Colorado governor hits DeSantis for "authoritarian socialist attacks" on companies like Disney and Twitter

Colorado governor hits DeSantis for "authoritarian socialist attacks" on companies like Disney and Twitter

An interesting fight between an interesting pair of politicians. Here’s the soundbite that started it:

Could Florida (or any other shareholder) sue Twitter for trying to thwart Elon Musk’s takeover bid? Sure, in theory. Twitter’s board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of its shareholders. If Musk is offering a higher price for their shares than the current market price, and he is, then arguably Twitter is taking money out of their pockets by refusing to sell.

But it’s more complicated in practice. For one thing, Twitter’s share price has been higher than Musk’s offer in the not-too-distant past, giving the board grounds to argue that they can provide more value to shareholders in the long run than he can. The board might also be able to say that it thinks it can get a better deal from another prospective buyer, of which there are a few. It’s not even clear Musk could get the financing to purchase the shares if Twitter accepted his offer, although he probably could.

Never mind all that, though. The question is why DeSantis cares enough about what Twitter does with Musk’s offer to explore legal options. The state may own some shares of the company but it has bigger investment problems than Twitter at the moment. The answer, as it usually is with DeSantis, is that he’s forever on the hunt for new culture-war opportunities to impress Republican voters ahead of 2024 and recognizes that siding with Musk against a “woke corporation” — a Big Tech corporation, at that — is an easy play. It’s a cheap way to earn “he fights!” points with the base even though nothing’s likely to come of this particular fight.

Nothing unusual about DeSantis’s posturing here. But this is unusual:

Polis is a unicorn in modern American politics in that he’s an intriguing Democrat. He has a libertarian streak that’s uncommon in his party and which showed itself most strikingly during the pandemic, when he refused to reinstate Colorado’s mask mandate despite pleas from lefties to do so. Last November, as cases were picking up in his state, he pointed to the mask mandate in nearby New Mexico and noted that their case curve wasn’t much different from Colorado’s. A month later, still facing criticism from his own party for resisting a new mandate, he told them to get over it. The emergency phase of COVID is over, he proclaimed; with vaccines widely available, citizens were now in charge of their own risk management. He wasn’t going to babysit Coloradans by requiring them to wear masks if they lacked the common sense to get their shots and mask up on their own initiative.

He’s left-wing on most cultural matters but that libertarian streak combined with being pro-business (Polis was a huge business success at a young age before entering politics) makes him a little different from standard-issue progressives. And now here he is, picking a fight with the populist right’s second-favorite politician by calling him a “socialist,” of all things. Hmmmmmm.

Is Polis … thinking about 2024? Our president is a thousand years old; our vice president frequently seems lost in interviews. There’s a huge vacuum at the top of the party potentially. Polis is smart, has experience as both a congressman and a governor, and could tout himself as someone who may have more appeal than the average Dem to swing voters because of his more centrist stances on masks and business. His one major potential electoral liability is that he’s gay, since Americans may not want a gay commander-in-chief. But the Democrats have a thin bench and their voters will understandably be anxious about making sure to someone competent in 2024 given the, uh, challenges of finding someone competent near the top of the party like that right now. Maybe Polis sees an opportunity.

And if he does, that would explain him wanting to scrap with DeSantis. Just as the governor of Florida is one of the most popular politicians on the right, he’s become one of the least popular on the left. Any ol’ Democrat can throw punches at Trump after four years as president but Polis positioning himself as a scourge of DeSantis is apt to get the attention of activist Dems and boost his profile. I’ll be curious to see if he keeps jabbing at him or if today’s shot was a one-off.

In any event, what DeSantis is doing with Twitter and Disney isn’t “socialism,” although I understand why Polis would find trolling him with that word irresistible. He’s not trying to nationalize their businesses or confiscate their wealth via taxation. He’s looking for ways to use state power to punish them for expressing political views contrary to his own, which is different — obnoxious, but different. And which Polis’s state has also been known to do, of course.

I’m sure DeSantis will remind him of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case when he responds to this, which he inevitably will. It’ll be a fun feud if it proceeds. The “authoritarian” part of Polis’s tweet is true enough in any case.

Oh, and as for Musk buying Twitter, I recommend Jonathan Last’s piece on that today titled “Same Toilet, Different Plunger.” I made a similar point last week, that Twitter is what it is and will remain a deeply unpleasant platform to engage on whether Musk buys it or not. It incentivizes nasty and gratuitously provocative takes by rewarding those who supply them with viral attention, which encourages nearly everyone who uses it to be the worst version of themselves. Having Musk in charge might matter at the margins — no more blackouts of Hunter Biden laptop stories, no more insta-bans for criticizing trans activists — but it won’t change the general culture, which is a product of how the platform works. Build a communication interface that favors knee-jerk takes and amplifies the most inflammatory ones and you’ll get something toxic every time. I have no idea why Musk wants it.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023