During a speech this week while addressing attendees at the Future of Florida Summit in Orlando, Governor Ron DeSantis strode onto the stage and delivered a speech with the usual finger-waving swagger, but at the conclusion, issued a stern warning to the business leaders in the audience not to embrace “woke” corporate culture.
“The minute you go into becoming more of a political actor than just simply a business actor,” DeSantis said, “you know, guys like me got to treat you that way.”
The remarks were just the latest signal from DeSantis that he is willing to cross the bright line from pure constitutional conservatism into something bolder and brasher than Republicans have heretofore been comfortable with.
And there’s always been good reason for Republican reservations.
The Grand Old Party has traditionally championed individual rights and freedoms, which automatically extend to businesses and corporations insofar as those companies exist as extensions of individual property rights. The owner of a sandwich shop, for example, can put up a sign that says “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” and that owner also possessed the legal right to ask customers to leave the premises if those rules were violated.
But now, DeSantis seems to be saying, put up the wrong sign, and he may choose to act against that business owner. His warning came off as a threat that he wouldn’t hesitate to use the power of government to intervene if he feels the circumstances are warranted. During his speech, DeSantis pointed to the recent example of Major League Baseball and the decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of a voting rights law passed by Georgia lawmakers.
Many baseball fans – and particularly Republicans – agree with DeSantis that Major League Baseball should concentrate on playing baseball games, and stay out of politics. DeSantis then warned his audience that Republicans were also growing increasingly concerned about what they’re seeing out of corporate boardrooms around the country – not just in professional and college sports.
“They see these big companies that are really kowtowing to a very elite ideology, an ideology that’s not reflective of the vast, vast majority of the country,” DeSantis said. “[These companies are] responsive to the latest kind of online mob or whatever the corporate press is talking about at a given time. And they’ve really kind of contorted themselves into something that I think is just not sustainable.”
The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event, didn’t respond to two messages seeking comment on DeSantis’s remarks for this article – and who can blame them for not wanting to draw the ire of a governor willing to use his political power if he thinks an organization has stepped out of line?
Politically, DeSantis’s position on the matter makes sense. As he pointed out, Republicans, myself included, are growing increasingly worried about having to tip-toe through the minefield of political correctness. He’s undoubtedly winning a lot of support by standing up against the out-of-control political correctness of the liberal left.
But exchanging conservative principles for political power is an extremely dangerous slippery slope, one that conservative leaders have traditionally taken great care to avoid, despite the obvious temptation.
For conservative Republicans like me who are tempted to cheer DeSantis on when he champions a strong-armed solution to an obvious and growing problem, we would all do well to remember this:
DeSantis won’t be governor forever.