Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' much-anticipated 2024 presidential campaign is finally here. DeSantis is, by any empirical metric or otherwise reasonable estimation, the only person with a viable chance of defeating former President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. What follows is a straightforward affirmative case for DeSantis' candidacy, written from the perspective of someone who moved to the Sunshine State during the COVID-19 pandemic due in no small part to his courage, independent judgment and dynamic leadership during that most woeful chapter of recent American history.

President Ronald Reagan famously said, "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'" That was an accurate assessment at the time Reagan said it, when America was drowning in punitive taxation and draconian regulation. In the year 2023, by contrast, overweening government is certainly still a threat, but the single all-encompassing threat facing the American people is the metastasis of the woke ideology, which spreads like a cancer and is weaponized by the out-of-touch ruling class elites who populate all the major institutions of our political and civic life.

There is no elected official in America who better understands this reality and -- even more important -- who has wielded political power to repeatedly fight back against it than Ron DeSantis. Whether it is anti-Americanist critical race theory or gender ideology indoctrination in the elementary school classroom, the university faculty lounge or the corporate boardroom, DeSantis has taken decisive measures to defend civilizational sanity and curtail or outright proscribe the dissemination of wokeism's corrosive tenets.

DeSantis' righteous crusade to remake New College of Florida as a "Hillsdale College of the South" is perfectly emblematic of the approach now needed to recapture lost institutions, over a century into the Left's insidious "long march," to salvage and revive the American experiment in ordered liberty. DeSantis' similarly righteous crusade against The Walt Disney Company is the encapsulation of how a conservative elected official evinces "knowing what time it is" amidst today's woke-addled social decay: the prudential wielding of political power to bolster the forces of civilizational sanity and punish the forces of civilizational arson within the confines of the rule of law. His ongoing battle against a Fortune 500 corporate behemoth may offend the delicate sensibilities of libertarian purists and "zombie Reaganites" wedded to outmoded 1980s-era bromides, but it reveals a sound understanding that, in the year 2023, corporate America is firmly on the side of civilizational arson -- not civilizational sanity.

Perhaps most impressive from the perspective of an aspiring presidential candidate, DeSantis is almost singularly responsible for transforming the nation's third-most-populous state, which was once the iconic swing state that decided the 2000 presidential election by a paltry 537 votes and which only first elected DeSantis himself in 2018 by a 0.4% margin, into the beating heart of red-state America. By leading the top of the ticket with a whopping 19.4%-point victory this past November, DeSantis helped usher in an all-Republican state Cabinet (the first time that has been the case since Reconstruction) and Republican supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature. Thanks to that influence and those victories, the recently completed Florida legislative session successfully enacted the most sweeping right-wing agenda of any state in modern American history. The legislative session's myriad achievements, too numerous to list in full, touched on virtually every hot-button issue: immigration, abortion, guns, gender ideology, and education among them.

These achievements were made possible due to the sheer number of people who flocked to Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic, where DeSantis stood above the fray and brazenly defied the biomedical security state's pro-lockdown/pro-vaccine mandate ruling class ideology. People moved to Florida for those policies, no matter how much revisionist history and disingenuous gaslighting DeSantis' foes may regurgitate to the contrary.

Registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats in Florida by nearly 500,000, a shift of over 700,000 since DeSantis' minuscule 2018 gubernatorial victory. Of the active voters who have moved to Florida since the onset of COVID, roughly twice as many are registered Republicans as registered Democrats. Simply put, throngs of people (including yours truly) have moved to Florida en masse due to DeSantis' impressive leadership of the Sunshine State -- initially on COVID, and subsequently on a whole host of other issues. DeSantis has secured for the Republican Party of Florida a voter registration advantage for an entire generation or two -- similar, on a smaller scale, to what FDR was able to achieve for the national Democratic Party over the course of his lengthy presidency.

The 2024 Republican presidential primary is shaping up to become a grand battle royale between an eccentric, larger-than-life Baby Boomer who obsesses over relitigating the last election and is constantly distracted by self-imposed wounds and personal grievances, and on the other hand an extremely disciplined, mission-oriented Gen X conservative who single-handedly made the nation's largest swing state ruby-red and has overseen the implementation of the most transformative right-wing agenda in modern American history. That is the basic choice.

In order to defeat presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and stand the best chance of (actually) draining the swamp and salvaging a decadent late-stage republic, let's hope Republican voters choose wisely.

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To find out more about Josh Hammer and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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