There’s understandable suspicion that there’s a connection between Linda McMahon’s pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, allocating $18.5 million to Florida on the same day (April 9) that Florida governor Ron DeSantis amended his stay-home order which allows WWE to run tapings at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
As dubious as it seems, and without diminishing how destructive as money in politics is to democracy, I doubt the super PAC spending and the amendment are truly connected — not that politicians, especially Republican politicians in the Trump era have ever earned the benefit of the doubt. The timing is conspicuous, but the allocation of the money for Florida doesn’t seem unusual in timing or amount. And the benefit to DeSantis is more incidental than direct.
The announcement to invest $18.6 million in advertising in Florida, dedicated to the re-election of Donald Trump, was made simultaneously with the announcement of $8 million in spending for North Carolina. The week prior, the super PAC announced it would spend millions in other swing states, Pennsylvania ($5.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.7 million) and Michigan ($2 million). True, among these states the spending for Florida is the highest, but Florida has the most electoral votes among these states. The state has been won by every presidential election victor since 1996, and with the exception of 1992, every election since 1964.
This spending on advertising will benefit Trump’s reelection bid, so it will also likely benefit other Republicans down-ballot in November. DeSantis himself, though, was elected in 2018 and is not up for reelection until 2022.
It’s notable, too, that the amendment to the Florida stay-home does not specifically name WWE or wrestling. While it’s quite possible that WWE lobbied for the amendment, its language seems directed more generally at sports and entertainment activities that are produced without a live audience.
The low information reading of this situation is that Linda McMahon gave Ron DeSantis millions of dollars, and DeSantis subsequently granted WWE specific permission to continue tapings. That’s not what happened.
In case it’s not clear, this is not a defense of insidious and plutocratic organizations like America First Action, nor of WWE’s choice to unnecessarily risk the health of its workers and the public by continuing with tapings. Instead, upon a more informed look at the situation, it’s apparent that the investment in pro-Trump advertising in Florida and the allowance of WWE’s Orlando tapings are likely not as related as they may seem on a more superficial assessment.
But if people of wealth and power are doing bad things, why make any subtle distinctions? Our reflexive willingness to allow low information to affirm a view that all political actions are corrupt only blunts our ability to distinguish just politics from the unjust. Indeed, did you not just read “just politics” as an oxymoron? That reflex prevents us from undoing genuine corruption. The ease at which we jump to undue conclusions deepens our distrust and polarizations, and reinforces our helpless complex that laughs at the notion that any political action is worthwhile. The brilliance of corrupt power in our time is that it benefits from the cool self-defeat of the cynical people it exploits.
This post was based on a portion of audio from the episode of Wrestlenomics Radio, published April 18, 2020.