It seems that Republicans, who love to rail against big government, plan on using the levers of power available to them to bring to heel companies that step out of line.
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When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) mused last night that maybe his state is going to sue a beermaker for having a transgender social media influencer promote its products, he wasn’t just expressing some right-wing fantasy of punishing “woke” businesses. Instead, he was outlining how Republicans, who love to rail against big government, plan on using the levers of power available to them to bring to heel companies that step out of line.
Here is how this would work: Company A does something bad. “Bad,” in this case, is a broad term including anything conservatives don’t like. Gayness in commercials = bad. Speaking out against guns = bad. Promoting inclusion and diversity = bad. Having a Black person play a fish in a movie = bad. Selling T-shirts with a rainbow on them = bad.
Once this bad behavior has been identified, the right-wing propaganda machine cranks up. That means lots of tweets, lots of outrage, and lots of primetime coverage on Fox News.
Eventually, once conservative audiences have been sufficiently riled up, the calls for a boycott begin, which is once again covered extensively on right-wing media.
The next step is that people stop buying the products of Company A.
It should be noted that this is not something only conservatives do… they just do it better.
There are plenty of companies who engage in “bad” behavior that runs afoul with progressive values. In that case, “bad” is pretty much the opposite of the examples from above.
Up to this point, the only involvement that officials have in this “outrage-boycott” cycle is to use their megaphone. That’s not great, but it’s not overly disturbing.
However, what DeSantis is suggesting here is a new, very troubling escalation because it would get the government involved in a very direct way.
Essentially, what he is proposing is that, once a boycott has had any success whatsoever, i.e., the bottom line of Company A has been impacted, then the government would spring into action to “protect shareholders.”
In that case, the argument would be that Company A, by doing the bad thing, violated its “fiduciary duty.”
And that’s just insane… and not just for a “small government” Republican.
What this would mean is that any state government could go after any publicly traded company for “bad” behavior.
Too many gay people in your commercials? That is probably hurting business with conservatives, so Florida will take you to court. Too few gay people in your commercials? That is probably hurting business with progressives, so California will take you to court.
DeSantis is not the only high-ranking Republican who has floated this approach.
In a decidedly weird letter to Target, which had run afoul with conservatives for its “Pride” campaign, the attorneys general of seven GOP-controlled states also talked about the company’s fiduciary duty and raised the possibility that its leaders “may have acted negligently” in what was a thinly veiled threat of unspecified future action against the retail giant.
In that case, the Republican officials even offered just the “right” solution.
“It is likely more profitable to sell the type of Pride that enshrines the love of the United States. Target’s Pride Campaign alienates whereas Pride in our country unites,” the attorneys general wrote.
While the letter itself was very odd, its message (and that broadcast by DeSantis last night) to the corporate world was very clear: “If you go woke, we’ll try to make sure you go broke.”