Disney Didn’t Leave the GOP Behind — Culture Did

Apr 18, 22
Disney Didn’t Leave the GOP Behind — Culture Did

TinyMart is sharing this content, the original was posted on politico.com by DEREK ROBERTSON, 04/17/2022 07:00 AM EDT, So please click here to go there
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Republicans’ high-profile feud with the Mouse is the next front in their ongoing feud with the American mainstream.

A photo illustration shows someone in a Mickey Mouse costume standing between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

They now accuse notionally LGBT-friendly companies like Disney of “grooming” children — an astonishingly cynical rhetorical flourish that, by misappropriating a term used to describe pedophiles, manages to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia, profoundly disrespect actual survivors of child sex abuse by using their experience as a political cudgel, and invoke the specter of far-right conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” all at once. (The backlash has also predictably and depressingly caught sex education in its blast radius, which has been repeatedly proven as the most effective tactic to prevent sexual abuse.)

The approach recalls the anti-gay crusades of the 1970s. A soundbite from conservative activist and erstwhile pop star Anita Bryant that’s made the rounds since the introduction of the Florida bill could have come from the keyboard of Rufo or any number of today’s anti-gay activists: “Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit. And to freshen their ranks, they must recruit the youth of America.”

To middle-American, small-c conservative parents of young children, waiting until after third grade for their kids to learn about homosexuality — or simply teaching them about it themselves, in the privacy of their own home, as is their right — sounds pretty reasonable, at least to look at the polling. But to argue that corporate America is engaged in a mass conspiracy to turn your kids gay decidedly does not. The conservative culture-war tactics of 2021, as exemplified by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign, were predicated on real and widespread dissatisfaction with liberal management of the Covid-19 pandemic. By contrast, Disney’s move toward broader LGBTQ-friendliness is in lockstep with the American public; support for gay rights has been on an unbroken and steep rise for the past decade.

The GOP attacks on Disney are reminiscent above all else of their unsuccessful campaign against the NFL, with its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Both are among the few remaining monocultural institutions in American life and present an irresistible opportunity to make a broader case about the national “character.” Ideological conservatives are nowhere near the rooms in which decisions about those institutions’ publicly-professed politics are made, and therefore seek to steer the conversation from the outside. And in both cases, conservatives have conflated corporate messaging with support for extreme edge cases within each issue, like police abolition or medical youth gender transition, hoping that Americans will do the same.

Embedded in that effort is the recognition that when it comes to the core issues at hand — support for the racial justice movement and LGBTQ rights — the ship has sailed leftward and has been doing so since the 1960s, if not before. If you’re a committed conservative activist, that’s a genuine cause for lamentation. If you’re an ambitious Republican like Ron DeSantis, it’s a potential opportunity to win the base’s fealty. In going on the offense against Disney, he and other Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are betting they can do that without alienating the vast middle. But in their choice of target, and the hateful and off-putting character of their attack to all but the most extremely online conservative activists, they’ve unwittingly revealed just how little leverage they really wield when it comes to America’s cultural mainstream.

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