to return. I don’t know when it’s going to return but it will be back and they will try to use that as best as they can. And so conservatives need to understand the shape of the battlefield. The problems that we’re facing aren’t going to be solved by a corporate tax cut.
Our goal really needs to be a renaissance of constitutional values that firmly realigns our country in line with the principles that make America unique and that leaves woke leftism on the ash heap of history. We cannot go back to the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear. We cannot elect GOP office holders who are scared of the corporate press and who seek its approval. We need leaders who will energetically wield power in defense of our values and our freedoms. I’ll do things sometimes and people who claim that they’re conservative or libertarian say, “Oh, I don’t think the government should get involved in that,” and all this other stuff. And I’m thinking to myself, you know, we are under assault across a wide range of institutions. If people like me just decide to sit on my hands, you’re basically ceding the entire battlefield to the left and we cannot do that, not now, not ever.
The more our society becomes unmoored from the truth, the more it will attack and defame anyone who speaks the truth. And so in times like these, there is no substitute for courage, courage to fight back against hostile political forces, courage to face down things like cancel culture, courage to stand up to a corrupt media, and courage to give a voice to so many people who remain voiceless. You know, Winston Churchill, during the time of appeasement before World War II, told a story about when he was a kid and the circus would come to town, there was one act that his nanny wouldn’t let him see because she said it was just too grotesque for human eyes, and it was an act called The Boneless Wonder. And he said, “Now I’m sitting here thinking, where is this boneless wonder? It’s no longer in the circus. I look and I see the boneless wonder sitting in the front row of the House of Commons.”
We don’t have time for boneless wonders at this point in our history. We have got to be strong and we have to understand that there’s a lot of people throughout our history that have put way more on the line than we’re asked to do. The Founding Fathers, when they established this country, really did not need to do what they did. They were all very successful, they were prominent in their communities. The incursions on their freedoms, in fact, were relatively modest compared to what we’ve seen in modern times, tax here, tax there. They could have very easily said, “You know what, let’s just ride it out.” But they knew that if they let it, if they gave an inch and they exposed their liberty to unaccountable power even a little bit, that they were basically consigning themselves to live under eventual despotism. And so they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to establish a new nation.
And they didn’t do this willy-nilly, they studied, and Madison studied, and the Founders at the Constitutional Convention looked at the history of every single republic that had ever been done and they tried to find lessons and figure out “Okay, what happened here? What happened there?” And as they went through that, it became very clear to them that every republic in the history of the world had one thing in common and it was this: every one of them had failed. And so they believed, and they were right, that it fell to the United States to determine once and for all whether people really could govern themselves, whether we could have a society based on God-given rights with a government that respects and protects those rights, a rule of law, government of law, not of men, or whether we’d be consigned to live under various forms of despotism for the rest of human history. And they put it all on the line and now we’re in a situation where when you stand for the right things, you need the courage because it’s not easy. When you speak out, they attack you. When you’re doing things — I mean, Claremont, you guys get attacked all the time. There are some people on the right who, you know, have some good ideas, but ultimately their ideas will only go so far as they can get liberal approval for, and they seek the respect of some of these people who really are all in the woke ideology.
So it’s important no matter what you’re doing, a governor, of course, if you get elected to Congress, if you’re involved in in intellectual pursuits like Claremont, some of the young people that are going to be doing things, you’ve got to have some courage, you’ve got to have the ability to fight and you’ve got to understand that these are difficult times. And so for me, I guarantee, I will walk the line. I will stand my ground and I won’t back down. We’ve accomplished an awful lot in the state of Florida, but I pledge you this: I’ve only begun to fight. Thank you all! God bless you! Thank you so much! Thank you! So great to see you.
Hopefully, I didn’t catch California fever. I can’t move left in Florida and be successful! Thank you all! Appreciate it!
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.