Florida Governor Candidate DeSantis: Civics 'Ignorance' Led to Ocasio-Cortez Win

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), candidate for governor, speaks at the Republican Sunshine Summit on June 29, 2018, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said a lack of civics education in high schools, colleges and universities leads to “ignorance reigning” with congressional candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) running for office and winning.

DeSantis recommended that “all high school students, when they graduate, should have enough proficiency in American civics to be able to pass the same exam our naturalized immigrants have to pass.”

“I think that would be a good thing. And to do that you can’t just study the Constitution for a day or a week, particularly once you are in high school. I mean, you really need a comprehensive approach so that you understand what makes America unique and what principles the country was founded on and how those principles really are enduring truth – they weren’t just time pieces for that generation of Americans,” DeSantis said at Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit on Wednesday.

“My fear is there is so little emphasis on that in the high schools and the colleges. I mean, they have every type of zombie studies program you can imagine at these colleges; it’s not as easy to find things where you are really studying some of these core principles, and not just what the founders did but all the influences that led up to that point and then how those values have been applied throughout the years. I think we need to do much better. And when you don’t do that and you basically have ignorance reigning, what you end up with is you end up with candidates like Ocasio-Cortez in New York,” he added. “She’s a socialist.”

DeSantis, who is running for governor of Florida, argued that most refugees and immigrants from socialist countries would agree that socialism does not work.

“She’s running around saying, well, capitalism is going to die and all this stuff and that socialism is the wave of the future. And as somebody who lives in Florida, I can tell you, we probably have more refugees from socialist countries – Cuban-Americans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans – then just about any state, and I can tell you and certainly they can tell you socialism doesn’t work. It’s a failed philosophy,” he said.

He criticized Ocasio-Cortez for saying that the unemployment rate is at a record low because people are working two jobs.

“I think that’s the wave of the future for the Democratic Party, to be honest with you – that’s where all the energy is,” he said, referring to socialism. “And the ideas I don’t think pass muster, but when you are saying things like she did, saying, ‘oh, the unemployment is low just because people are working two jobs,’ I mean, that just doesn’t even make sense. This is socialism cloaked in ignorance.”

DeSantis also said Ocasio-Cortez was wrong to suggest that Israel is occupying Palestine.

“There’s no Palestinian state. There’s never been a Palestinian state and then she is asked about it and she can’t even defend these very virulent anti-Israel positions. This whole thing about occupying Palestine is a left-wing canard,” he said. “So I bring this up because I just think when you have a solid foundation, when you understand the principles that make America unique and that have stood the test of time, I think it’s a lot easier to spot the snake-oil salesman out there.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (F-Fla.), one of the youngest members of Congress at 36 years old, said term limits for lawmakers would “dramatically change the seniority-based system” in Congress.

“I want to shorten my sentence in this town and I think if we had churn, people moving in and out of the system more, it would lead to greater vibrancy and more innovation,” he said. “In Washington today we’ve got too much stagnance. The way people get to define the agenda is just by staying around longer.”

Gaetz said now is the time to move forward with imposing term limits, since President Trump supports the idea.

“We have a unique opportunity right now because we finally have a president of the United States who came to this town not to enjoy it but to disrupt it and to make things different and better,” he said.

DeSantis also said that there should be term limits for members of Congress as a way to change the “insider culture” of Washington.

“The Washington, D.C., area has six of the 10 wealthiest counties in the whole United States of America… I don’t think that they are doing technology or finance or anything.  It’s really based off government and the growth of government and how that has become a cottage industry, and so all these counties that surround Washington are some of the wealthiest counties in the country,” he said.

“I don’t think the founding fathers anticipated or believed that would be a good thing, but it’s a function of a lot of power being concentrated in Washington of really an insider culture that’s developed here where you have elected officials, many of whom are career politicians,” he added.

DeSantis continued, “When people leave the Congress now… at least half of them go on to stay in Washington and become lobbyists on K Street, so you have this permanent political class. The press is part of it, the bureaucracy is part of it, the lobbying core on K Street are obviously part of it. And I think that’s really created a toxic combination and it’s one of the reasons why Washington is so out of touch with hard-working Americans.”

DeSantis explained that he declined the congressional pension benefits for members of Congress. He also said that he refused the congressional subsidies for health insurance due to the effects of Obamacare on the general public.

“I declined the subsidies of healthcare because at that time you had a lot of Americans that were bracing for negative effects on Obamacare; Congress was basically insulated from that and I thought that was wrong,” he said.

“I’ve advocated for real serious reform in Washington – things like term limits for members of Congress, which we really need and would be really great, a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, because I think that if you look at states like Florida where you actually have to balance the books you’ve got to justify what you’re doing. Here, the path of least resistance is always to just bust out the credit card.”