When the Supreme Court ruled that businesses, like everyone, have a right to free speech – especially in the form of their political spending – Republicans celebrated.
“For too long, some in this country have been denied their full participation in the political process,” then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. “Our democracy depends on freedom of expression, not only for some but for all.”
Some 11 years later, many of the same people who celebrated corporate empowerment adopted a new mantra: Like children, corporate First Amendment rights are primarily for entertainment. Specifically, corporate political giving to Republicans is expected to continue at a steady pace, but checkwriters should keep their social and political views to themselves after investing in Republican policymakers.
“My warning to American companies is to stay out of politics,” the same McConnell, now Senate Minority Leader, who he had first worded as “advice” in a Monday speech in Kentucky. He then added: “I’m not talking about political contributions.”
Separating itself from the titans of industry who have guaranteed their political gains poses an existential threat to a party that has so long boasted of being the visible hand of the free market.
The anger of the Senate Minority Leader has been stoked by the growing corporate backlash against attempts by Georgia state lawmakers to restrict access to the ballot box, which comes amid similar Republican pressure in the legislatures of the United States. country. Major League Baseball’s decision last week to pull this year’s All-Star game away from Georgia, however, was the spark that started it all.
“Businesses are going to have dire consequences if they become a means for far-left crowds to divert our country from outside the constitutional order,” McConnell said in a separate statement Monday.
What consequences? Republicans under former President Donald Trump called on Republicans to boycott offenders of the party’s orthodoxy on voter suppression, including baseball and the Coca-Cola Co.
The result is disorienting: a party liberated from its limited government, a legacy of freedom of expression. The latter belief was expressed more recently in an increasingly hysterical campaign against the so-called culture of cancellation, by which conservatives often heard Liberal calls to boycott organizations, individuals and / or businesses promoting policies. racist, homophobic or sexist ideas. Now the right wants to ban private companies – or use government power to tell them how and when they can speak out when those expressions don’t fit conservative orthodoxies.
What is happening here on behalf of Ronald Wilson Reagan?
The market has been rather uncooperative with Republicans’ culture war targets in recent years.
First, Republicans apparently can’t believe how ungrateful businesses are. It is no exaggeration to say that McConnell was, for years, the fiercest advocate of the ability of corporations to engage fully in politics. It was good when they were pushing for tax and regulatory cuts and trying to exterminate unions, and therefore disproportionately aligned with Republicans. But these conservative pillars have strayed and Republicans feel betrayed.
Separating itself from the titans of industry who have guaranteed their political gains poses an existential threat to a party that has so long boasted of being the visible hand of the free market. So the Right instead threads the needle by blaming a non-spinning C-suite class that it says is afraid of being “undone.” (This is clearly what lies behind McConnell’s search of “far-left crowds.”)
Of course, the free market theory that Republicans allegedly subscribe to also dictates that consumers will punish poorly run businesses on the merits, so there should be no need for McConnell, Trump and their supporters to do so. But the market has been rather uncooperative with Republicans’ culture war targets in recent years.
For example, there was a time when President Trump focused his anger on the National Football League for its efforts to welcome player protests against police brutality. Then-vice president Mike Pence even popped out of his skybox in dramatic fashion when some players knelt during a national anthem at an NFL game in 2017.
Trumpism has left the shell of a party whose core principles are now grievance, resentment, and skepticism about whether “the people” are all qualified to govern themselves.
But four years later, football still reigns at the top of the American cultural landscape. “Even though the NFL took a hit last season [during the pandemic], its position in relation to most of the others [TV] programming has only gotten stronger, ”the Hollywood Reporter noted in January.
It bears little resemblance to a silent majority expressing its outrage by voting with its portfolios. Here is an alternative theory for the injured right to consider: Perhaps their problem is not that baseball, football, Coca-Cola and the like ignore free market dictates but follow them. After all, as New York’s Jonathan Chait pointed out, “the counties that voted for Biden represent 70% of the GDP.”
It’s not just that companies are beholden to their liberal workers, as some have suggested, or that they fear consumers. But the customers and employees that businesses need to survive in a changing economy don’t want to spend their money – or earn it – on businesses they see as supporting unacceptable acts like voter suppression. (And, beyond that, many good employees don’t want to work in states that in some cases restrict their civil rights or those of their friends.)
There is also a second trend at work. If Republicans seem ideologically unchecked to outsiders, that’s because they are. What does the GOP mean at this point? It is giving up the ideology of the free market. Its putative leader, beloved by social conservatives, is a twice-divorced serial philanderer and liar. The self-proclaimed Party of Constitutional Conservatives is populated by people ready to overthrow our constitutional order – violently if necessary.
Toxic Trumpism has left a zombie shell of a pushing party through our policy whose core principles are now grievance, resentment, and a skepticism – increasingly expressed – about whether “the people” are. all qualified to govern themselves.
Here’s a theory for the right to consider: Maybe their problem isn’t that baseball, Coca-Cola and the rest are ignoring free market dictates but following them.
This fuels the third trend, around which Trump Ublicans and non-Trump Republicans have united: the 361 bills introduced in 47 states to restrict voting. These bills are certainly spurred on by the former president’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, but they also represent a long-standing GOP dogma – also a lie – that there is voter fraud. mass on the part of the Democrats against which Republican electoral victories must be guaranteed.
What’s new in 2021 is the increasing extent to which Tories openly reframe their concerns, which only concern illegal voters (of whom there are very few) but also legal ones – at least those Republicans consider. as unwanted.
“It would be much better if the right to vote were not exercised by ignorant, illiterate people hypnotized by the flimflam that a great nation needs to be fundamentally transformed rather than competently governed,” wrote Andrew McCarthy on last weekend in the National Review curator. His colleague Kevin Williamson argued Tuesday that “the republic would be better served by having fewer voters – but better.”
Better voters? Who can decide which voters are “better” – and how would they make that decision?
There is a word for rule by a small elite, and it is not “democracy” or even “republic”. This word is rather “oligarchy”.
The problem for the oligarchic wing of the GOP is that their point of view is still outdated. Republicans therefore prefer to fight to find a way to this end on the basis of ostensibly populist cultural war, posing as defenders of American values by companies supposed to be under the influence of the antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement. .
But the reluctance of Republicans to adapt to consumer demands, whether in the commercial or electoral market, is something we need to pay attention to. Our system – economically and politically – depends on the fundamental commitment of both parties to capitalism and democracy, including the desire of the parties to modify and reform these systems. When a group is detached from capitalism or democracy (or both), the whole business is in danger.