Article 43


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Competent Trumpism

image: trump sucker

DeSantis’s Threats to Disney Is What Post-Trump Authoritarianism Looks Like
“Special treatment” as long as you support the government

By Jonathan Chait
NY Magazine, Intelligencer
April 4, 2022

FLORIDA GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS has pitched himself to the Republican elite as the candidate of “competent Trumpism” - a form of authoritarian populism for conservatives who worried that Donald Trump was squandering his power, not abusing it. A picture of what that would look like in operation can be seen in DeSantis’s thuggish effort to bully Disney into supporting, or at least refraining from opposing, his “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Last week, DeSantis declared at a press conference that Disney “crossed the line” by saying it would support the repeal of DeSantiss cherished anti-gay legislation. “We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids,” he warned.

“Fighting back” turns out not to mean refuting or organizing against Disney’s opposition to the law. It means DeSantis using his legislative majority to punish Disney on unrelated legal issues. On Friday, he claimed he was “shocked” to discover Disney has been granted sweeping autonomy to operate in his state:

“I was shocked to see some of the stuff that’s in there. They can do their own nuclear power plant. Is there any other private company in the state that can just build a nuclear power plant on their own? They’re able to do certain things that nobody else is able to do. So I think they’re right to be looking at this and reevaluating and having an even playing field for everybody, I think is much better than basically to allow one company to be a law onto itself.”

Given that this legal status has been widely known for many decades in the state where DeSantis grew up and now serves as chief executive, the governor was no doubt shocked - the same way CAPTAIN LUIS RENAULT was shocked to discover gambling in Casablanca.

One obvious tell that DeSantis doesn’t actually care about Disney’s legal status is that his pretext for punishing the firm has changed. On Friday, he cited Disney’s special legal autonomy. The day before, the “special treatment” was a bill regulating social media that exempted theme-park operators.

Another tell is that the latter bill was signed into law by DeSantis with specific input from his staff, as the Tampa Bay Times REPORTS. If Disney’s legislative clout is leading to outrageous favoritism, voters should be furious with DeSantis.

DeSantis is barely making any effort to hide his intentions. As he tells Fox News, “Six months ago, it would have been unthinkable” that Florida Republican legislators “would be willing to reevaluate those special privileges.” It’s almost as if the special privileges have nothing to do with the reason Republicans are looking to punish Disney! Perhaps there is something Disney can put in DeSantis’s hand that would make the thing in his other hand go away.

Whats relevant to this threat is neither the merits of DeSantis’s school regulations nor of Disney’s status in Florida. Even if you think DeSantiss “Don’t Say Gay” bill is wonderful and Disney’s legal status is awful, the governor’s thuggish linkage of the two ought to terrify you.

DeSantis is trying to establish an understanding that major corporations can expect favorable treatment from the government as long as they play along with the ruling party’s political agenda. They are allowed - nay, encouraged - to get involved in politics on the condition that they take the correct position. But should they take the wrong position, they will find themselves under legal scrutiny. Suddenly, the regulatory noose will tighten.

This is the method Donald Trump used to intimidate firms with employees who gave him a hard time. AMAZON LOST A LUCRATIVE PENTAGON CONTRACT in retribution for Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post, and Trump attempted to block a merger by CNN’s parent company to finish the network

This is also a method that Trump’s favorite dictators - like Viktor Orbn and Vladimir Putin - use to control the political debate in their countries. DeSantis spokesperson CHRISTINA PUSHAW has fired off more than a dozen tweets celebrating Orbn’s victory in Hungary and ridiculing the idea that his regime is repressive or dangerous in any way. When American conservatives tell us Orbn’s version of competitive authoritarianism is the form of government they aspire to, then show us what it would look like in practice, wed best believe them.


images: three governments

In DeSantis’s Banana Republic, Corporations Must Support the Party

By Jonathan Chait
NY Magazine, Intelligencer
April 21, 2022

Some observers of Viktor Orban’s slowly tightening grip over Hungary have wondered what response would ensue if a sufficiently determined reactionary implemented the same methods here in the United States. Based on the evidence from Florida, where RON DESANTIS is test-driving his brand of “competent Trumpism,” the answer is, very little.

After DeSantis signed an anti-gay measure, DISNEY issued a statement condemning it, and suspended its political donations, which had previously included generous support for DeSantis. In retaliation, DeSantis rushed through a measure targeting Disney’s legal status. He is establishing a new norms in Republican politics: Corporations that publicly question the party’s preferred policy, or withhold donations in protest, will be subject to discriminatory policy. If they enjoy favorable regulatory or tax treatment, they can continue to do so on the condition that they stay in the GOP’s political good graces.

This is one way rulers like Orban and Putin hold power. It is a method that, until quite recently, would have been considered unthinkable in the United States. That bright line has been obliterated. Trump and DeSantis have now made it almost unremarkable.

Here is how the New York Times reported DeSantiss latest maneuver: “In a move widely seen as retaliation, Gov. Ron DeSantis asked Florida lawmakers on Tuesday to consider the ‘termination’ of self-governing privileges that Disney World has held in the Orlando area for 55 years.”

A move widely seen as retaliation is quite a way to put it, given that DeSantis himself has advertised the measure as retaliation. DeSantis said he was “fighting back” against Disney. ("Fighting back” is a synonym for retaliation.) First he floated a completely different provision targeting Disney (a social-media carve-out he had designed himself) before turning to the current version.

To make his intentions even more obvious, he appeared on Fox News to confess. Brian Kilmeade presented his intentions plainly: “You basically said, ‘Hey Disney, I don’t like your stance against this bill, this parents’ rights bill, so maybe we’ll go into revisit your special status in Florida. Do you want to expand on that?”

DeSantis did not deny this. Instead he made a case on the merits for the retaliation, before saying, “Six months ago, it would have been unthinkable that Republicans would have taken this step.”

The response from the conservative media has been more instructive. One foundation of DeSantis’s governing style is that he has calculated he does not need mainstream media at all. He can rely on support from party-controlled media to obtain sufficient public approval to meet his goals, and his non-party-controlled media as a punching bag.

The conservative media has raised almost no objection to DeSantiss thuggery. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, Washington Examiner, and Washington Times - all of which would be publishing front-page editorials calling protesters into the streets if a Democrat had tried something like this - have no commentary on it. Republican legal mind HUGH HEWITT approves.

National Review has two stories, one approving, one disapproving. The latter is the only dissen’t I have seen in the conservative media. It is exceedingly mild. Its author, CHARLES C.W. COOKE, notes his overall support for DeSantis and the anti-gay measure, but chides him for “an ugly and ill-conceived” mistake they are undertaking inexplicably, given that the anti-gay law already passed.

Cooke calls the move a “tantrum,” one serving no purpose at all. But of course there is a point to it. The point is to send a message to any other corporation that they will be punished by the state if they oppose DeSantis on anything.

National Review’s opposing column SUPPORTING DeSantis’s retaliation makes that explicit: “These corporations assume that it’s still 2010, and that our genteel Marquess of Queensberry norms will prevent conservatives from retaliating against their many political campaigns and rhetorical posturing against us.” It seems the principle that the government should not coerce private firms into supporting the regime was devised by Marquess of Queensberry, who was probably a communist. In any case, it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the only conservative who publicly opposes DeSantis’s move is also the only one who doesn’t seem to be (or wish to be) aware of why he is doing it.

The impetus for DeSantis’s presidential candidacy is the belief that Trump is a liability, and a desire for a replacement who can marshal the same coalition more effectively. What DeSantis is building in Florida is his blueprint for the country.


Posted by Elvis on 04/30/22 •
Section Dying America
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