Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took some heat this summer when he told a group of Iowans how he’d reduce the size of the federal workforce if elected president.
“We are going to start slitting throats on Day 1,” he said.
Critics questioned the taste of such violent imagery. But DeSantis’ words raise another important question: How will he find time to slit throats in the U.S. bureaucracy when he’s going to be tied up with at least a dozen other “Day 1” presidential promises?
Since throwing his hat in the ring six months ago, DeSantis has promised a range of executive measures he’d take as soon as he’s sworn in on Jan. 20, 2025. Some are light on specifics; others are constitutionally questionable, if not impossible. (There’s also the inconvenient fact that in most national polls he trails former President Donald Trump by around 40 points — although that hasn’t kept him from adding to his Day 1 agenda.)
DeSantis isn’t the first presidential candidate to make a lot of big Day 1 promises. Just this year, we’ve seen former President Donald Trump pledge to end birthright citizenship, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy pledge to “instantly fire 50% of federal bureaucrats,” and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pledge to ban TikTok — all on their first day in office.
But no candidate this year has deployed that phrase as often as DeSantis. And even if it’s just a rhetorical tic, his many Day 1 pledges offer insight into his most pressing presidential priorities. And they portend an awfully busy first day in the Oval Office.
For instance, he’s vowed to immediately declare a state of emergency over immigration at the United States-Mexico border.
“I guarantee you, on Day 1, this border is going to be a Day 1 issue for me as president,” he said. “We’re going to declare it a national emergency.”
Part of the solution, he said, will involve construction on a border wall funded by Mexico: “I will get that done, and that’ll be a Day 1 issue for us.” Part of it may involve boosting recruitment efforts for Border Patrol agents, who DeSantis said “have been repeatedly disrespected by the Biden administration. That will stop on Day 1 of my presidency.”
Securing the border would also involve the military. Asked in August at the first GOP debate if he might send troops or special forces into Mexico to deal with drug cartels and fentanyl labs, DeSantis replied: “Yes, and I will do it on Day 1.”
What would DeSantis’ military look like? One thing we know is it wouldn’t offer any more diversity, equity or inclusion training.
“As commander in chief, on Day 1, I’m ripping it all out,” he said. “The woke is gone, the politics is gone, the social is gone. We’re going to focus the military on its core mission. Mission first, that’s what it’s going to be about.”
That mission will extend from Mexico to the Middle East.
“Beginning on Day 1 when I become President, the days of America appeasing Iran will be over,” DeSantis posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. Instead, he would impose sanctions, revoke sanction waivers, end negotiations and deals and “suspend the security clearance, investigate and hold accountable anyone implicated in the Iran foreign influence operation that has ties to senior Biden Admin officials.”
Looking at the workforce
DeSantis already has one big assignment for his new federal workforce. Asked on a podcast if he would consider pardoning Trump or anyone else charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, DeSantis said he’d get that ball rolling — when else? — “on Day 1.”
“I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, who, people are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive at issuing pardons,” he said. “We will use the pardon power — and I will do that at the front end.”
And then there’s the economy. DeSantis has big Day 1 plans for that, too.
“I’m going to take all the executive orders, the regulations, everything involving Bidenomics, I’m going to rip it up and I’m going to throw it in the trash can on Day 1, where it belongs,” he said.
To DeSantis, ripping up Bidenomics — a broad term describing President Joe Biden’s various economic policies — means tightening federal spending, loosening government regulations and reining in the Federal Reserve’s interest hikes. He’s also pledged to ban immediately a proposed central bank digital currency. (“Done. Dead. Not happening in this country.”)
DeSantis will “unleash oil and gas exploration and development, pipelines, and infrastructure on Day 1.” He’ll “reverse Biden’s job-crippling and ideological regulations and executive orders on Day 1.” He’ll “repeal Biden’s Clean Power Plan on Day 1.”
The Clean Power Plan, of course, was an Obama-era energy bill repealed by the Trump administration in 2019. So that’s one less thing DeSantis will have to worry about on Day 1.
Reinventing the economy
As for everything else — reinventing the economy, securing the southern border, remaking the federal workforce, revamping U.S. foreign policy, weighing pardons for hundreds of Jan. 6 participants, including the former president — the how of it all will come later. For now, what’s important is the when.
“We need to do it now because if we don’t get this done we only have a short amount of time, short amount of window to be able to turn the country around,” DeSantis said. “You’ve got to go in there, Jan. 20, 2025. You’ve got to be ready to go on Day 1.”
If he’s not, his critics will be ready to pounce.
“He always talks about what happens on Day 1,” GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley said of DeSantis at a debate. “You better watch out, because what happens on Day 2 is when you’re in trouble.”