‘The Swamp Protects Its Own’: DeSantis Takes on GOP Establishment in New Book

Florida governor Ron DeSantis derides the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., and takes shots at the GOP establishment in his new book, The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.

DeSantis writes of deciding to make his third term in Congress his last: I was especially frustrated with all the missed opportunities of the Republican Congress after Donald Trump became president.” National Review obtained a copy of the book ahead of its February 28 release.

“Here we had a unified Republican government for the first time in more than a decade, and yet so much of the time was frittered away on matters like the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia, which GOP-led committees investigated for two years,” he adds. “Why Congress didn’t do more significant things, such as appropriating money to build the wall at the US-Mexico border, was beyond me.”

The governor also writes that the GOP leadership’s “unwillingness to conduct effective oversight was a theme that recurred throughout my time in Congress and beyond.” He cites the scandal over the IRS’s aggressive scrutiny of conservative groups and the ensuing lack of consequences as evidence that “the swamp protects its own.”

“That Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility and does not aggressively use the power of the purse to discipline the bureaucracy is one of the main reasons why the administrative Leviathan of the federal government has become effectively immune to accountability — and more willing to abuse its enormous authority,” he says. DeSantis goes on to call term-limits for members a “no-brainer.”

He writes in the books of steps he took to avoid joining the “professional ruling class,” including sleeping in his office when the House was in session instead of renting an apartment on Capitol Hill and declining the congressional pension and health care plan. He also stopped trading stocks prior to assuming office: “I did not want to be a position where a vote or other action I took could be questioned based on what stocks I owned.” 

DeSantis criticizes GOP leadership as out-of-touch with the average American voter.

“Ingrained in Beltway thinking is a contempt for average voters, particularly voters who reject leftist ideology,” he writes. “This helps fuel a conventional wisdom that is almost always wrong — and which is untethered from what is really happening throughout the country.”

Assuming Democrats would retake control of the House in 2018, DeSantis made the decision to run for Florida governor, an opportunity that he said “would provide opportunities to enact significant reforms.”

“For Republicans, most of our party’s biggest successes in recent years have been achieved by governors, not by members of Congress,” he notes.

DeSantis later calls the 2018 governor’s race “the most consequential election in the history of our state.”

“Had I not been successful in that election, the entire trajectory of our state would have been much different, especially once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and governors around the country used it as a license to wield unimaginable powers and, at the direction of Dr. Anthony Fauci, impose draconian restrictions on their states,” he writes.

DeSantis briefly touches on Trump’s role in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, explaining that he knew an endorsement from the then-president would “enhance my name recognition.”

“I knew that a Trump endorsement would provide me with the exposure to GOP primary voters across the State of Florida, and I was confident that many would see me as a good candidate once they learned about my record,” he writes, adding that he had “developed a good relationship with the president largely because I supported his initiatives in Congress and opposed the Russia collusion conspiracy theory.”

In November, Trump infamously took credit for DeSantis’s 2018 victory and nicknamed the Florida governor “Ron DeSanctimonious.” Trump claimed at the time that his endorsement of DeSantis in 2017 served as a “nuclear weapon” going off, propelling DeSantis to the top of the GOP primary for Florida governor. 

“Ron came to me in desperate shape in 2017 — he was politically dead, losing in a landslide to a very good Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, who was loaded up with cash and great poll numbers. Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse him, he could win,” Trump said.

He said he later boosted DeSantis past Andrew Gillum, then the “star” of the Democratic Party. Trump said he “fixed” DeSantis’s campaign, “which had completely fallen apart,” by holding two “massive Rallies.”

He went on to falsely claim he stopped DeSantis’s election from being stolen.

Trump and DeSantis are widely considered top contenders in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, though DeSantis has not officially said whether he plans to run.

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