Governor DeSantis: Control your inner Captain Ahab
Moby-Dick is a novel published in 1852, by Herman Melville, an American writer. The cautionary tale is narrated by a lone survivor, Ishmael, who relates the obsession of the captain of the whaling ship Pequod, Captain Ahab.
During an earlier voyage, a humongous whale chomped off Captain Ahab's leg from the knee. On a subsequent voyage, which is the subject of Ishmael's narrative, Captain Ahab appears on deck and issues a challenge to all the crew assembled. He explains he is seeking revenge against the whale whose vicious attack caused him to wear a prosthesis leg. He promises a gold coin, a doubloon, to the first sailor who spots the whale.
After months of bad omens, including a typhoon and many deaths aboard the Pequod, Ahab himself spies the whale and claims the doubloon. However, the whale also appears to be seeking revenge.
All the smaller boats that are lowered to kill the whale are destroyed by it. In the exchange, Ahab loses his fake leg, and the remaining crew beg him to stop. Ahab refuses. Ultimately, the whale attacks the Pequod and destroys it.
Ahab throws a harpoon at the whale but gets entangled in some lines, is pulled out to sea by the whale, and drowns. Ishmael, having been thrown from the boat, is rescued to tell the tale — the only survivor.
Governor DeSantis's war with the Disney Corporation may not end well for him — of course, not by being pulled under the sea, but by losing the Republican candidacy for president. For this is not a tug of war between Camp Disney and Camp Anti-Disney. Yes, it may be a war well fought about the rights of parents versus the sickening overreach of the liberal left attempting illegally to usurp parental rights.
But it is also about the rights of corporations not to be singled out and threatened, bullied, or legally persecuted for political revenge by an elected official.
Yes, this is a tough case. There is a genuine fear of a huge progressive push in the United States to normalize the grooming of ever-younger children for adult sexual activity. But the special arrangement that Disney has or had with the State of Florida was legally sanctioned by legislative action.
In the 1960s, Walt and Roy Disney wanted to expand their company and create a huge entertainment center in Florida. The land they discovered with sufficient acreage was a remote area of pasture and swamp land in Orange and Oceala Counties. The nearest water and power hook-ups were ten to fifteen miles away. Neither county had sufficient resources to support the project.
The Florida Legislature worked with the Disneys and created the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) in 1967. It was signed into law by then-governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. The law granted Disney self-governing rights akin to a county of over forty-seven square miles. However, Disney still had to pay state and federal taxes and open its elevators to state inspection. It also had to provide for and pay for all municipal services — paving roads, creating and paying for fire and police departments, developing and maintaining all buildings, building and maintaining infrastructure and improvements on 134 miles of roadways and 67 miles of waterways. Most importantly, citizens living in the area did not have to pay for anything.
What has the State of Florida received in return? Seven hundred eighty million dollars in state and local taxes in 2021 alone, 250 thousand visitors attending the area daily, creating jobs for 2,000 vendors and 75,000 employees.
So what happened? In February 2022, the Florida Legislature was considering passing new legislation called the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, which would prohibit discussions of sexual orientation in early grades, kindergarten through third grade. Bob Iger, Disney's über-successful past president, didn't like the legislation and opined that the bill would hurt young "LGBTQ" people. Governor DeSantis was not happy.
In April 2022, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor DeSantis signed the act that repealed the Reedy Creek Improvement District and replaced it with an entity entitled the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Committee. The Board was filled with colleagues of DeSantis. The transfer fully goes into effect in June 2023. Moreover, he has threatened to build a new prison right next to the parks.
Interestingly, in addition to overturning Disney's deal with Florida, which has developed part of the state and brought untold wealth, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law that allows DeSantis to remain as Florida's governor while simultaneously running for the U.S. presidency.
Unlike the brouhaha with a beer commercial, where the offending company has lost millions, Disney World does not appear to have lost business. It has now sued DeSantis for interference with business contracts and retribution against a corporation that disagrees with his views.
DeSantis has not just offended the LGBT community. The NAACP has issued a warning against travel to Florida. DeSantis, who has been viewed as a possible presidential candidate instead of presumptive leader Donald Trump, cannot afford to play into the identity policy tricks of the Democrat party. Nor should he allow his pique to mirror that of Captain Ahab.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 license.