TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Ron DeSantis was sworn in for a second term Tuesday with a muscle-flexing speech in which he celebrated Florida as a “citadel of freedom” while focusing on a wide array of fspanmilispanr tspanrgets broadly captured by his condemnation of “woke ideology.”
In his 16-minute speech, before a 3,000-person crowd, DeSantis defended Florida families, law enforcement and parental rights, while blistering other states, partisan interest groups and a federal government he cast as seeking either to impose “trendy ideologies” or abandoning basic responsibilities.
“We reject this woke ideology,” DeSantis said. “We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy. We will not allow reality, facts and truth to become optional. We will never surrender to the woke mob.”
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DeSantis’ inaugural address drew a standing ovation when he focused on the power of Florida families.
“We will enact more family-friendly policies that make it easier to raise children and we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence,” he said, hinting at another round of legislation similar to last year’s parental rights measure that was ridiculed by opponents as “Don’t Say Gay.”
DeSantis took the oath of office shortly before 11:30 a.m., on the steps of the Historic Old Cspanpitol, whose entrance was framed by two blue banners bearing the message, “The Free State of Florida,” a term the governor has coined.
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muniz administered the oath.
DeSantis had entered the inaugural stage just moments earlier with his wife, Casey, and the couple’s three children. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who served from 1999 to 2007, was the only one of Florida’s six living governors to attend.
Former Florida State University radio and TV voice Gene Deckerhoff was master of ceremonies for the inaugural.
While blistering his opponents, DeSantis, who is widely expected to make a run for the White House next year, made no attempt to reach out to those who don’t share his political view. That was noticed by Democrats.
“It was a lot of red meat, a lot of ‘us and them,’” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton. “And that’s a different message than what Democrats would offer…I think every good thing that the governor tried to say, he contrasted with some boogieman who doesn’t exist.”
But former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican, said the address covered much of the governor’s signature themes, with a promise of more to come.
“We’ve obviously had a very good run with the last four years. I think you’ll see a lot of the same. And with a (Republican) supermajority in the Legislature, I think what he wants he will likely get.”
With a presidential bid potentially on the horizon, DeSantis’ address included plenty for a national audience.
He attacked President Biden – without mentioning him by name – by ripping the federal government for what the governor said was an inflationary spending binge, an open border with Mexico and flawed energy policies.
DeSantis said the federal government “wields its authority through a sprawling, unaccountable and out-of-touch bureaucracy that does not act on behalf of us, but instead looms over us and imposes its will upon us.”
The governor said that many are pessimistic about the nation’s future.
“Florida is proof positive that ‘we the people are not destined for failure,” DeSantis said.
He also defended his steady attacks on the federal government over COVID-19 policies, as Florida’s death toll neared 84,000 on inauguration day.
“When the world lost its mind – when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue – Florida was a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for our fellow Americans and even for people around the world,” DeSantis said.
“In captaining the ship of state, we choose to navigate the boisterous sea of liberty, rather than cower in the calm docks of despotism,” he added.
DeSantis won re-election in November, defeating Democrat Charlie Crist by 19 percentspange points, the widest margin in a Florida governor’s race in 40 years. It stood in sharp contrast to his first victory in 2018, when he became the state’s 46th governor by fewer than 33,000 votes.
DeSantis also has become a national figure since that narrow win, on the strength of policies that skew hard right. He’s turned parental rights, and clashes with ‘woke culture’ and critical race theory into a central part of his political brand.
Four years ago, DeSantis was a barely known, former Palm Coast congressman, who won the Governor’s Mansion helped by the endorsement of then-President Donald Trump.
DeSantis and Trump now are rivals. The former president has declared his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination that DeSantis also is expected to pursue.
And while DeSantis at his swearing-in four years ago said he would work to “overcome the tribalism that has dominated our politics” he has, instead, seized on the nation’s differences in becoming a darling of the GOP’s far right flank.
After advancing relatively middle-of the-road policies his first year in office, since 2020 he has led attacks on Big Tech, the corporate media, undocumented immigrants, Anthony Fauci and federal vaccine policy, Walt Disney Co., China, cancel culture, and gender ideology.
Just before Christmas, DeSantis also set his sights on his latest battleground when the state Supreme Court approved his request for a statewide grand jury to investigate what he’s termed “wrongdoing” with COVID-19 vaccines.
DeSantis has questioned whether the vaccines are safe and effective, defying conventional science and most of the medical community.
The second inauguration was shaded by the governor’s conservative embrace.
Events, including a Monday night candlelight dinner with big donors and an inaugural ball to follow the swearing-in, were intended to raise millions for the Florida Republican Party. Ticket packages ranged down to $25,000 from the $1 million for five donors who would become “inaugural chairs.”
Inaugural parades in Tallahassee have been a maybe thing the past few decades. DeSantis didn’t have one in 2018 and none was planned for this year.
But one tradition, a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University, the state’s only public historically Black university, was scrapped. The event opening inaugural day has been held at least since Republican Gov. Jeb Bush’s first inaugural in 1999, and DeSantis took part four years ago.
But many view the governor’s relations with Black Floridians as strained by his policies, including the creation of an elections security force that arrested 20 people, mostly Black, for voting illegally in the 2020 election.
Those arrested had been led to believe by elections officials that they were eligible to vote. And many Black leaders saw the action as targeting their community. In the November election, exit polls showed DeSantis winning a modest 13% of the Black vote, to Crist’s 87%.
Before DeSantis was sworn-in at noon Tuesday, members of the Cabinet also took their oaths of office. Re-elected Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson shared the stage with DeSantis, with Florida’s state leadership fully in Republican control.