Anybody else tired of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kicking Mickey Mouse around?
Here’s the back story. A few weeks ago Florida passed a law, supported by DeSantis, which restricted formal teaching about gender identity (but not any discussion of it) in K-3 education. The left went ballistic, dubbing it the “don’t say gay bill.” Under pressure from Democrats, activists and some of its own employees, Disney issued a statement opposing the law and vowing to work for its repeal. Now, in response to that DeSantis wants to eliminate a state law giving Disney the ability to essentially act as its own local government.
This is Disney. The Big Mouse. Disney is a $100 billion global company. Disney World in Orlando employs about 60,000 people and is the world’s top tourist attraction. Not only that, but the self-governing district that DeSantis now wants to tear asunder has been praised as more efficient and more environmentally sustainable than the surrounding public jurisdictions. If DeSantis actually got his wish those jurisdictions would have to scramble to figure out how to provide police, fire, water and all those other municipal services to that sprawling complex. And they’d do it poorly.
DeSantis is being a jerk and a fool, two of his trademark personality traits.
But stop and think about this for a minute. Here’s a Republican governor alienating his state’s most important employer over a culture wars issue. Imagine that happening before Trump. If there was any doubt that the transformation of the Republican Party from the party of business and free enterprise to the party of hard-right populist resentment was complete, well, now we can say that it is.
This isn’t the only example. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has angered business interests by stopping the free flow of trucks — and commerce — across the southern border to make a point about another hot-button populist issue. Never mind that only about 5% of illegal entries into the country come through the crossings used by trucks.
And a lot of national GOP pols and right-wing news outlets went nuts when Coke and other big Georgia companies came out against voting bills passed there last year. Among those outlets was the Wall Street Journal, which goes on and on whenever it can against “corporate wokism.”
Well, wait just a gosh darn minute here. Where does DeSantis or Abbott or the Wall Street Journal editorial board get off telling a private business, much less one as successful as Disney, what’s in their best corporate interests? These are private companies responding to their customers in the marketplace. Yeah, it’s probably virtue-signaling designed to make nice with the coveted young consumers, who are just now forming their lifelong brand loyalties, but who cares? isn’t that just the free market at work? Aren’t we for the free market?
The values that were once at the very heart of the Republican Party have now been shoved aside as they chase what they consider to be (and, unfortunately, probably are) winning culture wars issues for them.
Along these lines, it’s probably a good thing that former Gov. Tommy Thompson decided to pass on this year’s governor’s race. In the old GOP, Tommy, even at 80, would be an easy choice over the three misfits now vying for the nomination. But in this new populist party Tommy’s chances were, at best, fair.
Look, if I’ve made anything clear in my many essays here at YSDA and elsewhere, it’s that I’m as unwoke as they come. But I’m also for classical liberal values, one of which is a sensibly regulated free market. If Mickey (he/his) has decided he needs to be woke to remain relevant and keep printing money, well, that’s up to him. Leave the mouse alone.
Postscript: Not only do I think corporations should be allowed to do whatever they want to appeal to their market, but I think their embrace of woke is a good thing. As David Brooks has pointed out, monetizing a movement tends to wash it out, take off its rough edges and bring a tamed version into the mainstream.
Want to read more curiously conservative views from a liberal? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.