DeSantis versus Disney: Political Theatre at Its Finest

by John Ellis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is going to being the next President of the United States. Mark my words. Sitting at his new desk during his first day in the Oval Office, the top of his to-do-list should remind him to “Send Disneyworld a gift basket.” I’m not saying that he will owe his seat in that office to Disney more than anyone or anything else. I’m saying that his ongoing dustup with the Mouse House may be his political theatre masterpiece.

There may not be an individual over the age of 12 in the United States that isn’t aware of what’s going on in the state (and metro area) where I currently reside. To help jog everyone’s memory, here’s brief, ironed-out sequence of events in the DeSantis versus Disney war: After the Florida legislature passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, employees of Walt Disney World began voicing their displeasure. Facing employee protests and walkouts/mini-strikes, Disney CEO Bob Chapek roundly condemned the bill. In turn, preceded by some very public jawing by DeSantis, the State of Florida has rescinded the special governing privileges provided by the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

As promised, that’s quite the ironed-out sequence of events, but you get the gist (and I’m assuming you know the pertinent details already). What I don’t know is what you think of it all. For my part, I think DeSantis has (once again) demonstrated his political genius in a way that’s going to propel him to the White House. Prior to all this, I’ve been telling people that barring some unforeseen crisis, health issue for Trump, or the curing of cancer by Biden, Donald Trump will win the 2024 Presidential election.

Think about it: It took a record setting number of votes to propel Biden past Trump in 2020. Currently, and with little end of its slide in sight, Biden’s approval rating is subpar, to say the least. Where will Biden find voters? The far-left (however that’s defined) is sulking over their perceived betrayal by the “moderate” Biden administration, the usually apolitical will likely feel less existential angst needed to prompt them to vote, and if they do feel angst it will likely be the kind that causes them to vote for the party that doesn’t currently occupy the White House. Not to mention that many of the suburban soccer moms who voted for Biden are angry that the government forced their kids to wear a mask to school (this last one is possibly the main reason why Youngkin won VA). Trump, on the other hand, as we all know, could hack up a sweet grandmother on live TV using a machete and his supporters will forgive him for it, if not outright cheer (him encouraging them to get a vaccine is where they draw the line). And that contains so much truth it barely qualifies as hyperbole. In other words, it’s going to take the Democratic nominee receiving another record or near-record number of votes to beat Trump in 2024. Where those voters come from is the question Dem strategists are probably losing sleep over. Ergo, Trump wins again in 2024. But as I’ve said above, I no longer think it’s going to be Donald Trump; I believe DeSantis is now the heir apparent to the throne of MAGA world. Trump is now a concept and is no longer a person. DeSantis is a better Donald Trump than Donald Trump has the ability to be. And DeSantis versus Disney may be the final coup-de-gras in DeSantis wrenching the baton of power out of Trump’s tiny hands.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Florida legislature has given themselves until June 2023 to reverse course on stripping Disney of the powers and privileges given it way back in 1967. If I were a betting man, I’d bet lots of money that come June 2023 the Reedy Creek Improvement District will continue operating as it has for the last 5 decades. DeSantis and the Florida legislature aren’t stupid enough to kneecap the state’s tourism industry as well as place themselves in the position of having to raise Floridians’ taxes (we don’t have an income tax in Florida for a reason). Their actions are merely political theatre in order to show MAGA-type strength to the MAGA crowd that continues to be worked up into a cultural war frenzy by FOX “News” and other alt-right “media” outlets.

Think about it. Chapek’s condemnation of the Don’t Say Gay Bill was little more than contentless virtue signaling[1]. Like MAGA world, the left is populated by myopic sheep who can’t see past the current hobby horse they’re ordered to ride. All Chapek needed to do was create some meme-worthy soundbites. Bluster enough and he gets to throw his hands up and say, “Look at how awful they are. I’ve done what I’ve can.” For sure, those on the left who are more committed (actually committed) will see through it – hence, part of my argument why “Trump” will win 2024. Chapek cares first and foremost about Disney’s shareholders. That’s who hired him and that’s whom he answers to. Their virtue signaling aside, Disney is a politically/economically conservative organization. This is why, through its various entities, Disney donated $10.5 million to the America First Action committee for the 2020 presidential election. If you don’t already know, the name itself should tell you which presidential candidate the PAC supports. In contrast, Disney donated a measly $1.2 million to “help” elect Biden; a figure not even 10% of the amount given to support Trump.

