It’s a predictable pattern. A state announces that its duly elected conservative legislators enact a law presumably backed by the majority of people who elected them. Immediately, corporations begin wringing their hands over how hard it will be to find employees to labor under such oppressive right leaning regimes.
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This week, we saw this pattern unfold in Indiana. The legislature passed and the governor signed a law banning abortion except in cases involving rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and when the life of the mother is in danger.
Blue-chip companies headquartered in the state, including Eli Lilly and Cummins, immediately said that it will be harder to recruit talent to the state given what its horrible democratically elected leaders have done. Lilly went one step further, issuing a threat. “Given this new law,” the company scolded, “we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”
The company warned that it will no longer be able to attract “diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world.”
But diverse never includes the large numbers of people who favor restrictions on abortion. Such as the majorities of Hoosiers who elected the legislators and governor. Their views don’t matter.
The same played out last year in Georgia, when the legislature enacted voting laws that critics were coerced into deeming too restrictive. Those critics included the newly progressive CEOs of Atlanta titans Delta and Coca-Cola. In a fit of performative wokeness Major League Baseball moved its decreasingly relevant All-Star Game in an attempt to chase away the few remaining fans who haven’t given up in an era of PitchCom, ghost runners, permanent DH, infield shifts, and ear-splitting walk-up music. It didn’t work. The 2021 All-Star Game’s 4.5 rating was its lowest of all time, until this year’s 4.2 reached a pathetic 7.6 million viewers as the dying game pathetically tries to become the NBA.
We saw similar activism in North Carolina, when 2017’s “bathroom bill” limited the use of public facilities corresponding to the sex on users’ birth certificates.
Television productions pulled out, Ringo Starr canceled a concert, and Bank of America’s CEO fretted that businesses were quietly heading “elsewhere with projects or events because of the controversy.”
Conservative ideas—and their elected representatives—are unworthy
These are complicated issues. Without weighing in on the correctness of the laws regarding abortion, voting rights, and gendered bathrooms, it’s worth noting that in every single instance the corporation that issues the public handwringing and threats does so in reaction to conservative legislation. Each of these issues is, by definition, popular enough that it attracted majority support from its state legislature. So these aren’t fringe issues. Yet, there is never an outcry from these corporations over states that enact progressive legislation, no matter how outrageous it seems to those in more conservative parts of the country.
When California enacted legislation allowing those who believe they’ve been harmed by gun violence to sue gun manufacturers, no high profile public company in the entire state mentioned that it will be difficult to recruit employees to a state hostile to the constitutional right to bear arms.
Scott Wiener steered SB 145 through the Senate to reduce the consequences for 25-year-olds who seduce 16-year-olds. That was a few years after Gov Brown signed Wiener’s SB 239, which reduced the penalty for knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor. No California companies stood up to complain about how hard it would be to recruit people from Indiana to work in a state with values such as these.
New York State’s 2019 Reproductive Health Act allows for abortion at “24 weeks or more away from the start of a pregnancy” if the fetus is not viable. No high-profile public company has fretted that it will be hard to attract religious employees to a state whose abortion policy falls far outside the mainstream. Because those companies do not value those people.
We are a divided nation, with roughly equal numbers of people on each side. Enough so that control of the White House, the Senate, and the House have each flipped over the past few years and at least the House is expected to do so again this year.
So why does corporate activism always favor one side? It’s not because the leaders of these companies, all of them multi-millionaires, are secretly Bolsheviks.
After Florida enacted its mislabeled (but popular) “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Disney’s Herman Munster-like CEO Bob Chapek had to be dragged to a weak condemnation of the policy. The reason the pressure campaign from the left eventually prevailed, and got him to issue his weak sauce resistance to the state’s law—which ended up costing Disney its self-rule status and doing his shareholders harm—is that companies fear the loud megaphone of the left. The right doesn’t have an equivalent.
A company that fails to properly resist abortion restrictions will face massive pressure from social media mobs. A company that fails to resist the permissive abortion policies of New York State faces no pressure.
The mores and values of religious conservatives are routinely dismissed by those who write the algorithms for social media networks. Worse, they’re often ridiculed or hatefully labeled as racist. That’s where the ugly new phrase “Christian Nationalist” has taken shape, not from people suddenly declaring themselves allegiant to some new philosophy, but from the invention of a catchphrase that makes a good hashtag.
This is the inevitable culmination of a disconnect between corporate America and a massive minority, possible majority, of the people who use their products. Consumers of Disney and the rest are showing signs of impatience with their values constantly being dismissed and mocked. In Major League Baseball, the most tradition bound of all major sports, the team in Cleveland is struggling to put asses in the seats after changing its name from Indians to Guardians. Disney’s Woke Lightyear bombed at the box office. There’s not a great way for consumers to express displeasure with Lilly’s insulin, but corporations are actually helping the Republican Party. By revealing their leaders, some of the most hated people in America, to be in lockstep with mainstream Democrats, they have helped turn Republicans into the counterculture.
Meanwhile, despite the posturing, companies and their workers continue to flee states whose liberal policies on crime, taxes and covid have created impossible obstacles. And despite their rhetoric, they’re flocking to conservative-dominated states.
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