GOP flips own script in fighting corporate 'wokeness': The Note

The party's relationship with big businesses has been rapidly evolving.

April 21, 2022, 6:07 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Debate this week in the Florida legislature might be confusing to anyone familiar with traditional relationships and battle lines in modern politics.

Led by a governor with national ambitions, Republican after Republican has lambasted a business behemoth with more than half a century of history in the state. It's been left to Democrats to defend a giant corporation that's long been central to the Sunshine State's tourism industry.

The move is expected to culminate Thursday with a vote in the Florida House to strip the Walt Disney Co. of the special governance structure it has operated under since 1967. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Gov. Ron DeSantis' move was framed as payback for Disney's decision to oppose the new law banning gender identity and sexual orientation from being taught in lower elementary grades. But it doesn't stand alone inside a GOP whose relationship with big businesses has been rapidly evolving at least since the Trump era.

PHOTO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 24, 2022.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 24, 2022.
Octavio Jones/Reuters, FILE

Lawmakers in Texas, Georgia and elsewhere have threatened action against entities including Dell Technologies, Coca-Cola, Delta, American Airlines and Major League Baseball after they took stands against new voting restrictions. In addition to taking on Disney this week, DeSantis pointed out that Florida pension funds hold Twitter stock, threatening to hold that company's board members "accountable" over their handling of Elon Musk's takeover proposal.

It's a far cry from the days when then-Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, cheerfully bought radio ads in blue states inviting companies to move to his business-friendly state. Some Democrats are trying to take advantage of the flipped GOP script; Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo., tweeted this week that his state would welcome Disney and Twitter if they feel attacked by "Florida's authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector."

Some Republicans argue that their hands have been forced by "wokeness" at big companies that leave them weighing in on issues they know little about. Still, even counterpunching has consequences for how parties define themselves through hot-button debates and beyond.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The power of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump wasn't enough to keep a former Trump administration official on the ballot in a Tennessee congressional race.

Morgan Ortagus, who served as a State Department spokesperson during the Trump presidency, was kicked off the GOP primary ballot for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District following a vote by the party's executive committee, which said Ortagus hadn't voted in enough previous state primaries. Ortagus had only recently moved to the state. Two other candidates were also disqualified.

"I'm a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric," Ortagus said in a statement blaming establishment Republicans for cutting her congressional bid short. "I'm further disappointed that the party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party do not seem to share my commitment to President Trump's America First policies. As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative - not establishment party insiders."

PHOTO: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to supporters of former President Donald Trump at the Banks County Dragway, March 26, 2022, in Commerce, Ga.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to supporters of former President Donald Trump at the Banks County Dragway, March 26, 2022, in Commerce, Ga.
Megan Varner/Getty Images

It comes as another Trump-backed candidate, incumbent Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, has been put on the defensive as she prepares to testify under oath in a Georgia courtroom Friday. A legal challenge aiming to keep her name from appearing on the ballot was filed by a group of voters who cite the disqualification clause of the 14th Amendment that bars anyone who has taken the oath of office and has "engaged in insurrection" from holding federal office.

Both are signals that a Trump endorsement doesn't guarantee smooth sailing to the general election.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Democratic Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow is in the national spotlight after being baselessly accused of aiming to "groom and sexualize kindergartners" in a recent fundraising email sent out by fellow state senator, Republican Lana Theis. The fallout coincides with politically charged debates over schooling emerging in state legislatures across the country.

Although the two lawmakers represent different areas of the state and are not opponents on the campaign trail, Theis is facing a primary challenger in her district and appears to be leaning into extreme rhetoric to fend off the opposition. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, her campaign email referring to McMorrow claimed "children are under assault in our schools" and that "progressive mobs" are "trying to steal our children's innocence."

PHOTO: This image taken from video provided by the Michigan Senate shows Sen. Mallory McMorrow speaking, April 19, 2022.
This image taken from video provided by the Michigan Senate shows Sen. Mallory McMorrow speaking, April 19, 2022.
Michigan Senate via AP

In a fiery floor speech delivered earlier this week, McMorrow defended herself. She described initially wondering why Theis decided to invoke her name, before ultimately concluding, "I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can't claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of 'parental rights' if another parent is standing up to say 'no.'"

"So, who am I? I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense," McMorrow said.

"We are not responsible for the past. We also cannot change the past. We can't pretend that it didn't happen, or deny people their very right to exist," she added.

The heated situation unfolded against a backdrop of broader political developments in Michigan as the state Republican party looks to nominate candidates for a slate of statewide offices this weekend. The nominating process is already exposing intraparty fractures, and it remains to be seen if the kind of rhetoric espoused by Theis will be supported more widely by candidates in executive positions as the campaign season heats up.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

13. That's the number of important Republican Senate primaries FiveThirtyEight is keeping a close eye on as we gear up for the start of the primary season. With President Joe Biden's approval rating mired in the low 40s and the GOP already ahead in generic ballot polling, Republicans need to pick up just one seat to capture control of the Senate. And as FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley writes, the GOP already has its sights set on a number of Senate races, ranging from key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia to even more red-leaning states like Ohio, where the Republican nominee will help determine the direction of the party.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with ABC's Rick Klein on the political fight over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' redistricting map. Then, ABC's Ibtissem Guenfoud breaks down everything you need to know about the French election. And, ABC's Sony Salzman explains a medical mystery in New Jersey involving dozens of cancer cases.


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