Some on the right and left have claimed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ conflict with Disney has been a failed PR stunt. This view requires one to ignore critical context, facts, and the evolution of the dispute. An honest account of events requires one to concede DeSantis’ battle with Disney has been an unabashed victory for the Florida governor.
A little over a year ago, Florida passed a parental rights law that forbade teachers from discussing sexuality with children in third grade and below. The bill also required parents to be made aware of any significant developments with their children regardless of grade level. This law upset the LGBT lobby, which falsely labeled the law as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill despite there being no mention of homosexuality in the text. Predictively, major media platforms co-opted the label in an attempt to paint conservatives as homophobes for refusing to use public schools to secretly “trans the kids” without parental consent and teach kindergarteners about sex.
The Disney CEO at the time, Bob Chapek, caved to a small but vocal group of Disney employees that took issue with parental rights in education bill and vowed to use the full weight of the company to overturn the law and to deny support for Florida Republicans in the future. For those unfamiliar with Florida politics, this represented an unprecedented move for the company that has a history of getting along with Florida Republicans and also getting whatever it wanted from the legislature. An accurate timeline of events makes it undeniable; Disney fired the first shots. Florida conservatives weren’t arbitrarily targeting Disney for a culture war.
What happens next is critical for understanding the Disney versus DeSantis feud.
DeSantis and Florida Republicans responded by stripping (albeit temporarily) Disney’s self-governing authority within its special tax district. The public feud caused Disney’s reputation to sink with the general public, the CEO responsible for injecting the company into local politics was fired, and Disney’s woke movies tanked. To put the cherry on top, in his return to the helm CEO Bob Iger pledged to get the company out of politics (the entire reason for the dispute) and is still getting an earful from shareholders.
Meanwhile, as Disney’s stock sank, DeSantis was reelected by the largest margin seen in over 40 years, with stunning victories in Democratic strongholds like Miami-Dade and Tampa. Republicans gained seats, now having a supermajority in both chambers, and for the first time since the Civil War, no Democrats are holding statewide elected office in Florida. For those unfamiliar with American elections, this is huge regardless of state. Republicans (especially conservatives) seldom win entire metro areas, especially ones as big and ethnically diverse as Miami. Furthermore, Florida Republicans have used this new power to expand the parental rights law to all grades and deliver on other major conservative priorities.
To pretend DeSantis was defeated or outmaneuvered by Disney requires an epic shifting of the goalposts. The objective was never about destroying Disney. That would be stupid. It’s a major employer and economic driver of Florida tourism. Likewise, Disney’s special tax district was always an issue of leverage to get the desired outcome of Disney backing off its plan to inject its left-wing ideals into Florida schools and law.
If one understands this dispute is centered on parental rights and education, not a municipal tax district, it’s dishonest to claim this was anything less than an astounding victory for DeSantis and Florida conservatives. This is true regardless of what happens with Disney’s tax district.