Ron DeSantis on Winning Today's Culture Wars
It's not often we quote The New Yorker, but a recent article by Benjamin Wallace-Wells dissecting the passage of Florida's "Stop woke Act" included a lot of worthwhile information on how and why Florida's principled limited government constitutional conservative Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is taking on - and winning -- the culture wars in his state.
And in recounting his role in the battle with Democrats and “woke” corporations, such as the Walt Disney Company, conservative activist Christopher Rufo told Mr. Wallace-Wells that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the most courageous and effective politician in the United States today.
The central reasons why DeSantis is so effective are his willingness to engage in confrontation with the “woke” Left and his mastery of the political communications tools necessary to win those confrontations, even when polls would discourage a weaker leader.
For example, one nonpartisan poll conducted by the University of Florida found forty per cent of voters in favor and forty-nine per cent opposed to the Parental Rights in Education or “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But another, by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, found a wildly different result: sixty-one per cent in favor and twenty-nine per cent opposed.
Quoting Nate Hochman of National Review who argued that figures like DeSantis, Rufo, and Tucker Carlson are building a new brand of social conservatism, one that has risen from the ashes of, and materially departed from, the religious themes of a generation ago, Mr. Wallace-Wells suggests, “Instead of an explicitly biblical focus on issues like school prayer, no-fault divorce and homosexuality, the new coalition is focused on questions of national identity, social integrity and political alienation,” Hochman wrote. “We are just beginning to see its impact. The anti-critical-race-theory laws, anti-transgender laws and parental rights bills that have swept the country in recent years are the movement’s opening shots.”
Wallace-Wells critically recounts the DeSantis branding effort this way:
In such a situation, the particular steps that DeSantis took were important. One was obvious from afar: he and his allies described their political opponents not just as leftists, but as “groomers”—a watchword deployed to suggest that the Democratic Party is somehow complicit in pedophilia. On March 4th, while debates were still under way, DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted, “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.” In an official statement, DeSantis celebrated the bill’s signing by saying, in part, that parents “should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”
Wallace-Wells gives Democrats a fair amount of ink in an effort to refute the charge that they are aiding and abetting the grooming of children by pedophiles through such events as drag queen story hour, but in the end, he has to give grudging respect to DeSantis’s strategy:
DeSantis made a second significant move during the debate over the bill, one that Rufo in particular emphasized: the Governor escalated. The C.E.O. of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Chapek, told shareholders during an annual meeting early in March that he opposed the bill and had called DeSantis to say so; DeSantis retaliated with a new bill that stripped Disney (Central Florida’s largest taxpayer) of certain special legislative benefits that it had enjoyed since its establishment, a half century ago. “At the time, I remember some conversation, ‘Oh, DeSantis will never be able to vanquish Disney, Disney’s too powerful, too beloved,’ and at the time Disney had a seventy-seven per cent favorability rating with the public,” Rufo told me. He credited the Florida Governor with two insights: “A, that the bill is popular, and B, that though Disney is an economic and cultural power, it is really a novice political power, and, as many people are saying lean out of it, he leans into the fight, I think, brilliantly.”
We think Mr. Wallace-Wells missed some key points, probably available only through local knowledge, that many Floridians don’t see the Walt Disney Company as the universally beloved as the home of family entertainment.
First, there was Disney’s much-criticized firing of American workers who were forced to train their foreign replacements. Second, there has been long running criticism of Disney for hosting “gay days” at the theme park, rendering it virtually unusable by families who were disgusted by the rampant public homoerotic displays that became part of the allegedly family friendly venue’s calendar.
But in the larger scheme of things it isn’t that DeSantis identified a new corporate boogey man, it is that he identified a visceral fear of many of today’s parents who are faced with school teachers and administrators grooming their children.
As Mr. Wallace-Wells wrote:
Rufo had been a central figure in that fight, but as he watched the conflicts in local districts unfold he came to think that, for the conservative base, the pull of racial issues paled in comparison to those that invoked gender. “Put yourself in the shoes of an average parent,” Rufo told me. “You’re looking at critical race theory and thinking, The maximum damage that can be done is that my child will be taught that America is a racist country. Perhaps if it’s a white family, our skin color will be called into question as some sort of marker of oppression. But really it’s limited to an intellectual plane. There’s a ceiling on it.” With gender, he went on, there was “essentially no ceiling”—the emotional reaction was “much more visceral and deep-seated.”
Rufo recounted a story that he said he’d heard from a mother on the Upper East Side, who told him that her daughter was transitioning, with the help of an online community, and felt that this community “had essentially taken her away from me.” The mother, he said, told him that she knew half a dozen other Upper East Side parents with similar stories. “It’s not just that we’re going to teach your child that the country is evil,” he went on. “It’s really the fear—and I think the legitimate fear—that my child will essentially be recruited into a new identity.”
It's not often we quote The New Yorker, but in this case Benjamin Wallace-Wells has given us a clarion call to continue the culture wars and a good summary of why Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is the consummate field marshal to lead conservatives to victory in them.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Critical Race Theory
Walt Disney Company
Disney gay days