The emergence of companies as social activists is complicating traditional attitudes on both the left and the right. Progressives have long complained of corporate influence over government policy. They’ve pilloried companies that threaten to move operations in order to extract favors from state legislatures; they’ve attacked the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council for its role in drafting a slew of pro-business state laws; they’ve called for overturning Citizens United. Now, though, progressives are confronted with a situation where meddling with the legislative process and overriding popular opinion seems desirable.
The implications for modern conservatism are even more consequential. Social conservatives were an essential part of the Republican coalition that Ronald Reagan assembled—composed of pro-business conservatives, national-security hawks, and the Christian right. The coalition always entailed fudging policy differences: not all social conservatives were true believers in big tax cuts and deregulation; business élites often didn’t feel strongly about abortion and prayer in schools. But, as Daniel Williams, a historian at the University of West Georgia and the author of a history of the Christian right, told me, “Even though the relationship between the two sides was always complicated, they were willing to make a bargain, because each side needed the other.”
The [fight for LGBT rights] t shows how far that bargain has eroded. To many conservative business leaders, today’s social-conservative agenda looks anachronistic and is harmful to the bottom line; it makes it hard to hire and keep talented employees who won’t tolerate discrimination. Social conservatives, meanwhile, think that Republican leaders are sacrificing Christian principles in order to keep big business happy. “There’s more than a fair amount of anger and a great deal of disappointment,” Williams said. Evangelicals have called companies like Apple and Disney “corporate bullies,” to whom Mammon matters more than morals.
Needless to say, the forces of Mammon are winning.
The New Yorker on the new corporate activism.
On ideological purity versus results, I guess. Particularly for the progressive left, which is currently doing soul searching on topics like, “Is it corporate interference in government policy in general that I don’t like, or do I only not like it when the outcomes are those I disapprove of?”
I don’t think this one’s got an easy answer, for what it’s worth.