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The Disney Feud Is One Reason ‘Limited Government’ Types Should Be Leery of DeSantis

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I know this won’t be a popular opinion. But as a liberty-minded, anti-statist curmudgeon, I have to say it: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ feud with Disney makes me leery about him occupying the Oval Office.

To be clear, as a more libertarian-leaning person, I’m focusing more on local politics than national because I believe that is where true liberty can begin to take hold in the United States. This means I don’t have much of a dog in this fight even though I enjoy watching how the political scene unfolds as a commentator.

On Monday, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill into law that effectively strips Walt Disney Corporation of its special tax privileges and self-governance in the Sunshine State. This was a widely anticipated move after the very public feud between the two last year.

As you might remember, the dustup began when the left went into a full-on collective meltdown over the Parental Rights in Education Act, which prohibits teachers from instructing students under the age of seven on transgender identity and sexuality. Apparently, progressives were very upset at the idea that educators would no longer be allowed to discuss these matters with small children. Members of the activist media deceptively referred to it as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” because they are dishonest hacks.

Then, Disney made the stupid decision to join in on the pile-on, releasing public statements condemning the bill. This raised the hackles of folks on the right, especially due to the fact that some of the company’s employees openly acknowledged that they had an agenda that involved pushing sexuality on their audience, which is kids.

Then-CEO Bob Chapek, bowing to pressure from the woke mob and progressive employees, went public in criticizing the measure. In response, DeSantis announced that he would be pursuing legislation that would seize the authority to govern Reedy Creek, where Disneyworld is located, from the corporation.

At the time, I warned that DeSantis was doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. There were plenty of arguments in favor of stripping Disney of its privileged status. Indeed, if he had made the move independent of the company’s political stance, I might not have had a problem with it.

But the fact of the matter is that Gov. DeSantis used the power of the state to punish a private corporation for criticizing his policy – plain and simple. It is highly likely that had Disney kept its Mickey mouth shut, he would never have taken such an action. Indeed, he had previously enjoyed a pretty lucrative relationship with the Magic Kingdom. The company gave DeSantis three financial contributions during his first term as governor:

DeSantis’ political committee received three contributions from Disney totaling $100,000 and a $6,809 in-kind contribution for “food and beverage,” likely catering for a fundraiser or some other campaign event. Disney gave DeSantis $50,000 in 2019 and $50,000 in 2021.

The governor has not yet formally announced his candidacy for president in the 2024 election. But it is all but a foregone conclusion that he will throw his hat into the ring. His willingness to use the state to punish political opposition should be troubling for anyone who believes in limited government. Doing it at the state level is problematic enough, but imagine a president using the considerable power of the federal government to attack those who oppose him?

We have already seen this tendency in action under the Biden administration. I recently wrote about the Justice Department going after pro-life protesters and threatening them with over a decade of jail time simply for standing in front of abortion providers. While DeSantis has not gone quite that far, do we really want both parties engaging in this type of conduct?

If someone like DeSantis were to become president and use the federal government to go after other corporations – or even individuals – it would make it that much easier for progressives to do the same when they inevitably regain the power to do so. Moreover, what happens when there is a Republican president who is willing to go further than DeSantis in office?

It is something that should cause concern among those in the conservative movement who truly oppose authoritarianism. Of course, it would only be fair to acknowledge that this situation may have just been a one-off and not the beginning of a pattern. We can only hope so. But it is also fair to keep our eyes open as the 2024 campaign season creeps ever so closer.

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