Considering Ron DeSantis? You May Want To Back Down
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Polls have two-thirds crying ¡No más! to a second helping of Trump/Biden.Still, most of us don't care about the feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney. This is puzzling, since he’s the most likely alternative.After initially closing schools during the pandemic, DeSantis quickly resumed in-person schooling, Trump's whining notwithstanding. Grateful parents helped reelect DeSantis by nearly 20 percent.

DeSantis also addressed disturbing aspects of the curriculum parents had witnessed on their computer screens while their children were taught remotely -- by signing the Parental Rights in Education Act.That law -- smeared by Disney as Don't Say Gay -- prohibits including sexual orientation or gender identity in classes from kindergarten through fourth grade. Curtailing instruction to which a solid majority of parents object is an imperfect, but hardly unreasonable solution.Shortly after DeSantis signed his measure into law and declared victory, Disney decided to publicly criticize it.This is not unusual. Companies like Chick-fil-A and Ben and Jerry's frequently promote political views. They're exercising their property and free speech rights.But according to DeSantis, Disney had been pressured by activist ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investors to oppose the law, raising the possibility that the company was being coerced.How? Many states with large public pension funds, like California, engage in ESG at the behest of government officials, instead of maximizing returns. That is, they wrongly use retirement funds without the knowledge or consent of retirees to promote ideas those retirees may not agree with. In the process, they're turning corporations into political sock-puppets.DeSantis had a golden opportunity to make this clear. He could have also touted his own rule calling for Florida's state investors to maximize returns.Biden was wide open to an attack. His Labor Department (with ESG in mind) says investment managers don't have to invest "solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries."However, instead of raising these issues properly while acknowledging Disney's free speech rights, DeSantis dismissed the 50-year-old Reedy Creek legal structure that enticed Walt Disney to move to Florida as “corporate welfare.” Then he hastily undid it in the name of making a "level playing field."Next, he clumsily backtracked to spare taxpayers Disney's debt and put cronies in charge of what had been Reedy Creek -- only to be foiled from running the resorts by a legal maneuver.This terrible precedent wasn't just a ham-handed attack against a political opponent, it was a blown opportunity to argue that he could vastly improve Florida's climate for all businesses.DeSantis asks, if you're a libertarian, how do you justify Reedy Creek? In fact, that's his question to answer. If government respected the right of property owners to do what they wished, so long as it harmed no one, there would be no need for Disney to go through government to do what it needs to run its business, like financing and building its own infrastructure.Reedy Creek wasn't corporate welfare; it was one business's makeshift partial substitute for the freedom any business should enjoy. Rather than preen about Disney's "privileges," the governor should have proposed recognizing everyone's rights.And now DeSantis wants to replace it with a gag for Disney's political expression. How is this better than ESG, other than being easier to spot?DeSantis paints this quagmire as victory and brags that Florida is where "woke goes to die," while threatening the very freedom he claims to uphold.DeSantis's intriguing qualities -- a willingness to defy Trump and teachers' unions alike and legislative success -- are memorialized by the name of his super-PAC: "Never Back Down."This mess shows that DeSantis and his supporters should reconsider that motto.DeSantis says When you lose your way, you've got to have people that are going to tell you the truth.The words sound like an encapsulation of the value of free speech -- but they refer to his appointed cronies ordering Disney around. And DeSantis said them while apparently in the process of punishing a company for actually trying to do it!If there has ever been a time to back down -- be it for a man blowing one golden opportunity after another to fight for freedom or for those of us wishing we could improve upon the last two presidents, this is it.If you think DeSantis is a better choice than Trump or Biden, think again, and heaven help us either way.

Gus Van Horn frequently writes for Pajamas Media and Capitalism Magazine, plus he has his own eponmyous blog

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