In a recent appearance on CNN, the opinion editor of Florida’s Sun Sentinel, Steve Bousquet, discussed why he believes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is going to lose his battle with Disney.
In the latest installment of the DeSantis/Disney saga, the entertainment company sued DeSantis for “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” in response to the company criticizing his infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law. The new district board appointed by DeSantis to oversee Disney’s operations then voted in favor of counter-suing, though no one has revealed on what grounds.
On CNN, Bousquet explained that DeSantis’s behavior is not playing well with Florida voters.
“I think it’s slowly taking hold… It’s gonna hurt Ron DeSantis because you can’t think of a corporate entity in Florida with a more wholesome image than Disney. In addition, Ron Desanits’s MO in his four years as governor… is to basically bully people into submission, and he’s been very effective at that. Here’s a case where Disney – a big powerful respected institution – is pushing back forcefully.”
He continued, “People who have had concerns about the way DeSantis is running the state are gratified to see somebody really push back strongly against this governor.”
Bousquet was accompanied by CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, who said DeSantis is shifting further and further to the right and is acting “more like a culture warrior than a coalition builder.”
“It looks like a governor who is really strong-arming a business because of what they said, and I think all of this is just not sitting well, and you see it in his poll numbers… This is not how you start a presidential campaign.”
DeSantis has not yet announced a presidential run, but it is widely believed he will be running in the 2024 election.
“If you’re gonna pick a fight with someone or an organization this large and you’re not gonna win, it belittles you and makes you look smaller politically,” said Zelizer, adding that DeSantis’s vendetta against the House of Mouse is “distracting” and “consuming everything.”
Bousquet also said that he has a feeling Disney’s lawsuit against DeSantis is going to end up in court – and that it won’t go well for DeSantis.
“Disney has bottomless pockets… This is a First Amendment case and as Disney argues in its court filings, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind. I think if Disney keeps the focus on the First Amendment issues, they might be on solid legal ground… There’s a whole long paper trail of Ron Desantis making statements that appear to be retaliatory in nature against Disney, and that’s a violation of Disney’s right to protective speech.”
Every since Disney released a statement opposing Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law, DeSantis has continuously and publicly criticized the company, calling it an “unaccountable Corporate Kingdom” that had “extraordinary special privileges.”
In addition to stripping Disney of control over its special tax district under which it has operated for years, DeSantis has threatened to build a prison next to Disney and called for state oversight of Disney World’s rides. Florida Republicans also threatened to tax Disney’s hotels and impose tolls on roads that lead into Disney World and shut down its famous 15-mile monorail.
DeSantis signed a bill abolishing Disney’s self-governance over its district in February. The bill also allowed him to create a five-member board (appointed by him) to oversee government services in Disney’s district. However, his board appointees quickly learned that the previous board snuck in a last-minute development agreement with Disney, allowing it to maintain much of its autonomy, rendering the new board rather powerless for decades.
Last Wednesday, DeSantis’ board voted to dissolve Disney’s development agreement. “Within minutes” of the board’s vote, Disney filed its lawsuit against DeSantis, his board, and other state government officials in federal court.
In its lawsuit, Disney said its had “exhausted efforts to seek a resolution” with Florida Republicans, leaving Disney “no choice but to file this lawsuit.” The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the Republicans’ actions against Disney and also legal costs connected to the suit. The case has been assigned to Judge Mark Walker, an appointee of former President Barack Obama (D).
Republicans are increasingly turning on DeSantis, and despite his efforts to position himself for a presidential run, his unrelenting vendetta against Disney has lost him support across the board. To many, he has become nothing more than the butt of a joke.
As Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell recently wrote, “Donald Trump is pounding on him like a bass drum. Donors are running away. And most mainstream Americans are either confused by or put off by his constant culture-warring.”