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Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick wants Texans to know about some recent changes to his social life.
He continued, again in all caps, but let me spare you: “Disney has violated their sacred trust with parents as they actively plan to indoctrinate and sexualize their children.”
What’s going on here, exactly? Disney last month came out in opposition to a new Florida law restricting how teachers can talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom — or barring them from even alluding to those topics, according to critics.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts,” a company spokesman said in a statement, adding that Disney is committed to supporting state and national LGBTQ groups that are working toward the same goal.
In doing so, Disney elicited the wrath of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump wannabe who’s taken issue with what he calls “corporate wokeness.” The corporate giant also drew fire from the likes of Christopher J. Rufo, a conservative writer who’s been leading the charge against “critical race theory.”
“We are waging moral war against Disney,” Rufo tweeted March 30. “We are directly targeting their public reputation. We are turning half of their customers against them.”
He’s been doing so by releasing video clips of various employees talking optimistically about their work, including the company’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” initiative, which launched six months ago with the goal of “amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories.”
Conservatives across the country have concluded that Disney — you know, The Walt Disney Company — is a leading threat to the innocence of America’s children.
“Disney wants to completely take your children and they want to indoctrinate them into sexual immoral filth," says Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican who vivifies the pitfalls of partisan redistricting. You may recall she was recently seen heckling President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address and speaking at an event organized by a white nationalist.
Now Patrick, the bombastic former radio talk show host, wants in on the action. The 72-year-old Republican has until recently been a habitue of the Magic Kingdom, apparently. He grew up on Disney productions, he explains in the email, and just returned from a Disney theme park a month ago — a trip he now rues.
“If I had known then how they would respond to the Florida law and if I had seen those videos, they would not have gotten one penny from me,” he says in the email, with a link to the clips Rufo distributed.
He wants the Texas Legislature to pass its own version of the Florida law, and declares that such a measure will be a “top priority” in the next legislative session. He also called on Texans to boycott Disney in the interim, as he’s done by selling the few shares of Disney stock he owned.
“People must see what has been going on behind the Mickey curtain,” Patrick said. “I know your kids and grandchildren will be disappointed and may not understand. But, would you rather have them indoctrinated by Disney radicals?”
It was virtually inevitable that Patrick would call for a Texas version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as opponents call it. He rarely skips out on a good culture war skirmish — especially if it involves micromanaging our public schools or the children attempting to learn in them.
But what’s striking here is that Patrick’s diatribe is focused on Disney, not Texas public schools.. He says nothing about how the law he’s calling for would serve Texas. Patrick doesn’t even make a case for the Florida law, beyond asserting that it “simply says schools cannot sexualize children in elementary school.”
Overall, the email gives the impression that Patrick’s priority is to punish Disney, not to protect children. Of course, Democrats have long contended that laws like the one in question are not actually intended to protect children. But it’s unusual to hear a politician tacitly admit to seeing Texas children as pawns to be used in the latest culture-war battle.
Unfortunate, too. Patrick probably doesn’t have to worry about losing much political support, or many campaign checks, by taking a stand against this particular company.
Still, he risks looking hypocritical. Silly, too.
Conservatives have been sounding the alarm about “cancel culture” for years now, generally contending that they’re the ones being stifled by corporate America as part of a greater push, on the left, for ideological conformity. But here, conservatives are seemingly trying to silence Disney because of a statement the company made. A rather measured statement, incidentally, and one issued only after weeks of pressure from customers and employees.
Ah, well. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, to paraphrase Emerson. And Patrick’s mind, clearly, is expansive enough to contain all manner of idle thoughts — including this non sequitur salvo against Disney.
But that’s where the “silly” factor comes in.
For DeSantis to mount a theatrical attack against Disney makes a certain amount of political sense. If he does have his eye on higher office, he’ll need to distinguish himself from the rest of the GOP field, which may include former President Donald J. Trump.
Can the lieutenant governor of Texas say the same, though? Patrick is boycotting a company that’s headquartered in another state and has nothing to do with him.
We have plenty of real problems in Texas that deserve the attention of our state leaders, including ones that are taking a toll on our most vulnerable children. Disney’s efforts to be more inclusive surely are not chief among them.
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