To be sure, part of Disney’s current bluster included suspending political donations to Republicans, but in a few weeks, after this current hot-topic issue has been replaced by something Governor Abbott of Texas (likely) does in order to show that he, too, is more Trump than Trump, Disney will quietly resume donating to the politicians who aid Disney in doing what Disney loves to do best – make money.

Look, the Reedy Creek Improvement District is a libertarian’s wet dream. It may be classical liberalism’s best example to point to when arguing, “But capitalism minus government interference does work.” Not only does stripping Disney of its power and privilege potentially kneecap Florida’s tourism industry, but it would be a complete betrayal of what conservatives claim they believe.[2] So, yeah, I don’t believe for a second that DeSantis is actually going to punish Disney. He doesn’t need to. Well, he needs to on paper, and he’s already done that. And it’s a politically genius move.

This fall, as the governor’s race heats up, DeSantis will trot out how he stood up to the big, bad bully named Walt Disneyworld. He’s currently running away with the governor’s race, so the big prize is the White House in two years. Disneyworld will make for a great foil in his campaign speeches and his debates (if they have them) with Donald Trump. DeSantis can show the MAGA crowd that he out-bullied the bullies on the far-left. All Trump can really show is that got parts of an ineffective wall built and he weirdly held up a Bible in front of a church. Trump’s most important accomplishment the vaccines? Ha! Good luck running on that as a Republican. Those Supreme Court justices? Nobody believes that DeSantis would appoint “worse” justices than Trump. Plus, DeSantis doesn’t have the baggage of a longstanding man crush on Putin, the world’s current enemy #1.

Part of what made Donald Trump successful in 2016 was his utter disregard for the longstanding mores and manners of politics. As has been pointed out ad nauseum by media outlets on both the right and left, Trump promised to be a bigger bully in standing up to the bullies giving the conservatives wedgies. And he did so in a manner that ran roughshod over the other Republican presidential hopefuls who were ill-prepared to interact with his complete disregard of how politicians are supposed to operate.

Well, it ain’t 2016 anymore. It’s now 2020 (yeah, I know, but 2020 is a concept and it’s going to be 2020 for the foreseeable future). And DeSantis is made for 2020. He’s far more polished than Trump but has the same Trumpian willingness to punch harder than he needs to. His skills and instincts as a politician are sharper than Trump’s, meaning he’s better equipped than Donald Trump to use the Trumpian instinct of subverting political norms and expectations. He’s younger, better looking, smarter, more articulate, and with a personal life that is saintly compared to Donald Trump. Most importantly, because he’s already seen and copied from Trump’s playbook, DeSantis is keenly aware of all this which means he doesn’t fear Donald Trump. Unlike in 2016 when Trump made mincemeat of Rubio, Cruz, and the other GOP hopefuls, DeSantis will expose Trump to be the slimy, incompetent buffoon he’s always been. He’s been steps ahead of Trump for 2 years now on almost every issue Christian nationalists and the far right care about. And he doesn’t come with the icky factor for those evangelicals and conservatives who still remember what they said about Bill Clinton.  

So, yeah, Ron DeSantis is going to be the next President of the United States owing to his war with Disney to some degree. And with President DeSantis, the reign of Trump’s Terror will continue. Welcome to 2020, again.


[1] A friend of mine – a conservative friend depending on how you define conservative – pointed out to me that the bill may make it illegal for schools to include books and examples in the curriculum that feature cisgender, straight people who are married. I haven’t read the bill in its entirety, so I don’t know. It’s plausible, if not likely, though, that the cultural warriors in the Florida State Senate and Governor’s office were so blinded by their own torches and gleaming pitchforks as to fail to see any unintended consequences.

[2] You don’t need to convince me that many people do not actually believe what they say believe. Undermining the tourism industry and raising Floridians’ taxes is what’s going to save the Reedy Creek Improvement District, not pure ideology.

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