The Walt Disney Company sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for “weaponizing government power” and violating the company’s constitutional rights on April 26. With the 2024 presidential election right around the corner, this lawsuit will be of monumental importance during DeSantis’ campaign, given that he is one of the projected Republican candidates. Disney holds a strong case that indicates that DeSantis misused government authority and exercised unlawful punishment of free speech. As voters, it’s crucial for us to pay attention to the evidence Disney brings forward. If you haven’t already been convinced that DeSantis is unfit to be the president, this should do it.
DeSantis is known for his conservative legislation such as a 6-week abortion ban and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which severely limits the instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida public schools. DeSantis’ right-wing legislation has drawn immense criticism and opposition, particularly from Democrats. However, after the bill was passed in March of last year, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek expressed his public disapproval of the “Don’t Say Gay’’ measure. Disney’s condemnation of DeSantis’ agenda sparked a yearlong dispute that constrained the company’s autonomy.
In response to Disney’s criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, DeSantis punished the company by restricting the authority of Disney’s special tax district. Disney’s tax district, known as The Randy Creek Improvement District, was established to foster economic development and tourism for the theme park by allowing Disney to appoint their own board members who can authorize major projects. Disney’s unique status has enabled them to self-govern on matters involving theme park construction and expansion in Orlando, Florida. However, this is no longer the case. Florida’s lawmakers signed a law authorizing the governor of Florida to appoint his own members to the board and replace existing ones, allowing the state of Florida to seize control of the district and manage Disney’s operations.
DeSantis even admits using political revenge against Disney in a speech last August, arguing that the company’s viewpoints didn’t align with the “values in the state of Florida.” The use of government authority to politically retaliate is a grave abuse of power, especially in light of the potential of his presidency, which would give him significantly more power. Voters should expect DeSantis’ behavior to worsen on a national scale if he exhibits power-crazed behavior at the state level.
Taxpayer money is currently being used to create Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Meanwhile, DeSantis uses unlawful strategies to get political revenge against Disney, a major contributor to Florida’s economy. This demonstrates that DeSantis would rather prioritize his right-wing ideals over the state’s interests. DeSantis is only interested in proving a point no matter the expense to taxpayers. This is exceedingly dangerous to see in a potential Republican contender in a country where presidents are expected to put country before party. Instead of considering constituency interests, the governor is throwing a fit because a company does not share his opinions.
As if stripping the company’s autonomy wasn’t enough, DeSantis has also threatened the Disney corporation with additional consequences if they continue to resist governmental interference. DeSantis has suggested building a prison next to the Orlando theme park or a rival theme park. Government leaders should not exhibit this behavior, treating the hard-earned money of taxpayers frivolously. Voters who share a concern over government spending should closely observe how DeSantis carelessly talks about spending taxpayer money. When a case like this arises, we must consider how candidates handle their position of power in light of the upcoming presidential elections.
The lengths DeSantis will go to in order to enforce his far-right ideologies are evident in his conflict with Disney. Voters are responsible for ending DeSantis’ campaign in the presidential primaries in order to prevent him from abusing national authority. DeSantis has already abused his position of authority at the state level. We should not give him the opportunity to do so on a national level.
Zahira Vasquez is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.