By RICH LOWRY
Just like that, tyranny descended on Florida.
The state Legislature, with the support of Governor Ron DeSantis, voted to repeal the “special independent district” that Disney has enjoyed for half a century.
It’s a sign, we’re told, of the rise of an American authoritarianism that tolerates no dissent — Disney criticizes a Florida GOP-backed measure, the so-called Don’t Say Gay Bill, and is immediately targeted.
There’s a reason this fight has escalated to this point, though. Disney was the aggressor in the battle over the education bill, lied about it and pledged to work to repeal it.
Even if the bill had nothing to do with Disney, nothing to do with its product, its business model or its employees. The company was pushed into its position due to pressure from a woke segment of its employees and outside progressives.
Disney’s case against the bill rested on the defamation that the legislation somehow threatened gay or trans people. In fact, the law is simply intended to exclude inappropriate material from teaching young children in the classroom – a goal that would once have been considered quite commonplace.
“Classroom instruction,” the law says, “by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place from kindergarten through 3rd grade or in any way that does not is not appropriate for the age or development of students in accordance with state standards. ”
Based on this, Disney went to mattresses. And it did so, not to serve its shareholders, improve its profitability, protect its intellectual property, or align itself with its vast and politically diverse customer base.
It was, shockingly, an iconic American brand turning into a wavering weapon of woke cultural politics in response to the social and political influence of a small number of vocal progressives.
Like so many companies before, Disney calculated the risk/reward of engaging in left-wing political and cultural combat for free and viewed everything as a reward, no risk. The Florida legislature decided to convince her that she was wrong.
Republicans have dreamed of revenge against woke corporations before, but to no avail. Disney’s problem is that he had a glaring vulnerability in the form of an arrangement that can easily be described as a special favor.
Provisions for Disney to govern itself in its Special Independent District are so extensive that one analyst refers to the so-called Reedy Creek Improvement District as “the mouse-eared Vatican”.
“Never before or since has such extravagant dominance been given to private corporation,” notes Florida writer Carl Hiaasen in his book “Team Rodent.” “Disney has its own utilities. It administers its own planning and zoning. It composes its own building codes and employs its own inspectors. It maintains its own fire department. It even has the power to levy taxes.
For good measure, he can build his own airport and his own nuclear power plant.
Now, all of that should be gone in a year. Obviously, it is not good practice for the government to retaliate against any company, even one with special status.
This fight could have some welcome effects, however, if it convinces Disney that it made a mistake in allowing itself to be bullied and cajoled into becoming a fighter in the culture war, or if it convinces other companies that there is has a potential price to pay joining woke crowds.
Republicans don’t want corporations to become tools to advance their agenda; they just want them to get out of the culture wars and focus, once again, on their business, an outcome that would at least lower the temperature in the country’s cultural struggles a little.
Ideally, Disney and the Florida Legislature work out a renewal of the company’s Special District before it expires, and the House of Mouse — and other corporations beguiled into making themselves de facto left-wing lobby groups — decide to go. stick to its core competence and mission.
Rich Lowery is editor of National Review, a leading conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley.