When Florida Governor DeSantis stood up to Disney over its opposition to the Florida bill liberals have called “Don’t Say Gay,” conservatives cheered.
As someone who has criticized Disney’s woke politics for years (http://politicalvanguard.com/tweedy-its-a-woke-world-after-all-how-the-walt-disney-company-went-from-walt-to-woke/), even as a (full disclosure) Disney fan, I was happy to see someone stand up to Disney and call them out for their current agenda. It drew much needed attention and criticism nationwide to the cancer of woke politics that has taken over Disney and many other large corporations. But then DeSantis started to use the power of the government to target and punish Disney over their corporate political stances. I went from supportive to very concerned.
Many people will claim “but the left cancels conservatives.” They do and conservatives take issue when liberals abuse their power in such ways.
It is easy to jump to the “they did it first” but is that how we are going to change things for the better in this Nation? As the old saying goes “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
If we are going to use the same tactics that the “other side” uses, we can’t say we are any different than they are, and we can’t say that we still stand for the same values. If this was Governor Newsom of California going after a conservative company, conservatives would be outraged, and rightfully so.
Some will argue that the Florida government has the power to remove this special status from Disney. True, but the motivation matters. DeSantis and the Republicans did this as a retaliatory measure because Disney opposed and lobbied against the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. Disney has the right to express their opinion and lobby on behalf of something they think affects their business and/or employees. The beauty of this Country is the freedom of speech we enjoy without fear of the government.
We have to ask, is DeSantis using the government to punish Disney for their position on this issue? It doesn’t matter on which side we are. Those actions should be a problem for everyone.
While punishing Disney for their dissenting opinion is bad enough, I don’t feel that is even the main reason DeSantis acted. What the public needs to understand is that DeSantis was fine with taking major donations from Disney for years. He has known how woke Disney has been for a long time.
DeSantis also gave Disney loopholes, including in recent legislation. According to the Miami Herald, “[DeSantis] singled out a special carveout that legislators approved for Disney in a 2021 bill that aimed to crack down on what DeSantis said was too many conservatives having their accounts banned by “Big Tech” social media companies.” (https://amp.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article260033195.html)
Now this same Governor is attacking the same special privileges he was a part of giving to Disney. Why the sudden change? Remember that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed even with Disney’s opposition so it’s not like Disney torpedoed the bill in Florida.
In March, Disney decided to pause all political donations in Florida (Democrat and Republican) while they reconsidered if their donations were matching their “corporate values.” DeSantis has taken large donations from Disney, as recent as 2021. Four donations between 2019 – 2021, for a total of more than $100K, were donated to a DeSantis PAC from Disney.
The decision by Disney meant a loss of a major donor for DeSantis. This meant DeSantis had nothing to lose in going to war with Disney, plus he could retaliate for Disney’s decision. In addition, it was a golden opportunity for his National profile, a great way to rile up his Party’s base, creating a shared symbolic ideological enemy. This really wasn’t about the greater moral issue. While DeSantis may disagree politically with Disney, he was just fine taking their money and doing favors for them until the gravy train was cut off by Disney. That’s when DeSantis was suddenly upset with woke Disney and set out to punish them. Had Disney continued donating to DeSantis, I don’t see any of this happening, even with Disney’s position on the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
If all of that isn’t bad enough, DeSantis’ decision, which is ultimately centered around his own political ambitions, will not just affect Disney, it’s going to affect Florida in the long run, especially Florida taxpayers. The Counties of Osceola and Orange will have to absorb what was once basically Disney’s own County. When they do, they will be taking on the cost of infrastructure (police, fire, etc) and city maintenance that Disney once all handled themselves, which will cause things like property taxes to rise. And contrary to what many seem to believe, Disney already pays taxes to Florida.
According to an NPR article on the issue, “The Florida Senate’s own financial impact analysis of the bill states that in most cases when a county takes over a special district, it “shall also assume all indebtedness of the preexisting special district.” In Disney’s case, that could put local governments on the hook for about $1 billion in bond debt.”
To add to the whole political angle, the two counties which will be most directly impacted from the get-go are ironically both Democrat leaning. They aren’t GOP strongholds that DeSantis and the GOP would have to worry about losing in upcoming elections.
While Disney isn’t going to pick up Disney World and move, they can shift jobs out of Florida, some which they recently moved from California to Florida. They can look elsewhere to develop Disney parks, or put more money into expanding Disneyland in California, and do less in Florida. Disney is the #1 employer in Florida, for the #1 industry of tourism. Disney may hurt initially but long term, Florida could pay heavily for these decisions, and DeSantis won’t be around to deal with the repercussions.
I know some feel that DeSantis actions will somehow change Disney, but will it?
The reality is, Disney is only going to change for two things 1. Their stockholders force them to change directions 2. They start losing major profits. While there has been this movement to Boycott Disney in the wake of this issue, it hasn’t done much. There was a report that Disney+ streaming service lost 350k subscribers after DeSantis went after Disney.( https://decider.com/2022/04/08/why-are-people-canceling-disney-plus/amp/) Disney+ has 42 million subscribers in the US and Canada alone, and the equivalent internationally. 350k isn’t even a dent to Disney’s profits.
Disney World and Disneyland have suspended sales of almost all annual passes because they just have too many passholders to accommodate. Yes, Disney’s stock is down, but how much of that is a result of this issue? As a Disney stockholder, I can tell you Disney stock was falling before DeSantis went after Disney, like the market was in general.
The war in Ukraine, concerns about Russia, COVID, inflation and economic concerns are more a reason for its drop than anything DeSantis did. Disney’s stock was lower than it is now during the early days of COVID and came back to double that amount in a year. Bottom line, Disney still has an overwhelming demand for their limited supply. It’s also important to note that similar boycotts were tried in less woke times, and all failed to make a lasting impact.
You can be concerned about Disney’s politics/values at the same time sharing concern over the methods that DeSantis is employing here. We must not lose site that DeSantis is a politician first and foremost, and the truth behind these actions reflect that. While there is so much outrage aimed at Disney, I would be more concerned about a government official with aspirations for the White House, abusing his power in these ways, than I am about an entertainment company’s corporate politics and values.
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