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Memo 04.12.2021 7 minutes

Put the Squeeze on Woke Corporations

Georgia, Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Coca-Cola, vending machine station

Georgia shows the stakes. The GOP must blaze the way.

Georgia’s new election law brought a tidal wave of corporate opposition, including threats of boycott and demands for revision of the law, which has been described, absurdly, as reimposing Jim Crow ballot restrictions on the Peach State. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian stated, “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values… The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections.” In 2018, when Delta discontinued benefits for NRA members, Bastian claimed that Delta had to be apolitical; his statements now are clearly hypocritical. But consistency is beside the point when woke capital speaks.

Without addressing the underlying issues, Georgia state house Republicans struck back at Delta’s activism by passing legislation removing favorable tax advantages for the airline giant. However, the state senate declined to take up the bill. This failure of nerve will encourage other companies to attack Georgia and discourage other states from enacting any restrictions on voting, no matter how sensible. The failure of the Georgia GOP to address woke corporate behavior explains why the Atlanta area is now called the new Northern Virginia. The draw of low costs of operation, desperate demand for educated labor, and “business-friendly politicians” brought in the corporate janissaries of the neoliberal consensus. The corporations are happy to accommodate what they view as an impending Democrat takeover; a similar dynamic with regard to election laws is now taking place in Texas.   

Large corporations should not have veto power over democratic political processes. While their public relations departments may itch at the threat of consumer boycotts ginned up on social media, our side should make clear that we, too, command millions of partisans who spend money. The left is more effective at Astroturfing outrage-driven marketing campaigns, but the barriers to entry are low and should be explored.

Republican politicians need to rethink corporate outreach and political action involving businesses. Megacorporations and international financial institutions can almost always extract better deals from the Democrats, because cash-liquid, family-oriented middle- and working-classes and small-business owners are prohibitive to mindless product consumption and frequent credit purchases. Owning land and property blocks these companies from extracting cash from you because you are generating and compounding your wealth or value.

What should Republicans do in the face of the woke corporate onslaught? I provide a series of basic steps for Republicans to follow. There are savvy legal scholars out there who need to speak up as well.

First, as many states as possible should create a joint statement to support Georgia. Your justification is the defense of popular sovereignty against unaccountable corporations. Corporations are not democratic institutions by nature, and this is a democratic emergency. The future of the country as a representative nation of American citizens is at stake. Otherwise, we become a clearing house where plutocrats do business and extract wealth. Tell them that you will not tolerate insurrectionist rhetoric by an unaccountable international company, especially those that drink from our government subsidies and tax breaks.

These states’ attorneys general should then look at the conduct of companies within the state borders. Are they engaging in unsanctioned anticompetitive behavior? What about their labor relations? A healthy union is a kind of democratic tool to check the avarice of companies, especially when those companies benefit from flushing the United States with cheaper labor. This does not require a politician to become totally pro-union either. Merely investigate or call for the investigation of the labor situation across every state.

Legislatures should pass strong election integrity bills in defiance of “woke capital” and look to normalize these companies’ tax regimes. Many of these companies are receiving favorable tax benefits from local and state governments. The governors and legislatures should take up the issue of companies like Delta preaching from their position of using national critical infrastructure, like airports, to advocate against the popular sovereignty of the states from which they do business. Why should an airline feel comfortable rejecting and subverting the electoral process? These businesses periodically go in and out of solvency, often requiring governmental assistance. To compound this abnormal situation, some of these companies are doing business with geopolitical rivals of the United States.

Finally, these states need to sue President Biden for failing in his duties to regulate interstate commerce and using for using his delegated authorities to encourage corporate political agitation. The Federal government should not be encouraging “woke” activism.

For the rest of us, we need to heed former President Trump’s call to reject these companies wherever possible. Drinking less soda will probably do Americans good. Professional sports are staffed by mercenary multimillionaire athletes with no connection to your hometown. These professional sports leagues snub their noses at your traditions, and then exploit your desire to identify with a team and a locality. They then humiliate you by kneeling for our National Anthem and making you pay to watch. Turn them off.

This is a call to action. I feel like I need to be explicit. My time in the Trump Administration taught me that Republican policy thinkers need explicit permission to think outside the box. Federal elected officials need to put the spotlight on these companies, rhetorically and legislatively. It does not matter if bills fail; push until something passes. Discuss how many visa holders these companies employ instead of Americans. Do the things that Georgia cannot do because it must focus on winning a legal and political battle against unaccountable corporations. Marshal the entire conservative political apparatus.

Pointing out media hypocrisy alone is not a winning strategy. Names must be named. It is not enough to say that a particular company is doing some grave injustice to Americans, we need to address who in the C-suite, the sports club owners, the leaders of corporate political action committees, the many non-governmental organizations are betraying the people. When this is done, they will come to the table with conservative community leaders and politicians. Squeeze. You must believe that your cause is righteous and just (it is) because there is no issue more fundamental than the ability of people to express their political opinions. The Founding Fathers would want you to stand up for your rights against the lobbies and machinations of international corporations.

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