The Battle of the Mouse: How Ron DeSantis Got Liberals to Root for Corporations

[CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images and AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images]

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company have been locked in a high-stakes battle over the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The recent conflict has pushed liberal critics to reluctantly root for a corporation to counterbalance the GOP’s aggressive tactics.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, initially created in 1967 as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is a special taxing district established to facilitate the development of Walt Disney World. It covered 38.5 square miles in Orange and Osceola counties and was granted powers akin to a municipality, allowing it to issue bonds, levy taxes, and create building codes. This unique arrangement gave Disney significant control over its planning and development.

In recent months, DeSantis has targeted the district, calling for legislation to wrest control from Disney and give him the sole authority to appoint the district’s board. This move came after Disney executives criticized DeSantis-backed bills, including attacks on diversity training and the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which targeted discussions of sexual orientation in schools.

In response to DeSantis’ legislative push, Disney has attempted to maintain control over the land and facilities through a series of legal agreements. These agreements transfer most of the power over district-owned facilities and future development back into Disney’s hands while prohibiting the district from using any Disney trademarks. The district is now essentially a bundle of debt and tax levies, which the governor plans to challenge through costly legal battles.

[CREDIT: Joe Raedle/Getty Images and AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images]

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District operates two incorporated cities, Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, and is responsible for essential services such as utilities, public safety, and transportation. It also oversees the planning, permitting, and development of Disney’s theme parks, water parks, sports complexes, hotels, and Disney Springs.

Critics argue that the district has allowed Disney to wield too much power and avoid significant tax payments through its ability to issue government bonds. However, the company has also invested heavily in the area, levying property taxes on itself that are triple or quadruple what other Central Florida cities and counties charge.

As the legal battle unfolds, the saga has captured the attention of both local and national media. With both sides gearing up for a protracted fight, the future of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District remains uncertain. In the meantime, the conflict has put liberals in the unusual position of supporting a major corporation as a way to counter the perceived overreach by the Republican governor.

These liberals find themselves in an unexpected position, as they must weigh their usual concerns regarding corporate power against what they perceive to be a more concerning threat: the aggressive tactics and policies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the GOP. This dilemma highlights the complexities of modern politics and the often contradictory positions that individuals and groups may find themselves in.

[CREDIT: Midjourney – “a three panel minimalist representation of the boundary between Disney’s corporate power and right wing identity politics in red, white, and blue ar 169”]

The conflict between DeSantis and Disney showcases how liberals can sometimes feel compelled to side with a corporation in the face of a perceived greater threat to their values. In this instance, the concerns about the GOP’s policies on diversity training, LGBTQ+ rights, and potential government overreach outweigh their typical apprehensions about corporate power. It serves as a reminder that political alliances and allegiances can shift in response to changing circumstances and priorities.

This unusual alliance underscores the fact that politics is rarely a simple matter of “us versus them.” Instead, it reflects the fluid nature of political beliefs and the need for pragmatic decision-making in an ever-evolving landscape. As the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District conflict continues, it remains to be seen how these liberal critics will navigate their support for Disney in the face of broader concerns about the company’s influence and the GOP’s policies.

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