Heralding the "pro-Trump America First wing of the conservative movement," Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., fired barbs at big tech, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, special interest groups, cancel culture, and even never-Trump Republicans.
"We're not really a wing, we're the whole body; we're the main attraction in the greatest show on earth," Gaetz said during an impassioned speech Friday night at CPAC in Orlando, Florida.
"It's our ideas that fill the stadiums with cheering fans, and while the establishment owns the think tanks, we're the ones doing all the thinking."
Gaetz called for a changing of the old Republican guard, sharing a common refrain from former President Donald Trump: Deliver the power back to the people outside of Washington, D.C.
"If Liz Cheney were on this stage today, she'd get booed off of it," Gaetz said of his Republican colleague from Wyoming who he has called on to step down from her GOP leadership post.
"What does that say? The leadership of our party is not in Washington, D.C. You are the energy, we are America."
And, if you are looking for energy and strength in the new conservative movement, it is centralized in Florida, Gaetz said.
"Now, Trump may not have drained the swamp all the way, yet, so if you want to finish the job, maybe hire a Florida man," he added, perhaps a reference to the growing populism of Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, or perhaps the former president himself.
"We've drained swamps before. We've faced down the alligators and the pythons, and the lizards and the mosquitoes as big as grapefruit."
Gaetz hearkened back to his 2020 CPAC speech, where he told a mostly silent donor-class crowd about his no-PAC political goal of avoiding donations from corporations or special interest groups.
"Turns out populism is popular, and everyone can see who the fakes and the phonies are, and where we could find the real deal," Gaetz said.
"Now, I can't say I started a movement. Not a single other Republican joined me. But it turns out, I was ahead of the curve, because the woke corporations turned around and canceled us.
"Unlike the left and even some Republicans, the 'America First' movement will never sell out to foreign interests abroad or special interests here at home. Our citizens come first — sorry, not sorry."
Big tech and Gov. Cuomo also drew Gaetz's ire.
"Now the fake news media and their allies in Silicon Valley made Gov. Cuomo out to be some iconic cross between King David and Tom Brady," he said. "What a big lie that turned out to be.
"According to former aides, Gov. Cuomo was offering to replace staff meetings with strip poker. Meanwhile, they were stripping granny out of the COVID ward at the hospital and tossing her in the nursing home just enough time to infect everybody and then go back to the hospital so that deaths could be recategorized for politics."
Gaetz added a rebuke of big tech globalism, saying the "Chinamerica dream is ultimately a nightmare for our people."
"The greatest threat to our liberty is big government, and the second greatest threat to our liberty is big business, and there is no bigger business than big tech," he said. "The flow of digital information impacts every aspect of our lives. If we win the debate but lose the Internet, ours will be the last generation of American greatness.
"Elon Musk calls Silicon Valley 'Sanctimonious Valley' for a reason. The terms of service on Twitter can never be more important than the values that undergird our Constitution. We need more than a legalistic definition of the First Amendment. We need a culture of free speech in America."
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