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Republicans Can Talk Tough About ‘Woke’ Corporations—and That’s About It

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08.04.2021

When Major League Baseball pulled its upcoming All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Republicans reacted with ominous warnings, half-hearted boycotts, and a specific threat.

“In light of @MLB’s stance to undermine election integrity laws,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) tweeted last week, “I have instructed my staff to begin drafting legislation to remove Major League Baseball’s federal antitrust exception.”

Duncan’s proposal stands almost no chance of becoming law, but Republicans have good reason to be concerned—corporate boycotts, like the ones in Georgia now, have worked before. Over the last decade, they’ve helped reverse anti-LGBT laws in North Carolina and Indiana. And just this year, the threat of boycotts could help temper an anti-trans law in South Dakota.

All the while, there’s been only modest blowback for the businesses standing up to politicians.

“Corporations are people, these are your constituents,” said one Republican strategist, invoking an infamous line from now Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “You aren’t going to punish successful businesses in your state or congressional district.”

But as the MLB and major employers in Georgia like Delta and Coca-Cola come out against a Georgia law imposing all sorts of restrictions on voting in the state, Republicans are struggling to figure out how they keep businesses in line.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned of “serious consequences” if the private sector kept “behaving like a woke parallel government.” But he didn’t even have a chance to clarify what those consequences would be before he was walking back his comments.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday,” McConnell said Wednesday. A day after advising businesses to “stay the hell out of politics,” McConnell said corporations were “certainly entitled to be in politics.”

Republicans can talk tough about corporations siding against them, but the reality is, that’s really all they can do. As McConnell demonstrated, even that game is delicate. And while corporations don’t want to alienate half of their consumer base by coming out against a partisan law, Republicans don’t want to ostracize big........

© The Daily Beast


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