When Mitch Daniels, then Indiana’s governor, was pondering a presidential run, he famously called for “a truce on the so-called social issues.”
“We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while” to focus on budget and economic issues Daniels said in a magazine profile done on him in 2010.
That comment produced a backlash from social conservatives then and gained new life again earlier this year when Daniels was considering a 2024 Senate candidacy.
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana—a darling of former President Donald Trump’s MAGA movement who now has been anointed by the GOP’s hierarchy as the party’s Senate candidate next year—chided Daniels for daring to think that, maybe just maybe, solving a problem might be preferable to starting a fight.
The uproar over Daniels’ “truce” comment seemed to demonstrate the ascendant power of social conservatives within the Republican Party. If members of the social-issues crowd could cow and then ultimately drive away a figure as formidable and contrary as Daniels—likely the most gifted conservative politician and political thinker of this era—then they held the whip hand within the GOP.
Theirs, though, may prove to be a costly dominance.
Another Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, also for a long time has been mulling a campaign for the White House. He is expected to announce his candidacy within the next few days.
DeSantis has elevated his national profile by establishing himself as perhaps the political arena’s premier conservative culture warrior. He has embraced the most draconian restrictions on reproductive rights and abortion. He has worked tirelessly to marginalize and oppress citizens—even children—who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
In service of these causes, DeSantis has sought to restrict what students can read, what teachers can teach and what everyone can say.
He does all this, he says, to wage war against the depredations of what he calls “the woke mob.”
Strangely, “the woke mob”—whatever that is—doesn’t seem to be using the power of government to tell people how to live their lives, protect their health or even think their thoughts.
No, that’s the work of a supposed—or at least self-proclaimed—small-government conservative such as DeSantis.
As part of his holy war against everything “woke,” DeSantis also attacked The Walt Disney Company.
Disney is the largest single-site employer not just in Florida but in the entire world. More than 75,000 people work for Disney in central Florida.
That didn’t deter DeSantis.
He was upset because Disney criticized the “don’t say gay” law DeSantis championed. DeSantis vowed payback. He began stripping away tax protections Disney enjoyed and needled the huge company in various other ways, confident that he was the one in the power position.
Disney retaliated first by suing him and the state of Florida.
Then, to remind the governor and other MAGA acolytes that power does not reside exclusively in the political arena, Robert Iger, Disney’s chief executive officer, announced that the company was pulling the plug on a planned $1 billion development in the Sunshine State. That development would have created at least 2,000 new jobs in Florida.
Iger suggested in his statement announcing the cancellation that he and Disney were going to look for another state to invest their money and establish livelihoods for thousands of people.
Presumably, that state will be one led by a governor more interested in solving problems than starting fights.
DeSantis’ aides have been telling political reporters that he plans to build his presidential campaign around a theme—that he wants to make America like Florida.
I’m guessing that he does not mean that he intends to chase away businesses and cost hardworking people good jobs, but who knows?
Daniels, by the way, offered, all those years ago, a rationale for suggesting a truce in America’s culture wars.
“If there were a WMD attack, death would come to straights and gays, pro-life and pro-choice,” Daniels said. “If the country goes broke, it would ruin the American dream for everyone. We are in this together. Whatever our honest disagreements on other questions, might we set them aside long enough to do some very difficult things without which we will be a different, lesser country?”
Wise words then.
Wise words now.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.