Editor’s Commentary: One does not have to be a fan of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to appreciate what his administration is doing to Disney. They are taking away the special privileges granted to Disney all those decades ago, privileges that have empowered the woke company to stay as woke as possible.
Now that repercussions are coming, will they keep their woke agenda in play? Yes, but hopefully not as gleefully.
On today’s episode of The JD Rucker Show, I discussed what DeSantis is doing and why his model is the one all conservative governors, mayors, and legislators should adopt. The fight against the plague of corporate wokeness can only be halted if the people organize opposition. Politicians like DeSantis are making it easier by getting out of our way. Here’s the article by Charlotte Allen from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times breaking it all down…
Disney’s Florida Fiasco: The Pitfalls of ‘Woke Capitalism’
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving forward with his plan to remove the special legal status that has allowed Walt Disney World to operate for more than 50 years as an autonomous government entity, free of nearly all state and local oversight and with the power to levy its own tax-free municipal bonds.
A Jan. 6 announcement on the website of Florida’s Osceola County, where part of Disney’s resort empire is located, stated that a bill pending in the Florida legislature would transfer to a state-controlled board the governance of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Disney-controlled public entity that has run Disney World since it opened its gates as a theme park in 1971. The bill follows the Florida legislature’s overwhelming approval in April 2022 of a measure that is set to dissolve, as of June 1 of this year, the self-governing arrangement complete with tax breaks the legislature had created for Disney in 1967 as an incentive for Disney to choose central Florida for its East Coast operations.
“Disney will … live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes,” a DeSantis spokesman said.
Disney seems to be paying the price—a steep one—for its fatal mistake of jumping onto what has been called the “woke capitalism” bandwagon that has captivated much of corporate America in recent years. In Disney’s case, it was Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek’s vow to help repeal a Florida parental-rights law enacted in March, dubbed by its opponents the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” that forbids classroom instruction or discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity for youngsters below fourth grade in public schools. Chapek pledged that Disney would donate $5 million to organizations working to undo the law or have it overturned in court.
Until not long ago, American businesses shied away from taking sides on controversial issues, especially controversial social issues such as abortion, radical feminism, and LGBT causes. They were reluctant to alienate portions of their customer base with strong feelings one way or the other.
But then, toward the end of the last decade, many companies did an abrupt about-face. It might have been an effort to appeal to Millennial and Zoomer potential customers said to be hyper-alert to progressive social-justice concerns—or to pressure from the corporations’ own woke employees. One of the frontrunners was Nike, which in 2018 launched an ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, who, as a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, had “taken a knee” as a protest against perceived racism instead of standing during the performance of the national anthem. Sales of Nike’s sportswear jumped 31 percent, despite a threatened Nike boycott. In 2019 Gillette tried to boost its razor sales by attacking “toxic masculinity” and embracing the #MeToo movement.
Furthermore, it seemed as though corporations could—or at least were willing to—cause real economic damage to states that bucked the woke agenda.
In 2016, North Carolina enacted a “bathroom bill” that requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex. The NBA relocated its 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte, and major businesses such as Dow Chemical, Bank of America, and American Airlines issued condemnations. Other states considering similar restroom legislation seemed to back off.
In 2021, Georgia enacted an anti-voting fraud law requiring potential voters to present photo identification at the ballot box. After progressives denounced the law as racist, Major League Baseball moved its own All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver, while some 100 corporations, including Target, Uber, and PayPal, signed a letter of protest.
Disney’s problem in Florida is that, unlike other corporations doing business in the state, it stands to lose far more than it might have gained from Chapek’s dragging it into the political fray. During the early 1960s, Walt Disney, using dummy corporations, had bought up around 40 square miles in central Florida’s Osceola and Orange counties, much of it swampland useless even for agriculture. He offered the state a deal: Disney would provide infrastructure—roads, utilities, water, sanitation, police and fire services—for the huge tract in return for Reedy Creek’s nearly complete autonomy, which included the power to levy its own taxes and exemptions from zoning and building codes. It was an arrangement that critics over the years have decried as egregious corporate welfare unavailable to Disney’s competitors in the theme-park, resort, and cruise businesses in Florida. And it was an arrangement that the state legislature could revoke at any time—as it seems to be doing now.
Chapek, to his credit, declined to get Disney involved in the “Don’t Say Gay” controversy as the parental-rights bill moved through the legislature and to DeSantis’s desk last spring. That infuriated a large swathe of Disney employees, who signed an open letter demanding that Disney “regain the trust of the LGBTQIA+ community and employees” and staged a series of protests and walkouts. That was when Chapek capitulated, provoking DeSantis and a Republican-dominated legislature irritated at corporate interference with in-state politics to move to pull Disney’s special legal status. The new state-oversight bill announced on Jan. 6 would try to ensure that nearly $1 billion in outstanding Reedy Creek bond debt doesn’t fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers if the district is dissolved.
In November, Chapek resigned amid tumbling Disney stock prices as some of its film ventures into wokeness failed at the box office. He was replaced by his predecessor, Bob Iger, who had presided over soaring Disney profits from 2005 to 2020. Iger’s more diplomatic presence may soften relations between Disney and Florida’s Republicans—although there are no signs yet that DeSantis will backtrack.
But the real lesson of the Disney debacle may be one that other companies seem to be gradually learning: While it may make for good press among progressives and the liberal media to jump in on the woke side of high-profile social issues, interfering with localities’ efforts to solve their own political problems can exact a high cost.
When the Supreme Court issued its controversial Dobbs decision last June, returning abortion to state and local regulation, more than 90 percent of U.S. corporations and nonprofit entities declined to take a public stance, according to a Conference Board survey. This seems a healthy development: leaving politics to the people who have an actual stake in them.