The Battle of Reedy Creek


The Battle of Reedy Creek could be the Gettysburg of America’s Culture War Crusades.

Today, in the first wave of the battle, the Florida Senate dutifully passed General Robert E. DeSantis’ demands to attack and dismantle Disney land holdings in Orlando.

Even for Floridians, Reedy Creek is obscure; a small and strange legal fiction created by the state of Florida for Walt Disney World in 1972. It was a totally esoteric holdover in state law until the governor. Ron DeSantis has set his sights on breaking Disney at his will.

DeSantis’ attack on Disney will cost Florida taxpayers at least $2 billion, and residents of the two counties where Disney resides an average of $2,200 more per household per year in local property taxes. DeSantis is working hard to kill Central Florida’s tourism goose.

This stunt is about giving DeSantis more ammunition in his nonstop culture war as he prepares for the primary donald trump in 2024, and the Florida Legislature has covered itself in infamy for playing its game. Just as Republicans in Washington lived in terror of Trump’s horde, Republicans in the Florida House and Senate live in terror. scared of DeSantis and his crowd, including those who hang around on taxpayer money.

As America’s hottest new Trump-missing dictator-curious, DeSantis signed an instantly notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill this spring as part of his fledgling 2024 presidential campaign. the Republican moral panic and trolling operations (but repeating myself), this was divisive legislative arson presented as a response to an imaginary threat.

Through the incessant tweets and declarations of Christina Pushawhis most crucial strategic adviser, DeSantis characterized any opposition to the bill as that of “groomers” and “pedophiles” out to abuse Florida children.

Having abandoned all of their previous ideological predicates under Trump and yielding to the sweet seductions of the pursuit of absolute power, today’s GOP believes in nothing and, therefore, can convert any issue into a campaign weapon… more he is sinister and conspiratorial, the better.

DeSantis has been a hugely successful fundraiser from corporate titans like Disney. They think they bought a relationship, as it has been done since time immemorial. Executives at those companies felt that giving DeSantis campaign contributions would buy his favor. Disney thought so too.

Disney was wrong, and DeSantis’ major backers are also wrong. They don’t know it yet.

With an authoritarian tyrant, the old transactional dance with corporations, super PACs and right-wing politicians is over. Disney’s decades-long massive investment in Florida’s GOP hasn’t bought them anything.

If you’re a major DeSantis or Florida GOP donor, you’re fine…until you’re not. You’re best friends…until you’re sworn enemies. DeSantis is a radical populist, and the growling, seething hatred stirred up in his base by the agitprop machine over anything and everyone who disagrees with the Dear Leader’s plans is his only real weapon.

Republican leaders have at least once spoken good pieties about the free market, freedom of speech, and keeping government outside the wheels of private enterprise. Today, the message is just the opposite. Government control over speech, internal policies and corporate behavior is precisely what DeSantis’ assault on Disney’s rather innocuous objections to his “Don’t Say Gay” bill represents.

DeSantis and Co-Governor Pushaw understand that the big unwashed MAGA masses would much rather hear from Ron DeSantis, warrior against the vast and dangerous – and imaginary — army of pedophile groomers, rather than seeing DeSantis respect the free speech rights of a company and its executives. As much as Florida Republicans bleat about the imagined threat of communism — which exists almost entirely in college dorm bullshit sessions and the sleeping dreams of old Bernie Bros — they sure like his tactics.

It doesn’t help that Disney still believes they’re playing the old game.

Disney lobbyists in Florida and Washington assured them they could donate to get out of this crisis. They are told by their PR people that the brand is strong and that DeSantis will be quitting soon. They are convinced that they can wait for it.

Always hit the bully backwards, twice as hard.

Disney should turn its money, its media, and its creative force against itself, shifting the “don’t say gay” argument and making DeSantis and his enablers feel real pain. They are the largest employer in the state and generate billions in tax revenue.

It’s time for Disney to call Ron’s bluff.

How? One idea is to go hard against DeSantis in the race for governor of Florida, but I would oppose that. As a general in this war, he is politically difficult to kill. So why not remove some of his catalysts from the battlefield?

Disney is expected to identify a dozen Florida state House and Senate races and invest $25-30 million to break the state’s GOP majority. For the Florida GOP, that amount of money is a significant lift; for Disney, it’s a rounding error. To make every Florida senator who sponsored this monstrosity rise from their normally serene and easy re-elections and suffer.

Bullies rarely fight alone. DeSantis needs an obedient majority in the Legislature to make the threat to break Disney a reality. Break up — or even shrink — the majority of the GOP and he’s a loudmouth, not a threat. Given the huge, budget-crushing costs of this stunt, a legislature with fewer of Ron’s sidekicks will think twice before playing this game again.

Disney will certainly not take this advice. They will redouble their efforts to do more of what brought them here; suck in the Florida GOP and the governor who wants to destroy them.

“Moving forward to get along” is political poison when dealing with authoritarians.

Disney is now on the front lines of the culture war, and unless they retaliate harshly, it’s a war DeSantis fully intends to ride all the way to the White House.


Rick Wilson is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, an award-winning ad creator, co-founder of The Lincoln Project and 5th Generation Florida Man.

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