Opinion

An Unseemly Schism: Florida’s GOP and Big Business

Torchbearer to the GOP’s adversarial stance on CDC jurisdiction, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a law prohibiting businesses from verifying the vaccination status of customers. 

An explicit challenge to the CDC, this law was signed only five days after the CDC announced cruise ships could set sail on the condition that 95% of passengers and 98% of crew members are fully vaccinated. In accordance with the conditional sail order and in defiance of DeSantis, most cruise lines proceeded with their plans to enforce vaccine requirements. Despite the ongoing lawsuit, cruise lines are standing their ground and still requiring proof of vaccination. 

The governor now finds himself in the midst of a constitutional standoff with the CDC, potentially jeopardizing Florida’s economy and the health of families planning their maritime summer vacations. On the grounds of civil liberty, DeSantis argues that the CDC singled out the cruise industry and is imposing unlawful restrictions on their customers.

This standoff is just one facet of a greater dilemma outside the courtroom as DeSantis and the Republican Party are rushing toward an apparent divorce with big business. 

Similarly, this year Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, assumed a surprising pro-union stance against Amazon and loudly criticized their failure to support working class values. While Rubio’s position notably dissents from the traditional values of Florida’s greater GOP, when coupled with DeSantis’s latest scandal, it reveals a growing schism.

Big business and Florida’s Republican Party have historically strong ties, but with the recent embrace of progressive values in the public sphere, big business is compromising the relationship. As Rubio phrased it, “The days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over.”

A big factor in this schism is Republicans’ interpretation of corporate America’s involvement in social justice initiatives as political betrayal; from Black Lives Matter to vaccine promotion, the division intensifies. Moreover, in the world of hyper-politicization and political absolutes, the GOP cannot afford any concessions, even if it means disrupting the symbiotic relationship between them and big business. 

In Florida, this frustration manifests in powerful disputes between politicians and corporations alike, but at the expense of the general population. For instance, when considering that the cruise-line industry consistently generated north of $5 billion annually pre-pandemic, it’s daunting to think of the economic blow the state would take in the absence of such an influential industry, which is also responsible for the employment of many Floridians. 

While the feud between Rubio and Amazon explicitly harmed no one, the implications of Rubio’s selective pro-union stance is entirely misleading for voters unaware of the not-so-long-ago bond between corporations and Republicans. 

DeSantis, however, is directly compromising Florida’s economy with his adamant attempt to ‘defend’ Florida from the CDC’s influence. While the ongoing legal dispute concerns Florida and the CDC, the cruise lines in question are firmly defending their right to require proof of vaccination and have threatened to take their business elsewhere, thus compromising the state’s economy. 

The irony in the GOP’s legal position lies in the fact that traditionally, the GOP is the greatest champion of individual liberties, with special regard for private enterprise. In a deceptive yet aggressive defense of individualism, the GOP always celebrates the rights of free enterprise within their confines of the acceptable.  

Locating the vintages of such hypocrisy does not require the slightest of history lessons; as recent as the pandemic, the GOP aggressively challenged the CDC by reason that privately owned businesses ultimately reserve the right to remain open if they so please.

Regardless of the outcome, this case outlines the argumentative inconsistencies of Florida’s GOP and its most powerful actors. If Florida politics are reflective of a larger picture, a schism awaits the GOP and big business.

Growing frustrations within the party and the corporate world’s unwillingness to support the antiquated social norms lauded by their former partner carry profound implications for the Republican Party’s future.

Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.

Featured Image: Carnival Freedom Cruise Ship. Unmodified photo used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3hbPpkv)

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