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CHRISTIAN WHITON: Ron DeSantis Has All The Right Enemies

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Christian Whiton Christian Whiton was a senior adviser in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.
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A lot of people are upset with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, especially as he launches his presidential bid.

Start with America’s wokest corporate titans. While perched in a Los Angeles County rapidly losing population and companies to Florida, Disney CEO Bob Iger’s company alleged DeSantis is “weaponizing the power of government to punish private business.” (RELATED: JOHN STOSSEL: Is Ron DeSantis An Authoritarian)

What DeSantis and the Florida legislature actually did was revoke a cozy 1960s-era corporate welfare scheme for Disney on the heels of the company’s bullying intervention against a new Florida law that had nothing to do with its business. That law—supported by more than 60 percent of Floridians—prevents classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity propaganda to students in the third grade and below. Disney, which banks on family entertainment, should be ashamed of its political intervention against this common-sense decency.

However, Disney is not used to politicians who don’t bend to its will. The woke company has vowed job and investment cuts in Florida, but that threat will have a limited effect in a state with just 2.6 percent unemployment and a massive influx in capital from investors fleeing progressive policies in states like California and New York and leftward-trending countries across Latin America.

Nike CEO John Donahoe also just added DeSantis to his woke company’s enemies list. Donahoe complimented Disney’s Iger just as DeSantis entered the presidential race, remarking “I think Bob’s doing a great job at this.” That’s quite the praise from the corporation that has boosted anti-American voices like Colin Kaepernick’s, accused America in 2020 of being generally racist, and just signed a deal with “trans influencer” Dylan Mulvaney of Bud Light fame. Two years ago, Donahoe said publicly that “Nike is a brand that is of China and for China.” It’s not a surprise Donahoe wants a president other than DeSantis.

Also among the Not Friends of Ron gang is the socialist president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He is rapidly undoing the free market reforms of his predecessors as narco-violence escalates and Mexico allows illegal migrants and fentanyl to flood across its border into America. López Obrador instructed last Thursday: “I ask the Hispanics in Florida not to give one single vote [to Ron DeSantis]. Do not vote for those who persecute migrants.” 

Of course, DeSantis does not “persecute” migrants, but has exposed the preening hypocrisy of progressive “sanctuary” jurisdictions. DeSantis famously arranged a voluntary flight of illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a rich progressive playground off the coast of Massachusetts which then got rid of the migrants with the help National Guard within days. 

DeSantis just signed legislation penalizing companies for hiring illegal aliens, requiring E-Verify for larger businesses, and prohibiting state agencies from issuing ID cards to illegals. By all accounts, reasonable steps like these in response to President Joe Biden’s de facto open-border policy are popular with Floridians of all backgrounds. In his reelection last November, DeSantis won 58 percent of the Hispanic vote, including by carrying Miami-Dade county by eleven points over his Democrat opponent. This is the electoral success that terrifies leftists like López Obrador and our corporate elite. 

Also opposing DeSantis is every mainstream media organization in America. Their instinctive objective is to elevate Donald Trump, presuming the baggage-laden and unfairly indicted former president is most likely to lose to Biden or another Democrat in 2024. They have strong evidence, since Trump lost elections for Republicans in 2018 and 2020, and effectively lost them again in most places last November, keeping the Senate in Democrat hands. 

The mainstream media also delighted in a technical glitch on Twitter when DeSantis announced his campaign. Trump bizarrely wrote that: “‘Rob,’ My Red Button is bigger, better, stronger, and is working (TRUTH!), yours does not! (per my conversation with Kim Jung Un, of North Korea, soon to become my friend!)” 

As George C. Scott’s character deadpanned to the president in Dr. Strangelove: “We’re still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.”

Luckily, in America, what ultimately counts is the opinion of voters, not corporate titans, old media bosses, politicians doing their best to turn their states and countries into banana republics, or former presidents who want to emote while relitigating the past. 

Polls show DeSantis trailing Trump but most voters aren’t paying close attention to the presidential race at this point and many Republicans have an understandable, reflexive support for Trump when the choice is between him and the media, abusive prosecutors, or Biden. (RELATED: CHRISTIAN WHITON: Trump Recaptured Some Old Magic, And CNN Sucked)

DeSantis’s opponents are terrified voters will adjust their preferences as the campaign heats up this summer and fall leading into next winter’s caucuses and primaries. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So far, the public outside of Florida knows DeSantis mainly through how he has been defined by the media. The campaign will be a chance to meet him without the filter—a long interview with Piers Morgan this spring was a great preview. 

They’ll find a young leader and military veteran who doesn’t speak in poll-tested sound bites like so many politicians or clever but counterproductive insults like Trump. They’ll meet someone who doesn’t back down to woke bullies like Disney (as Trump implicitly urged him to do) because he isn’t afraid to pursue both the cultural and economic policies needed to build a majority coalition and what would be the first Republican victory in the national popular vote since 2004. Finally, they’ll meet an executive who, unlike Trump as president, has control over his executive branch, would actually get things like a border wall completed, and not be befuddled by his own Justice Department and “Deep State” as was Trump. 

What of those who are piling on DeSantis? As Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor during the George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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