Commentary: What Talks And What Doesn’t
By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS—The corporate giants Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines have made Republicans in Georgia and elsewhere spitting mad.
Coke and Delta did this by coming out against Georgia’s restrictive new election law, which was crafted by the GOP as an exercise in voter suppression. This new law, among other things, makes it a crime to bring food or water to people, however elderly or unwell, standing in long voting lines.
The Republican power structure has reacted with all the fury of a jilted lover, one who is shocked—SHOCKED—to discover that what they thought was a marriage of true love turned out instead to be a pairing of convenience.
A union that could be discarded when it ceased to be useful.
Gov. Brian Kemp and his fellow Georgia Republicans have threatened to revoke the tax breaks the state offers Coke and Delta to keep the corporations housed in Atlanta. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and other GOP stalwarts have taken to delivering largely incoherent rants about the “hypocrisy” of “woke capitalism.”
It turns out there is a fury worse than that of a woman scorned.
It belongs to politicians who, rather late in life, discover how the world works.
One of those ways revolves around this fundamental truth: Businesses do not exist to do the Republican Party’s bidding. Businesses exist to make money. The ones that don’t make money cease to be businesses.
Most businesses—Coke and Delta included—can’t make money and stay in business by selling their products and services only to Republicans. They must be able to sell to increasingly diverse markets if they’re going to make it.
Big business’s loyalty to the GOP or any other political party extends only as far as the cash register. Once Republican policies start costing businesses money, the GOP becomes a luxury those businesses no longer can afford.
Republicans can be forgiven for thinking theirs was an exclusive relationship.
Some years ago, an Indiana Republican legislator told me about meetings the lobbyists for the Chamber of Commerce had with the GOP caucus.
“The words change from time to time,” the Republican lawmaker told me. “But the message is always the same: We own you.”
Savvy observers understand that ownership was, is and always has been one of expedience, not undying loyalty.
We’ve seen evidence of that here in Indiana.
When Hoosier Republicans opted to do the bidding of social conservatives and push through an ill-named and even more ill-fated measure called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—RFRA—the state’s largest employers joined as one and broke with the GOP.
RFRA—which would allow Hoosiers to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens on religious grounds—was likely to chase both investors and talent away from the state. Smart businesspeople could not abide that because, again, they want to be able to sell their goods and services to as many people as possible.
The sexual orientations of their customers don’t matter. Whether their checks clear does.
The GOP arrived at a similar misunderstanding in Georgia.
Republicans there are justifiably worried that demographics are running against their party and they want to restrict the franchise to try to hold back the tide. But that runs counter to the interests of Coke and Delta, who want to sell soft drinks and airline flights to as many people as possible.
The jilted GOP leaders can fulminate all they want, but it isn’t likely to change things. Kemp’s threats to pull tax breaks from the company are empty and the chieftains in corporate America know it. The politicians who chase away major employers buy themselves early and unplanned retirements from office.
The same goes for the spouting from Rubio about “woke capitalism” and “hypocrisy.” His bluster about the evil of corporations doing business with China only underscores the point. Those companies do business with China because there is money to be made in that country.
The CEOs aren’t doing what they’re doing in Georgia because they’re “woke.”
They’re doing it because they’re capitalists.
Expecting corporations to put the GOP’s interests ahead of their own is like expecting a fish to ride a bicycle.
Fish don’t do that.
And businesspeople do what they do.
FOOTNOTE John Krull is the Director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.
The City-County Observer posted this article without editing or bias.