The ongoing battle that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been waging against the Walt Disney Company not only demonstrates what a petty, vindictive, and mean-spirited little man he is, but also illustrates the danger that an autocratic ruler poses to our democracy.
The essence of the dispute, for those who may not be familiar with it, is this: The State of Florida granted special incentives to the Disney Company more than 50 years ago in order to entice Disney to turn what had been swampland in Central Florida into what has become a global behemoth, employing tens of thousands of Floridians and bringing literally billions of dollars into state coffers.
That Florida-Disney partnership was similar to what every state in the country has done over the past 60 years in order to encourage private development. Even Massachusetts, not exactly known as a business-friendly state, has had many programs that have provided tax breaks to private developers for large-scale projects.
In early 2022, former Disney CEO Bob Chapek took issue with a bill signed by DeSantis (the so-called Don’t Say Gay law). Chapek did so in support of many of Disney’s employees, who found the bill to be offensive.
In response, DeSantis simply could have said, “Disney is entitled to its opinion, but the voters and legislature agree with me,” and that would have been the end of it. Instead, DeSantis has turned the disagreement into an all-out war on Disney, seeking to strip it of the special tax-status that has existed for almost six decades. He even went so far as to suggest that he would build a new state prison adjacent to Disney World.
There are two important things to note: First, DeSantis had been governor for four years (and an elected Florida official for more than a decade) and never once had suggested that the long standing Disney-Florida relationship should be changed. It was only when Disney expressed an opinion in opposition to his law that DeSantis took retaliatory action.
Second, similar partnerships exist with other corporate entities in Florida (most notably Universal Studios), yet DeSantis is not suggesting that those agreements be undone.
Ron DeSantis’s war on Disney in an obvious attempt to show that he is just as much a “macho man” as Donald Trump in an effort to appeal to Trump’s extreme voter base. But as we all know, men who constantly feel the need to prove their masculinity are incredibly insecure — and when these small-minded men are in positions of power, this makes them incredibly dangerous.
Ron DeSantis’s actions against Disney have achieved the impossible — he makes Donald Trump look like a reasonable person. As DeSantis contemplates a run for president, his effort to silence the First Amendment rights of Disney and others serves as clear evidence of his unfitness to be President and a stark manifestation of the danger he would pose to our democracy.