South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) traveled to Orlando, Florida, on Saturday and delivered a moving speech about the conservative movement in America at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
“I’m here today to share some of the lessons from my state,” Noem said, shortly after being welcomed to the stage. “I think the main question that needs to be answered this weekend is: Why does America need conservatives? The question of why America needs conservatives can be answered by just mentioning a single year. And that year is 2020.”
“Everybody knows that almost overnight, we went from a roaring economy to a tragic nationwide shutdown,” Noem continued, pointing out certain economic factors that impacted Americans:
By the beginning of 2020, President Trump had created seven million new American jobs. We had the lowest unemployment rate in over half a century and unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans reached the lowest levels in history. More than 10 million people had been lifted out of poverty and off welfare. All of that changed in March. Most governors shut down their states. What followed was record unemployment. Businesses closed. Most schools were shuttered. Communities suffered. And the U.S. economy came to an immediate halt.
According to Noem, Government “crushed the economy,” not the coronavirus. “And then, just as quickly, Government turned around and held itself out as the savior. Frankly, the Treasury Department can’t print money fast enough to keep up with Congress’s wish list,” she said.
Noem continued, telling those gathered at the conference about steps she took within her state to ensure that businesses were protected amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We never instituted a shelter-in-place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We never even defined what an ‘essential business’ is because I don’t believe Governors have the authority to tell you your business is not essential,” Noem said.
Noem stated that her “administration resisted the call for virus control at the expense of everything else,” saying they “looked at the science, data, and facts and then took a balanced approach.”
“Truthfully, I never thought the decisions I was making were going to be unique,” Noem said. “I thought there would be more who would follow basic, conservative principles – guess I was wrong.”
Noem also took aim at the media for its role in the economic disparities waged against the American people throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many in the media criticized South Dakota’s approach,” Noem said. “They labeled me as ill-informed, reckless, and even a ‘denier.’ Some even claimed that South Dakota is ‘as bad as it gets anywhere in the world’ when it comes to COVID-19, which is a lie.”
“The media did all of this while simultaneously praising governors who issued lockdowns, mandated masks, and shut down businesses – applauding them as having taken the ‘right’ steps to mitigate the spread of the virus,” she added.
In addition to the media’s role, Noem also blasted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, referring to him as the “media’s COVID hero.” She said:
At one point, I appeared on George Stephanopoulos’s Sunday show. He had just wrapped up a segment with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo where he asked Cuomo to give me advice on how to deal with COVID. Now seems like a good time to remind everyone of what Governor Cuomo was doing in New York.
Regarding her remarks on Cuomo, Noem highlighted the nursing home controversy that resulted in numerous deaths across the state.
Noem then expounded on the importance of the conservative movement, telling those in attendance why America needs conservatives:
America needs conservatives at the state and local level. But we also need conservatives at the highest level of government too. In America, we have government of, by, and for the people. Our Founding Fathers established our national constitution. And the people of individual states crafted their own constitutions that place specific limits on the role of government.
Noem also stated that No governor “should dictate to their people which activities are officially approved or not. And no governor should arrest, ticket, or fine people for exercising their freedoms.” She continued:
America needs people who will stand up for these fundamental principles. America needs conservatives. It’s easy to look back on 2020 and remember the issues with COVID. But COVID is only one piece of a very problematic puzzle. It certainly showed us how deep the divide really is, and how thin the barrier is between freedom and tyranny.
Noem also commented on the efforts to remove certain historical figures from being publicly celebrated or noted.
We the People have consented to a government that will serve all of us equally. A government that will protect and uphold our God-given rights as well as the fundamental rights enumerated by our Constitution. It is our duty to renew our commitment to these ideals and to pass them on to those who come after us.
These ideals cannot be dismissed as the opinions of flawed men. Our Founders had their flaws, certainly, but to use those flaws to condemn their ideals and the greatest Constitution the world has ever seen is both unjust and self-defeating. How many of us live up to our own ideals? Without the words, the beliefs, and the sacrifices of those few, the world would not have a ringing example of true freedom. To attempt to “cancel” the founding generation is an to attempt to cancel our own freedoms.
“Let’s always remember: America is good,” Noem told the audience. “Freedom is better than tyranny. We are unique. We are exceptional. And no American should apologize for that, ever.”
“We should illustrate to the world that people thrive when government is limited, and people’s ingenuity and creativity are unleashed,” she added.
“We don’t have the media on our side,” Noem said. “Conservatives must be smarter than progressives. We must know our history. We must know what works and what doesn’t work. We must think through issues.”
“Make no mistake about it — conservatives exist to fight for America, and for every American,” she emphasized.
Noem also reflected on a personal story regarding her father, his passing, and the questions she eventually received answers to in the months following his passing, concluding from her reflection that she was meant to be like her father, a “person of words and action.”
I believe South Dakota has been an example to the nation this past year. People used personal responsibility to protect their families’ health and way of life, while the government respected their rights and freedom. And we are working together to create new opportunities and a better future for our kids. We took the American path. Let me close with this. As conservatives, we often forget that stories are much more powerful than facts and statistics. Our stories need to be told. It is the only way we will inspire and motivate the American people to preserve this great country.
“We must go into this fight for freedom with our eyes wide open, educated to the tactics the liberals will use, and yet totally pure in our motives. This isn’t about us. It’s about our children and their future. It’s about the nation that we will pass on to them. It’s about telling the stories, over and over, that remind us why America needs conservatives—now more than ever.”
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