Election 2024 DeSantis

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reacts to applause as he gives his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives March 7, 2023, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

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Never underestimate a mouse.

If I had domain over Walt Disney World in Orlando, I would put a padlock on it with a sign saying “Closed until the other mouse in Tallahassee is gone.” It would be difficult to overestimate the economic devastation on Florida if Mickey and company packed up their bags and moved back to California for a while.

Disney, in its wisdom, decided on another tack. The company announced that it has cancelled plans to spend $1 billion to build an employee campus in Lake Nona that would have provided an estimated 2,000 jobs in the state with an average annual salary of $120,000.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney theme parks, cited “changing business conditions” as the reason for the decision. It was possibly the most carefully guarded statement since Ted Cruz tried to explain his hasty retreat to Cancun.

Disney, which is the largest taxpayer in Florida, ran afoul of Ron DeSantis, the state’s testy little governor, when it publicly disagreed with his decree that issues involving sexual orientation and gender identity could not be mentioned in Florida schools.

DeSantis is big on not talking about things that run counter to his phony posturing as a societal white knight; a subscriber to the conservative adage of why govern when you can click your thick tongue and make moral judgments?

He recently boasted to evangelical students soon to be unleashed upon the real world from Liberty University that Florida is “the place where woke goes to die.” The governor is feeling his oats after his Republican flacks in the legislature approved all of the momentous changes he proposed in the name of freedom: You can’t say certain words, you can’t be safe from gun violence, you can’t read certain books, you can’t treat certain medical conditions, you can’t teach certain subjects, you can’t have domain over your own body, and you can’t express too much affection for Mickey Mouse.

I’ve got news for the governor. Florida is the place where a lot of other things go to die. Like the swallows to Capistrano, older Americans seem to regard Florida as the Promised Land. After decades of toil, sacrifice, cold winters, unruly kids, and whatever else that erodes the human spirit, the Sunshine State beckons.

Flying over it, you might even catch a glimpse of Cinderella’s castle and what more reassurance could you possibly need that you are headed for a better life?

If these older folks regard Florida as a haven of golf courses and bridge tables in which to live out their so-called golden years, DeSantis regards them as a gold mine to be exploited in service of an ego that is unmatched except for that of another resident of the state.

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DeSantis doesn’t attempt to get anything done when there’s an opportunity to get even. His sudden crusade to end decades of self-governing in the Disney theme parks only came after the company dared to criticize his relentless hate mongering.

There are aspects of this petty autocrat’s maneuverings that would be more alarming than the havoc that our former president wreaked if it wasn’t for the fact that his assaults on democracy will, in all likelihood, remain in Florida. DeSantis reminds me of Rick Perry, a Big Deal in Texas, who was going to sail smoothly into the White House and barely made it over the state line before the wind died down and his ship ran aground.

I often think — and I can say this from a three-quarter century perspective —that decisions that will profoundly affect the lives of younger generations should not be made by people who can clearly see the onset of senior citizenhood in their rear view mirrors.

I am not talking about any impairment of judgment that often comes with aging. That would be an extremely difficult case to make given the presence of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose idiotic ramblings make 89-year-old Chuck Grassley look razor sharp. I am referring to the reluctance on the part of older people to recognize the fact that the world is changing. The past was good enough for them, so why shouldn’t they rail against change?

These folks can ignore Bob Dylan’s prophetic “Times They Are A- Changin’” at their own peril. Trying to stop change is a little like standing on a railroad track with an outstretched hand to stop the Lake Shore Limited.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to go to the back of the bus was once considered an uppity offence. Ms. Parks is now regarded as one of the great heroines of the civil rights movement. What once was offensive is now historic.

Remaining fixed in the past has always seemed to be a cornerstone of the conservative philosophy. Even the word “conservative” implies a satisfaction with how things are and an unwillingness to risk any alteration to the social order that progress both implies and demands.

Conservatism is often promoted by people who are so immersed in their own good fortune that they find it offensive if anyone less blessed should dare to express dissatisfaction with the status quo. State Senator Steve Drazkowski’s claim, equal parts callous and clueless, that he “has yet to meet a person in Minnesota who is hungry” is indicative of the lengths to which right wing politicians are willing to go to maintain the all’s-well façade. It is a willful detachment from other peoples’ misery.

The young, by and large—and is there really any such thing as a young conservative?—are not so easily conned or convinced. Risks are an integral part of being young and they are reluctant to accept the old adage that with age necessarily comes wisdom. Thank heaven for that or we would still be mired in the Gilded Age.

As it stands now, they should file a class action suit over what is being done to their futures.

Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.


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