Conservatives: When We Said Corporations Are People, We Didn’t Mean They Could Disagree With Us
For decades, conservatives have been on the side of big business. They have extolled the virtues of a free market system and insisted that government regulation of any kind was unnecessary because corporations are already regulated by market forces. Discrimination laws were unnecessary because if people didn't like businesses that discriminated against others, those businesses would lose out to businesses that didn't discriminate. Everything that happened with business, within the free market, was something that was supposed to happen. And the only reason there were ever any problems was because the market was not free enough to self-regulate.
They have insisted that corporations, like any American citizen, ought to have the right to free speech, and that money counts as speech, and so therefore ginormous PACs should be able to campaign on behalf of candidates they like. They shouldn't be forced not to pollute the environment, they shouldn't be forced to ensure their workplaces are safe, they shouldn't be forced to pay their workers a minimum wage.
And this all seemed very good to them, because they believed that they would always benefit from this. Anyone who would criticize such a system, surely, was but an evil communist who resented the success of others.
But the system is starting to turn on them and they're not singing the praises of the free market so much anymore. Because when they said "corporations are people" they meant "corporations are people who agree with us."
This weekend, 100 chief executives and corporate leaders got together online to discuss what they can do about some pretty terrible voting bills aimed at disenfranchising people, like the one recently passed by Georgia and the one that is likely to pass in Texas.
Via the Washington Post:
Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner — talked about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor. [...]
The discussion — scheduled to last one hour but going 10 minutes longer — was led at times by Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, who told the executives that it was important to keep fighting what they viewed as discriminatory laws on voting. Chenault and Frazier coordinated a letter signed last month by 72 Black business executives that made a similar point — a letter that first drew attention to the voting bills in executive suites across the country.
The call's goal was to unify companies that had been issuing their own statements and signing on to drafted statements from different organizations after the action in Georgia, Sonnenfeld said. The leaders called in from around the country — some chimed in from Augusta, Ga., where they were attending the Masters golf tournament.
So naturally, many Republicans — who normally love it when corporations get super involved with politics when it comes to polluting the environment, tax breaks for the rich, or regulating their employees' reproductive rights but don't like it when corporations make it difficult to be racist — were very upset about this.
Over at The Federalist, they published an op-ed by one Tristan Justice, titled "It's Not Okay For Corporations To Take Away Our Freedom Just Because They're Not Government."
This is a rather unusual take from The Federalist, which has traditionally maintained that the free market provides the best answer to all societal ills, in articles like:
And more. Apparently, the free market is good all of the time always until CEOs use all of the power conservatives have given them to do stuff conservatives don't like. Like putting pressure on states to not disenfranchise people just because they're mad about the last election. Justice's fear is that, if this works, corporations may continue to pressure states to do other good stuff that conservatives hate.
If you want to take over the world, build an American corporate empire to monopolize the public square and ban dissent. Then, form a corporate coalition of like-minded peers who graduated from the same elite universities where wokeism is indoctrinated as a secular religion to strategize on circumventing republican governance. Over the weekend, more than 100 corporate executives met to do just that. [...]
If this works, the pressure on voting laws will be tomorrow's pressure on gun laws, and next on immigration laws, abortion laws, and education laws. Corporations, which for decades lobbied merely on issues pertinent to their financial interests, have now begun to capitalize on aggressive wokeism. Soon, woke corporate boardrooms will be weighing in on every facet of American life. That's the existential threat to American liberty flying under the radar.
Huh! I bet they didn't feel that way when Hobby Lobby was pushing school boards to adopt "Bible-based curriculums." It's unlikely they are particularly upset about Richard Uihlein, CEO of the Wisconsin-based company Uline, spending tens of millions of dollars to promote conservative policies and oppose gay and transgender rights. Or any of the other CEOs who have spent money promoting conservative policies and helping conservatives get elected. And conservatives were the ones who wanted them to be able to do that with no regulation whatsoever.
Oh! Duh! They also didn't feel this way when they supported Citizens United, when they pushed for corporate personhood, when they argued that corporations had just as much right to use their speech and their money to push for ideas they believe in as any regular American citizen would.
The fact is, however, these laws do actually apply to the financial interests of these companies even beyond their obvious university-inculcated fealty to "wokeism." Say a company is based in Georgia. Like any other company, it would like to be able to attract the most talented people — but in order to do that, it would have to get them to move to Georgia. Those talented people might not be so keen on moving to a state so fiercely intent on disenfranchising Black people, particularly if they happen to be Black people. Same could be said for states that want to ban abortion or that want to allow teachers to insult trans students or do other things that make them generally unappealing places to live for people who are not assholes.
Mr. Justice might also do well to notice that those leading this particular conversation also happened to be Black people. Who probably like voting.
Additionally, you would think that people at The Federalist, which so regularly extols the beauty of the free market, would understand "marketing." Companies and CEOs want to look like they are doing good things, because that makes people want to buy things from them. They also want to look like they are hip and cool and with it, because they would probably like to sell things to people who are, or are aspiring to be, hip and cool and with it.
Justice then goes onto suggest that libertarian philosophy may actually be bad, when it is employed to allow things he doesn't like to happen:
Yet many Republicans in power appear to have fallen victim to this deception, often citing libertarian philosophy to justify their decisions. This, however, is where libertarianism fails. What good is the absence of a government mask mandate if private businesses implement their own? What good is the absence of a government vaccine passport if private businesses implement their own?
Yes, libertarianism is all great until a company wants to protect its workers and customers from a deadly pandemic, and it's not even barred from setting its own rules on its own premises. These people are bizarre.
(Robyn, you are asking, won't the free market take care of that for them? Surely, if mask-free businesses that don't require patrons to have vaccines are what the people want, the market forces will drive them to do that. Yes, and it is working in many places, because half the country has been brain-poisoned by lunatics.)
Of course, as Justice makes abundantly clear, the only people whose "freedom" matters are conservatives. Conservatives who want to keep Black people from voting, who want to put people's lives at risk by going into businesses maskless and unvaccinated, and who, of course, would really like to be terrible to transgender people:
In Tennessee, for example, Republican Gov. Bill Lee opposed a government prohibition on private businesses requiring proof of vaccination for service or entry. In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed legislation to ban genital mutilation in children. In South Dakota, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem spoiled her GOP star-power and caved to corporate interests who demanded the fictionalized extinction of evolutionary differences between men and women in sports. Don't question the left's dogma of transgenderism online, because corporate tech giants will shut that down too.
Aw, poor baby.
If there is anything that has driven Republican philosophy over the years, it is the belief that bad things only happen to other people, that they will always be the ones to reap the benefits while others suffer the consequences. They don't ever think "could this thing that I support because I think it will hurt the right people be used to hurt me?" For as religious as many of them are, there's not a lot of "There but for the grace of God go I."
If they think giving corporations free rein to do whatever they want and influence politics however they like turned out to be a bad idea, wait til they find out about literally everything else they support, when those things eventually bite them in the ass as well.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse