Disney Epcot Center

Columnist: Gov. DeSantis, GOP Lawmakers Making Example Of Disney Would Produce “Welcome Benefits” In America’s Culture Wars

One likely unexpected offshoot of the battle between Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and GOP lawmakers and the Walt Disney Co. is that a front in that fight has opened on the right.

Conservatives and so-called conservatives are squabbling over whether DeSantis and his allies in the Legislature were right to go after Disney – a pursuit that ended with the governor signing a bill on Friday that strips the mammoth entertainment company of its special tax-district status next year.

National Review, one of the oldest and most respected of conservative publications, offered an example.

On one hand was a column by Philip Klein, who noted, “Using the state as a vehicle to reward friends and punish enemies is something that conservatives once excoriated, for good reason, as Gangster Government.

But National Review Editor Rich Lowry made a compelling pro-DeSantis rebuttal that presented points that, naturally, have been ignored by the mainstream media and the governor’s critics.

Lowry agreed that it was not “good practice” for the government to “retaliate” against a business – especially one that, in this case, is a key part of the state’s corporate culture.

Yet, Lowry added, the brawl could have “welcome effects.” But first, Lowry reminded his readers how this started.

“There’s a reason this fight escalated to this point,” he wrote. “Disney was the aggressor in the battle over the education bill, lied about it, and pledged to work to repeal it.”

“Even though the bill had nothing to do with Disney whatsoever – nothing to do with its product, its business model, or its employees. The company got pushed into its stance based on pressure from a woke segment of its employees and from progressives on the outside.”

Correct. Disney was steadfastly mum on the Parental Rights in Education bill as it wound through the legislative process. It was only after LGBT employees and activists kept clamoring for CEO Bob Chapek to say something that Disney came out, so to speak. When it did, Chapek announced that the bill should have never passed.

Lowry added, “Disney’s case against the bill relied on the smear that the legislation somehow threatened gay or trans people.”

Yet in reality, it simply blocks school districts and classroom teachers from instructing students in grades K-3 on sexual orientation and gender identity.      

Lowry said teaching such “inappropriate material” to young children, in a classroom no less, was once considered “utterly banal.”

But then Disney went to war, and did so, Lowry wrote, “not to serve its shareholders, enhance its profitability, protect its intellectual property or align itself with its vast and politically diverse customer base.”

“This was, shockingly, an iconic American brand making itself into a free-floating weapon of woke cultural politics in response to the social and political influence of a small number of vocal progressives.”

As The Free Press has reported, a strong majority of Floridians have supported DeSantis in this fight.

Nationally, nearly two-thirds of opinion poll respondents have supported the GOP on the issue once they knew what the bill actually said. One survey even found that 52 percent of Florida Democrats agreed with DeSantis that such material should not be taught to Florida’s youngest schoolchildren.

Yet Disney, after the law was signed, vowed to fight to have it repealed in the Legislature or overturned in the courts.

“Like so many companies before,” Lowry wrote, “Disney calculated the risk/reward of gratuitously taking up a left-wing political and cultural fight and considered it all reward, no risk. The Florida legislature decided to convince it that it was wrong.”

Lowry noted that Disney, unlike other woke corporate giants, had a “glaring vulnerability”: its special status as a self-governing body. He quoted one unnamed analyst who labeled Disney’s home rule authority under the Reedy Creek Improvement District as “the Vatican with mouse ears.”

Lowry then turned the words of prominent liberal Florida writer Carl Hiaasen on the left’s argument. More than two decades ago, in his book “Team Rodent,” Hiaasen called Disney’s governing structure “outlandish” because of all its inherent authority, including the power to tax and even, if it so desired, establishing its own airport and a nuclear power plant.

One of the “welcome effects,” Lowry argued, would be if Disney realizes it allowed itself to “get bullied and cajoled into becoming a combatant in the culture war, or if it convinces other corporations that there’s a potential price to be paid for joining woke mobs.”

Republicans, Lowry noted, don’t want major companies to become tools of the GOP agenda. Rather, “they just want them to exit the culture wars and focus, once again, on their business, an outcome that would lower the temperature in the country’s cultural fights at least a little.”

Ideally, Lowry concluded, Disney and the Republicans in the Legislature will work out a deal to let the special district continue in exchange for “the house of mouse – and other corporations seduced into making themselves de facto left-wing pressure groups – resolv(ing) to stick to its core competency and mission.”

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