Disney nixes $1 billion Florida development, latest casualty in DeSantis' 'war on woke'

It’s almost as if Mickey Mouse doesn’t care about DeSantis’ political aspirations. Either that or Disney employees don’t care for a governor crusading against LGBTQ rights.

Days before he’s expected to launch a presidential run, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saw his weird war on Disney backfire again, as the company axed a planned $1 billion development near Orlando that would have brought more than 2,000 high-paying jobs to the state.

It’s almost as if Mickey Mouse doesn’t care about DeSantis’ political aspirations. Either that or Disney employees – and I’d bet most employees at corporations large and small – don’t care for a governor who, on Wednesday, continued a crusade against LGBTQ people by signing legislation banning gender-affirming care and barring teachers from asking students their preferred pronouns.

After signing those bills, and one targeting drag shows, DeSantis declared that in Florida “we are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy.”

Disney isn't loving Ron DeSantis' definitions of 'sanity' and 'normalcy'

Well, governor, you can have your versions of “sanity” and “normalcy” – versions that disregard how a child or adult might feel about being classified as not sane or not normal – but you can’t have that $1 billion investment from a global entertainment company that won’t abide your cruelty.

RFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to guests at the Republican Party of Marathon County Lincoln Day Dinner annual fundraiser on May 06, 2023 in Rothschild, Wisconsin.

That’s where the rubber meets the road in these culture-war games DeSantis and Republican lawmakers across the country are playing. You want to feed the base with ginned-up hysteria over transgender issues or drag shows or pronouns, go ahead. You darken your soul all you want.

But don’t expect companies that have to do business in the modern world to always follow along. They’ll follow the younger people who have voted in large numbers against Republicans in the past three elections – they’ll follow the money. Unlike DeSantis, they aren’t deluded into thinking Americans want to slide backwards on issues like civil rights or diversity

DeSantis is quickly learning why you don't mess with the mouse

Ever since Disney gently spoke out against DeSantis’ now-infamous education law that critics dubbed “don’t say gay,” the governor has targeted the entertainment giant, hoping to make it a foil in his “war on woke,” a thing nobody outside the Fox News bubble cares about.

He had the state legislature strip Disney of its ability to self-govern the area that includes Disney World, but the company outsmarted him at every turn and has now sued him claiming a campaign of government retaliation.

Cinderella Castle stands at the Magic Kingdom, at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Monday, April 3, 2023.

In April, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he thinks DeSantis is trying to “punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right.”

And last week, on an earnings call, Iger said: “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?”

Behold Ron 'culture war' DeSantis:The Florida emperor with no clothes

DeSantis expands 'Don't Say Gay' law.Might as well not say 'president' either.

The impact of DeSantis' anti-LGBTQ laws is clear, and it's not good for business

The company announced the cancellation of the Lake Nona Town Center project Thursday. The New York Times reported that “the company’s battle with Mr. DeSantis and his allies in the Florida Legislature figured prominently into Disney’s decision to cancel the Lake Nona project, according to two people briefed on the matter.”

Clearly, there are a lot of Floridians who embrace DeSantis’ bullying, own-the-libs approach to right-wing governing. But costing your state a $1 billion project and generally alienating one of the state’s largest employers and tourism magnets isn’t the kind of stuff you put on campaign flyers.

Donald Trump will surely slam DeSantis for driving away the Disney development

If you don’t believe me, I have a feeling former President Donald Trump, DeSantis’ main opponent should he enter the Republican presidential primary, will be saying as much any minute now.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 21, and former President Donald Trump on March 4.

Probably something along the lines of: “Weak Ron DeSanctimonious just DROVE AWAY a $1 billion Disney development project. He can’t even beat a mouse. SAD!”

It’s not ideal to launch a presidential campaign while getting decked by Disney and trampled by Trump. But for those of us repelled by DeSantis’ regressive and harmful policies, it will sure be fun to watch.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook facebook.com/RexIsAJerk

More from Rex Huppke:

The Republican Party has become the very cancel culture it pretends to rail against

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Would today's GOP try to ban Mister Rogers for being woke? Probably.

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