Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz took aim at House leadership for much of his remarks at Turning Point USA’s America Fest 2022 in Phoenix.
Gaetz opened by noting Twitter tried to silence him, lobbyists and PACs tried to defeat him, the Deep State tried to destroy him, the media tried to smear him and his own leadership sometimes banished him to the “darkest recesses” of the Capitol if they could.
“Because I work for you, not them,” he said. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He said the midterms disappointed him in many ways, but he didn’t blame the Democrats.
“They did everything they could possibly do to hand us this election,” he said. “They crashed the economy, attacked American energy, they were doing this weird woke stuff that is unmentionable in polite company, we have no border at all. Indeed, the Democrats did their part. But I believed we deserved far better from Republicans and I am here tonight to talk about how to fix it.”
Some suggest Republicans moving toward a more moderate style of governance. He said they want pastel colors and bold colors to be put away.
“Embrace the meek. Less America First. More Liz Cheney,” he said. “Maybe shake the Bush family tree and see what falls out. My friends, the problem with slow surrender as a political strategy is that even when you win with these establishment shills, America still loses. Was it really worth standing with Republican governors in Maryland, Ohio and Arizona who got elected preaching freedom and then pushed lockdowns and mandates on their people? How foolish were they? How foolish were we to tolerate it? In Florida, if you’re still wearing a mask, we just assume you’re hideous.”
A GOP without sharp edges will be “manipulated, coopted and worthless.”
“Controlled opposition just isn’t going to cut it anymore, and that’s where I come in,” Gaetz said.
The FBI had entire teams of people dedicated to trying to shape public opinion on social media, Gaetz added. He said the same stuff is happening at Meta, Google and Amazon.
“They want to control what you see so that they can ultimately control how you behave,” he said. “This is not the proper role of government and any official who gave the orders to try to manipulate the political perspectives of American citizens will be called to heel before the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks and months.”
He isn’t planning on softball questions and patty-cake games with the “corrupt Deep State.”
“Relentless interrogation is what they deserve and we should stand for no less,” he said. “It is not our fighting spirit that needs to change. It is not the America First message or policy platform that needs to change. But some of our tactics must.”
Gaetz said Republicans must begin banking votes as early and as often as possible. He said he knows some will disagree, but there is no bad day to go get someone’s vote and count that vote early, in person and with an ID.
“When we tell voters that they should only vote on one day out of a large opportunity of voting days, then we leave ourselves vulnerable to manipulation and attack and voter suppression. Why would we do that? The cause is too important and the stakes are too high,” Gaetz said.
Election laws must change.
“Arizona is a great state full of wonderful people, but the election administration here, woof, it is embarrassing,” he said. “Brazil is a country with 214 million people. Many of them live in the jungles of the Amazon in Brazil. And they know who wins an election the next day. Sometimes a single county in Arizona can take weeks. This is the United States of America. We are not a third-world country. It is time we start acting like the vibrant republic that we are and that means securing the integrity of our elections.”
Gaetz said these problems are not necessary and are relatively new. He said 2000 was “embarrassing” and odd for Florida when it couldn’t produce closure right away.
“Well, in Florida, we changed the laws,” he said. “Florida indeed can be the nation’s guidepost on this.”
The state passed a law to allow counties to begin counting mail-in ballots 22 days before Election Day.
“Think about how significant that is,” he said.
Allowing that practice makes for smaller batches and makes looking at votes easier. It also allows time to compare signatures.
“You don’t end up with some crazy circumstance in Wayne County Michigan where somehow only in the urban areas they have laws and chain of custody that only applies to them and not anywhere else,” he said. “And it’s the same story in Fulton County and the absolute pitholes of election failure that we should not have to tolerate in America.”
State law requires early voting ballots to be completed and counted before Election Day. Results are immediately posted within 30 minutes of the election.
Mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
“I can’t even believe that’s controversial,” he said. “We don’t just mail them out either to every dead guy. In Florida, you have to actually have a real human being that really requests one of these ballots. We use paper ballots in Florida. And we do so because it was one of the demands of Florida Democrats.
The machines are “rigorously” tested so Florida doesn’t end up like Maricopa County where the “voting machines break down more than the ice cream machine at the McDonald’s,” Gaetz said.
Florida treats ballots and voting like public records.
“We treat ballots and voting like public records and our citizens have a constitutional right to know what the hell is going on,” Gaetz said. “That should be the standard for America.”
Leadership must change as well, Gaetz said.
“Our ancestors, out of love of country, pledged their lives and their fortunes and their sacred honor,” he said. “Is the best Congress can do today pledging a vote for Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy? I’ve had enough McFailure.”
Gaetz said when a football team loses games they are supposed to win, the coach gets fired. And in business when a company doesn’t match its projected earnings, the board removes them.
“And so when in Republican politics, maybe I’m not the crazy one if I say that the people who vastly underperformed expectations shouldn’t be promoted to third-in-line to the presidency,” he said. “I take no joy in sharing this with you, but I’m going to tell you now what every single Republican member of Congress knows in their heart whether they’ll admit it or not — Kevin McCarthy believes in nothing. I’m serious about that. Nothing except money and power. But he failed to deliver the power. He believes in nothing and if we vote for him, neither do we.”
It is important for Republicans to learn from the lows.
“Kevin McCarthy calls his lobbyist-written platform the commitment to America,” Gaetz said. “But Kevin doesn’t keep his commitments. Not to the Republican Conference, not to anyone but the lobbyists that fund campaigns. Kevin isn’t committed, he is compromised by the corrupt swamp and he is incoherent. When you believe in nothing, my friends, you will settle on everything.”
Gaetz said he agrees with President Joe Biden — that we are in a battle for the soul of America.
“And Kevin is going into that battle with soulless influence peddlers by his side,” Gaetz said. “He isn’t on this stage today because I’m pretty confident he would get booed off of it. Say what you will about Trump, but he actually believed in stuff — making our country better. His beliefs were so bold that the media could not stop obsessing about them or him or all of us who supported him.”
He highlighted a few policies Biden has adopted that actually started with President Trump.
“We are in need of true vision,” Gaetz said. “Our politics cannot just be money running through lobbyist luncheons and sloganeering with focus groups. Biden is 80 and totally senile. So you tell me, why is he kicking our ass on the omnibus spending bill right now? It’s because Kevin McCarthy believes in nothing.”
Gaetz said balanced budgets should be debated on the floor. Immigration laws should be enforced. Illegals should be deported to where they came from, not released into America.
“I believe we ought to have a full court press against this weaponized government that has been turned against our people,” Gaetz said. “And if that means abolishing every one of these three-letter agencies from the FBI to the ATF I’m ready to get going and I’ve got my pencil.
“I believe that we actually ought to make voting easy and cheating hard and I believe we should not sell out to powerful corporations that pollute our water, our skies or the digital marketplace of ideas.”
Gaetz thanked those in attendance for their prayers and faith in him through trials. He said that Trump proved even those with flaws can fight back against the corrupt system without fear.
“And so I will work with anyone and everyone to change this system and to deliver results for our brave patriots to stop the invasion on our southern border, to end wars that drain our nation of its treasure and its bravest patriots, to stop sending money to Ukraine like somehow that’s a bigger priority than what’s happening to our people and certainly to restrict unfair trade,” Gaetz said. “But we should not move forward beholden to the legislative policy written by Frank Luntz on a bar napkin. We should not be beholden to the free speech policy that was passed to Kevin McCarthy in exchange for money from his best friend Pfizer lobbyist. And we should not be beholden to the political philosophy of Kevin McCarthy at all because Kevin McCarthy believes in nothing. I believe in things and I know you do too. We’ve got a country to save. You can fight with me any day of the week Turning Point — let’s go get ’em.”