Republicans and corporate America are on the outs.
In the past week alone, American Airlines and computer company Dell came out strongly against GOP-led bills that place restrictions on voting in their home base of Texas. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a rising star in Republican Party, continued to take heat for nixing a bill that would have imposed a ban on transgender athletes in sports, citing the potential impact on her state’s bottom line. And conservatives spent days bashing “vaccine passports” some businesses think are needed to return to normal.
And then there was Georgia, where the Republican-controlled state House narrowly voted to end a tax break worth millions that Delta enjoys on jet fuel after the airline’s CEO — along with the CEO of Coca-Cola, another major Atlanta-based business — condemned new voting restrictions in the state. (The GOP-led state Senate did not take up the measure.)On Friday,Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of that same law.
Republicans were outraged.
“Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections,” former President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!”
“Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & anti-trust?” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted.
Such public dust-ups between businesses and members of the GOP are becoming more frequent, though the divide — possibly one of the most consequential in U.S. politics and society — is years in the making. The shift is the product of a Republican Party increasingly driven by “culture war” issues that animate a base invigorated by Trump and corporate powerhouses that are under more pressure than ever to align themselves with the left on voting rights, LGBTQ rights and anti-racist efforts.
The result is a fraying in relations between a GOP that has for years advocated for the kinds of libertarian economic policies that have widely benefited these businesses and companies that are using their might to help advance racial and social justice causes.
“We have long thought and still think of the big institutional drivers of this culture war as more in academia, the arts, the media, and corporate America has mostly sat it out until recently,” retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told NBC News in an interview. He added that while he does not think of corporate America “as the biggest player yet,” companies coming off the sidelines “can change the dynamic.”
This year has seen flashpoint after flashpoint. Weeks’ worth of conservative outrage about the “cancellation” of Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss were not about policies instituted by the government, but decisions made by toymaker Hasbro and the famed children’s author’s own company to address inclusion and racism, respectively. February’s Conservative Political Action Conference — long a bastion of economic libertarianism — featured a panel decrying “The Awokening of Corporate America.”
“Part of this is a development that has been going on for probably 10 or 15 years,” David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, said. “The old Reagan coalition — which included the Chamber of Commerce representing big and small businesses — since the tea party movement has really kind of been frayed.”
The trend has intensified as the GOP absorbs more white working-class voters and as the Democratic Party is finding new success with well-to-do suburbanites.
These shifts were “exacerbated” under Trump, one Republican lobbyist said, with the party going “more towards this culture war stuff that amps up our voters and gets them really excited.”
“Talking about corporate tax cuts and reducing burdensome regulations doesn’t do it for our new voters,” this person said. “I guess it’s not that exciting. It might be exciting for those country club Republicans we lost, but we’re losing them.”
What it means for policy is less clear, however, even as some Republicans embrace some leftward policies like an increase in the minimum wage. Under Trump, Republicans implemented a tax cut that saw much of its benefits go toward some of these same corporations conservatives now decry for their social activism. Few Republicans are turning away from the traditional agenda of lower taxes and deregulation — though…