Did Ron DeSantis bungle his war with Disney? After the Florida governor and probable presidential candidate tried to replace the governing council of Walt Disney World with a board of his own choosing, it appeared that Disney managed to outfox the governor. Does this bode poorly for DeSantis’ endless culture war, not to mention his presidential hopes?
What We Know: Ron DeSantis vs. Disney
Earlier this year, in retaliation for Disney’s decision to speak out against his “Don’t Say Gay” law, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the state control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This special district has long comprised Walt Disney World, and given the Walt Disney Co. an unusual amount of autonomy.
DeSantis stacked the board with political activists and donors to his own campaigns and even implied that the board might try to have a say in which attractions would be featured at Disney World’s parks.
“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said at a press conference in February to announce the move. “There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.”
However, it appeared that DeSantis’ move was for naught because, as CNN reported last month, Disney reached an agreement before the takeover with the previous board. Under that deal, the report said, “Disney would maintain control over much of its vast footprint in Central Florida for 30 years and, in some cases, the board can’t take significant action without first getting approval from the company.”
The deal also prevented the new board from using any Disney-owned “fanciful characters,” and also made that valid until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England.”
Disney issued a separate statement after the deal.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law.”
Ron DeSantis Decleares War on Mickey Mouse?
DeSantis has since sought to void that agreement and also considered retaliatory matters, including hotel taxes and tolls.
“Come hell or high water, we’re going to make sure that the policy of Florida carries the day,” the governor said last week in a speech at Hillsdale College. “And so they can keep trying to do things. But ultimately we’re going to win on every single issue involving Disney, I can tell you that.”
Per the Orlando Sentinel, Democratic lawmakers in the state have accused DeSantis of putting politics ahead of what is right.
“It’s hitting a point of absurdity,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani told the newspaper. “It is not creating an even playing field. It’s about DeSantis looking big and bad next to Disney.”
The Next Battle
What’s next? A possible court battle, with DeSantis having retained multiple firms. But it also raises questions about DeSantis’ presidential hopes, as a politician who has spoken frequently about getting wins and putting “points on the board.”
Recent polls have shown that in spite of, or perhaps because of, former President Trump’s recent criminal indictment, DeSantis has fallen further behind, even before formally declaring a presidential run.
The most recent Morning Consult measure of race found that Donald Trump has 55 percent of Republican support, compared to DeSantis with 26 percent. Former Vice President Mike Pence is in third place with 7 percent, followed by former Ambassador Nikki Haley with 4 percent and former Congresswoman Liz Cheney with 2 percent. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Tim Scott are at 1 percent, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy clock in at zero percent.
Of those candidates, only Trump, Haley, and Ramaswamy have declared their candidacies, although several others, including DeSantis, are expected to enter the race in the coming weeks and months. The shape of the race may very well change once they do, but for now, DeSantis appears far behind.
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.