Dude, he’s running. And Ron DeSantis has hit the ground running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on several fronts, but this might get the most response from the populist wing of the GOP.
A new set of rules for Florida’s pension fund will forbid any investment employ Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies or other “ideological corporate power” when considering corporate investment. ESG has become a key area of progressive social-justice activism, and it has made plenty of inroads on Wall Street. DeSantis has crossed swords with Disney, for example, over its ESG-driven political opposition to the parental-rights legislation DeSantis signed limiting gender-theory instruction to children above the fourth grade and only with parental permission.
DeSantis argues that this will have a significant deterrent on politicking by corporate boards other than Disney:
In new draft rules posted Monday on the website of the agency that oversees Florida’s pension fund, state investment managers can weigh only the risk or return of an investment when directing the state’s $200 billion in assets. The directive is DeSantis’ initial salvo against what he has called “ideological corporate power,” and it follows efforts by other GOP state leaders that are targeting companies that venture into the political arena.
DeSantis has criticized financial institutions and corporate executives for considering factors like systemic racism and economic inequality when making business decisions, a practice known as environmental, social and governance, or ESG, investing. In an episode of Glenn Beck’s online show posted Saturday on YouTube, DeSantis told the conservative commentator that he expected the new rules to “make a big splash” when they pass.
As described by CNN, the rule comes across as aggressively neutral on the investment targets. In other words, the reported mechanism would only require pension-fund managers to consider profitability — and a “woke” corporation could very well still be a high-profit investment opportunity, at least theoretically.
DeSantis’ description of the impact suggests that aggressive neutrality will give way to explicit requirements to not invest money in ESG-driven corporations:
“We’re a big pension system,” DeSantis said, “and some of these businesses are going to have to choose between going down the ESG rabbit hole or being able to be invested with the state of Florida.”
If nothing else, this is based on the same market strategy as ESG — just aimed in the opposite direction. DeSantis simply plans to use Florida’s market power to disincentivize what ESG activists are trying to incentivize through sympathetic investors and social pressure.
We’ll see what this does to the ESG movement in the long run. In the shorter term, however, this is yet another in a series of moves DeSantis has made in the last few months to position himself for the election. Not the gubernatorial election, which DeSantis should win in a walk, but the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Just this month alone, DeSantis has now taken on woke corporations again and also drained the swamp by suspending Andrew Warren as State Attorney for his progressive arrogance in defying the statutes he’s supposed to enforce. Warren has helped DeSantis immeasurably by filing a truly idiotic lawsuit that not only exposes Warren’s lack of intellectual honesty but also his incompetence in understanding Florida’s state constitution.
Why does this matter? Obviously, DeSantis wants to be taken seriously as a contender for the nomination, but there’s more to it than that. Even with the recent strange raid on Mar-a-Lago providing a rally effect to Donald Trump, Laura Ingraham’s correct that many GOP primary voters will likely prefer a nominee who’s (a) not carrying so much legal and political baggage, (b) born after the birth of rock-and-roll, and (c) eligible to serve more than one term. The only issue that would prevent them from acting on those concerns would be a lack of real choice in the kind of candidate who fights, and even better who fights and wins.
Well, DeSantis will say, here I am. The media will try to paint DeSantis as an authoritarian nutcase — they’ve already done that with their dishonest “Don’t Say Gay” coverage of the earlier legislation — in order to burden DeSantis with cultural baggage. DeSantis hasn’t shown an inch of retreat on that front and doesn’t seem inclined to do so — not even while tangling with one of the biggest media corporations in the world, Disney, with its enormous economic impact in Florida.
Finally, this is precisely why DeSantis has no choice but to try to grab the brass ring in 2024. His relevance will peak after his re-election, while still having the ability to make these kinds of policy impacts. Four years later, DeSantis will be out of office and unable to command attention like this. And that means that Republican primary voters will have to make the (a) (b) (c) decision described above sooner rather than later.