If DeSantis cared to frame the lines of disagreement more honestly, his staffers might declare that, as they see it, progressive educators are wrong about what instruction is age-appropriate for kids, or are acculturating kids into contested, incorrect views of what gender is, or are advancing progressive assumptions about sexual orientation when traditionalist assumptions would be better. Almost anything would be more honest than implying their opponents are would-be molesters, a tactic that can only degrade the ability of Americans to debate this subject.
The Disney Connection
Due to Disney’s stature in both the state of Florida and the children’s-entertainment industry, the company has been drawn into the controversy over the Florida bill, angering people on both sides of the matter. Democrats sometimes express concern about the idea of corporations using their clout to intervene in politics, but in this controversy they had the opposite complaint, as my colleague Ronald Brownstein explained last month:
The refusal of the Walt Disney Company, one of Florida’s most powerful employers, to publicly criticize Florida’s “Don’t Say ‘Gay’” bill as it moved through the legislature has quickly come to symbolize a retreat from the loud public opposition that many companies expressed to earlier state initiatives restricting civil liberties, such as the “bathroom bill” North Carolina Republicans approved in 2016.
Even more notable is the breadth of that sentiment
Across the broad range of socially conservative initiatives that Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and the GOP state legislature have advanced since 2021, business has been “silent, silent as fuck, they are so silent,” says Florida Democratic State Representative Anna Eskamani, echoing a complaint I heard across several states from Democrats and civil-rights advocates this week. “Businesses have other priorities, which impact their bottom line and their profits, and they view that as more important.”
Chapek’s silence over the bill led to complaints, protests and walk-outs across the Magic Kingdom. Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said that they were “disappointed, hurt, afraid and angry.” Fund manager Ross Gerber tweeted that Chapek is the “worst” leader of Disney he can remember and called for a “CEO with a moral compass.” A chastened Chapek is now trying to save his leadership with a combination of groveling apologies (“you needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”) and escalating promises to do better in future …
But the more Chapek apologizes and pledges, the more he infuriates conservatives. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, lustily lays into the hapless CEO. “The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students, and back down from my commitment to parents rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations, the chances of that are zero,” he said in a recent campaign video.
Republicans are doubling down on the law in part because at least some polls suggest that the issue is a huge political winner. The Wall Street Journal put it this way in a recent editorial:
Polite opinion is almost unanimously against, but open your ears to the vox populi. “When Americans are presented with the actual language of the new Florida law, it wins support by more than a two-to-one margin.” That’s from a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies.
Democratic voters in the poll support the law 55% to 29%. Among suburban voters, which could be a decisive group for the midterm elections, it’s 60% to 30%. Parents: 67% to 24%. Biden voters: 53% to 30%. Respondents who “know someone LGBTQ”: 61% to 28%. Those figures might come as a shock to Florida’s progressive activists, including those who happen to work at Walt Disney.