It’s time for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to retreat to his executive suite in Tallahassee, take a deep breath and end his war with the Disney Corp.
DeSantis is on an utterly pointless crusade, revealing a petty, petulant personality motivated by revenge and a pathological need to prove he is correct. It can’t even be disguised as a matter of principle when it’s so clearly ego run amok.
While he is not yet an announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis is the closest competitor to Donald Trump. But while the former president is tramping around the country raising money and collecting endorsements, DeSantis is locked in a wrestling match with a cartoon mouse wearing short pants.
Adding to the humiliation, the mouse is winning.
DeSantis’ preoccupation with finding ways to punish Disney stems from the company’s opposition to a Florida law banning teaching sexual orientation or gender identity in public school grades K-12. The legislation was quickly named the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Enraged at this display of corporate criticism, DeSantis struck back, winning legislative approval revoking Disney’s special tax status, only to be outmaneuvered when the corporation discovered a loophole to retain its status.
Unable to accept being challenged successfully, DeSantis threatened to develop land adjacent to Disney World, suggesting it could be used for warehouses, a competing park or even a prison.
Politically, DeSantis’ actions accomplish nothing. Those who agree with the legislation will continue to do so, as will those in opposition. His continued relentless obsession with conquering Disney has taken an embarrassing and counterproductive turn.
DeSantis has launched a jihad against a company that employs 75,000 people – the largest single site employer in the world – draws a global leading 60 million visitors annually, contributes $73 billion to the state’s economy and produces $6 billion in tax revenue.
He has used the power and authority of government to damage a private business merely because its leadership opposed a public policy.
It is precisely the type of action that Republicans and conservatives have repeatedly criticized their liberal opposition for embracing, warning darkly of government overreach and control of the private sector.
There is a case to be made that Disney should have remained above the fray and allowed the political and legal process to play out. The company’s decision may have cost it financially but like most private businesses, it was willing to allow the market to decide if it had made a wise decision.
The DeSantis unofficial campaign has faltered as his stepped-up activities and public appearances have drawn more intense media scrutiny.
Several members of Congress from Florida have endorsed Trump’s candidacy, implying that DeSantis is either not yet up the demands of a national candidacy and should wait until 2028 or that he is not qualified by experience, intellect or temperament and never will be.
He has failed to gain ground on Trump despite the staggering political baggage shouldered by the former president – a criminal indictment and three ongoing Federal or state investigations into criminal behavior on his part. Not to mention surviving two impeachment proceedings, politically motivated though they may have been.
DeSantis has been unable thus far to peel off any significant portion of Trump’s fervent base of support, while the former president has used his social media platform and millions in spending by independent groups to attack him and his record as Florida’s governor.
The feud with Disney is a continuous self-inflicted wound and it is time for DeSantis to reappraise his position with an eye toward ending it on as reasonable and positive a face-saving note as possible. Those advising him to continue the fight are doing him and his potential campaign a serious and potentially fatal disservice.
As for Disney executives, they should spend their time devising a way to avoid parents being forced to drain their children’s college savings account to finance a four-day vacation at the Magic Kingdom.
Copyright 2023 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.