Don't Assume the Disney Lawsuit Is the Death of DeSantis

There has been quite a lot of ink spilled over the DeSantis/Disney feud, and dozens of barrels more were dumped over it when the entertainment giant filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and the board that has been working to undermine Disney’s autonomous status.


Almost universally (and quite predictably), the reaction has been negative. The media, Republican “insiders” and “strategists,” and Democrats alike have all said DeSantis has overstepped or is out of his depth. This lawsuit will derail his presidential ambitions and ruin his reputation as governor, they claim.

See, for example, this piece at The Hill.

Whispers are growing louder among Republicans that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has miscalculated in his battle with Disney — a struggle that has already gone on for more than a year and has no end in sight.

There are real dangers, they say, of his fight with the corporation becoming a distraction from his likely presidential campaign — and one that could make him seem petty and vindictive rather than strong or decisive.

Despite the fact many polls suggest GOP voters are sympathetic to DeSantis’s war on “wokeness” in general, there are also concerns among conservatives about a powerful elected official targeting a specific company for political reasons.

There are some inherent problems with the overall framing here, as noted on Twitter, because no actual Republicans go on the record.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is also bemoaning the lawsuit, describing it as an escalation in a fight both sides seem set to lose.


The Governor’s best defense is that the state has a right to rescind special privileges that it once granted to Disney, which is true. Corporate welfare and favoritism for some businesses but not others is an unseemly political habit. The legal difficulty is that Republicans appear to have targeted Disney and abrogated contracts for political reasons.

Disney’s denunciation of Florida’s education law was gratuitous, but so are Mr. DeSantis’s threats of retribution. The lawsuit doesn’t paint the Governor in the best light, and he will get a black eye as he runs for President if Disney prevails in its lawsuit.

But why is Disney CEO Bob Iger escalating the fight when he has bigger business problems? Millions of his customers—i.e., parents—don’t appreciate the company’s woke turn, which may be one reason that subscriber growth for its Disney+ streaming service is flagging. In this fiscal year’s first quarter, Disney+ reported its first subscriber loss. Mr. Iger said in February the company would slash 7,000 jobs. How will battling Florida’s Governor boost Disney’s profits?

The idea appears to be that a prolonged battle will doom DeSantis or both DeSantis and Disney, but there is no speculation that it is just bad for Disney. Every scenario people are imagining is premised on the idea that DeSantis has gone too far and it’s just a matter of whether or not he takes Disney down with him at this point.


Once again, everyone seems to think that DeSantis is finished before he even started. And once again, it is far more likely that the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

You can argue, I think to a degree honestly, that DeSantis might have been a bit too aggressive in going after Disney. But it’s not as though this is a battle that will have lasting political ramifications for DeSantis. If anything, this lawsuit does something that benefits him: It shows the base that he’s a fighter and he’s pissing off all the wrong people. To them, he’s clearly over the target.

If the goal is to get ready for a primary, then the goal has to be to appeal to the conservative base – particularly the ones that Trump still has in his thrall. The best way to do that is to show that not only are you capable of fighting, but that the left is willing to keep going after you for it.

The goal of this particular primary is to break Trump’s hold over the Republican base. In order to do that, you have to appeal to them. That makes Nikki Haley’s comments after the lawsuit was filed pretty bizarre.

In this clip, Haley is positioning herself as a pro-business Republican. But those are a dime a dozen and the people who will golf clap these comments are not the people she needs – they’re largely already anti-Trump and getting their support doesn’t reduce Trump’s share of the base. If we’re assuming that every candidate is in the race to win it, rather than in it to audition for a Vice Presidential role (or some other Cabinet position), then Haley is clearly miscalculating.


But DeSantis is not.

Disney filing a lawsuit against DeSantis is almost an in-kind donation. It helps him with the Republican base in ways that you can’t get through ad buys alone. It’s also weakens Trump’s support among his base because he’s siding with the big, woke corporation. That’s going to mean something.

You’re absolutely foolish if you think this is somehow the end for DeSantis.

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