Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto whose latest book is On Risk.
After the last U.S. election, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp denied then-president Donald Trump’s demands for an overturn of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, but he also averred that “alarming issues” demonstrated the need for electoral change.
So late last month the state of Georgia – followed by several others – enacted legislation that drastically reduced essential voting rights, stunning observers and calling forth accusations of Jim Crow 2.0.
These restrictions were rightly judged as disproportionately affecting Black and poor citizens. You will have no water or snacks while waiting in line. You may not vote early on Sunday after church. Absentee ballots will be either hard or impossible to submit. (Some of these measures were mitigated in final legislation.)
Mr. Kemp predicted that critics of the Georgia law “will threaten, boycott, sue, demonize and team up with their friends in the national media to call me everything in the book.” The Governor likely thought those objectors would be the usual run of CNN and MSNBC pundits, some New York Times and New Yorker columnists, and maybe a few professors. I bet he didn’t think that Major League Baseball would yank the All-Star Game from Atlanta; or that people would boycott the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National; or that Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines would slam the legislation in national media.
These corporate protests in turn aroused significant blowback. “From election law to environmentalism to radical social agendas to the Second Amendment, parts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained this past week. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”
Parallel government, serious consequences, far-left mobs, constitutional hijacking. Mr. McConnell sounds like he’s been reading way too many QAnon websites. (Don’t order the pizza.)
Because who would have thought that Coca-Cola, the liquid fuel of neo-liberalism since at least 1941, or Major League Baseball, a historically complacent systemic racist corporate enterprise, would be accused of being in the pocket of this notional far-left, Constitution-annihilating conspiracy? Wow.
It went on. The Georgia voting-assault legislation was both better and worse than first reported, wrote someone on Slate. The Coca-Cola and Delta protests were merely performative virtue-signalling, said someone else in the Los Angeles Times. Then, maybe predictably, counter boycotts were ordered by, among others, Kentucky Senator and serial Fauci-denier Rand Paul. No more Coke or Dasani for us, you ranting Communist mobsters. No more cheap regional flights on Delta, you mad leftist wackadoodles. And baseball is, as we all know, a goofy sport for left-leaning wimpy losers who can’t play football.
Mr. Paul was stern. “If they want to boycott us, why don’t we boycott them? This is the only thing that will teach them a lesson,” he told Fox News. “If Coca-Cola wants to only operate in Democrat states and have only Democrats drink them, God love ‘em. We’ll see how well they do when half the country quits drinking Coca-Cola.”
Duelling banjoes just became duelling boycotts. Good luck to RC Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Mountain Dew. Maybe they’ll get a sadly needed market bump south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
But come on. When big corporations, the usually compliant donors to GOP candidates under Citizens United and other corrupt donation laws, are berated for daring to shift out of their assigned (monetary) lane, we have entered new ideological terrain. Money is free speech, says the law; but actual speech apparently now isn’t free? And weren’t we told that so-called “cancel culture” was a left-wing thing? Are apple pie, hot dogs, and Chevrolet next on the rightist erasure agenda? (You could look that up, as Casey Stengel said.)
Also, really, far left? Woke parallel government? In the 1789 National Assembly of the French Republic, being leftist meant something – based, indeed, on where you sat. You know who’s actually far left? Bomb-tossing anarchists, violent Maoists, the Haymarket rioters, Leon Trotsky and, on some days, a few of my fired-up Irish grad-school buddies. It’s not critical race academics, Hollywood actors, Franklin Roosevelt, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau or even Bernie Sanders. And it’s certainly not Major League Baseball, Delta Airlines or Coca-Cola.
I don’t usually drink it myself, but I hear that Coke adds life. I might have some while not watching the Masters.
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