It would be a mistake for those running the Trump campaign to put matters on cruise control. And they shouldn’t order the nomination night champagne just yet. Their man is well ahead in current polling, but there’s a fight ahead and it’s not at all certain now who the eventual winner will be.
Too many conservatives have thrown a flag on DeSantis for “picking a fight” with the Disney Corporation.
The Florida legislative session has concluded, so Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will almost certainly throw his hat into the presidential ring. He could announce as soon as this week. Perhaps even before this column sees print. Make no mistake. He will be competitive. Once he starts making his case, those poll numbers will readjust. DeSantis’ case is that as a conservative alternative to whoever the Democrats cough up, he has all the upsides of Donald Trump without the considerable downsides. I’m sure he’ll make his case competently.
So far, DeSantis the non-candidate candidate has ignored Trump, who, in stark contrast, has come at DeSantis with elbows, eye-gouging, and below the belt punches. Why abandon the habits of a lifetime? But DeSantis’ passive approach will change once he’s in the ring. And it will be interesting to see how he takes on Trump. DeSantis can’t ignore his way to the nomination, and he knows it. DeSantis is intelligent, articulate, and tougher than a two-dollar steak. He won’t allow Trump to run over him. This campaign will almost certainly be a fight of fights, fought on rules that would send the Marquis of Queensbury to his fainting couch. Stay tuned. But you might want to send the children out of the room. It’s gonna get ugly.
Too much unfair has been said about both candidates to sort it all here. But please indulge me one correction. I believe too many conservatives have thrown a flag on DeSantis for “picking a fight” with the Disney Corporation. They point out, correctly, that politicians should not interfere with businesses. But this truism is not relevant to DeSantis and the Florida Legislature’s removing of the special privileges Disney, and no other Florida business, has enjoyed since Disney brought its jobs to Central Florida in 1971. It should be clear to those paying attention that in the recent and continuing dustup it was Disney that picked the fight, not DeSantis or the Florida Legislature.
Quite right that as a general rule government should keep its official (and too often officious) noses out of the way businesses produce, market, and sell their goods and services. (An example of real government meddling would be government entities telling retailers that they can’t have separate boys and girls clothes or toy sections.) Corporations can even virtue signal on the tendentious cultural issues of the day. The list of woke corporations that have done this is too long to recite here. Corporations have a first amendment right to speak out, even when they do it foolishly.
But Disney did more than just speak out against the popular Parental Rights in Education Act passed by the Florida Legislature last year and signed into law by DeSantis. The law prevents Comrade Teacher pestering K–3 pupils — five- to eight-year-olds on the depth chart — about sexual subjects they are not ready to deal with and in any case should be dealt with at home, not in the classroom. Disney CEO at the time, Bob Chapek, said he would mobilize his corporation as an independent political force in an attempt to undo the work of the democratically elected legislature and the democratically elected governor.
Here’s the threat in Chapek’s words:
Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, should not have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.
So there you have it. Disney leadership is quite free to mischaracterize this or any other law. This law says nothing about gayness and only left casuists claim it does. But Disney went far beyond dishonestly portraying a law that a majority of Floridians consider the very soul of reasonableness. Disney says it will throw the considerable weight of its large corporation in a political fight to subvert a popular action of duly elected state officials. If a corporation is going to act as a political force, it forfeits its stay-out-of-my-business privilege. Entertaining people and making money doing so is Disney’s business. But this is politics.
When corporations get out of their business lane and start throwing their weight around in the political realm, they should expect to be obliged to play by political rules. This includes political blowback, which for Disney came in the form of the legislature and governor canceling the Reedy Creek Improvement District, passed by the Florida Legislature in the 1960s, which allowed Disney to act as an independent nation in the 25,000 acres of this Central Florida kingdom (which is not as magical as it once was). It granted Disney tax and regulation benefits that other Florida business would love to have.
The Florida Legislature gave these undeserved privileges to Disney in order to get the thousands of jobs Disney World would bring to Florida. These privileges were undeserved then, and they’re undeserved now. Disney should never have been allowed to act as an independent country within another country. Disney is not the Vatican and should not be treated as such.
Disney threw down the political gauntlet. And DeSantis and the Florida Legislature responded. I’m glad they did. They’re right on the merits. Trump took Disney’s side on this one. At this point in the political proceedings, if DeSantis stood up for clean air and water on Monday, Trump would almost certainly have something complimentary to say about pollution on Tuesday. But he may have trouble explaining his support for the meddlesome mouse on the campaign trail in Florida, and very likely elsewhere.