RECENT MOVES by large American corporations to distance themselves from Republican Party voter suppression initiatives signal a profound historical shift. For the past 100 years, most political scientists have worked on the assumption that no political party cares more for the welfare of American capitalism than the Republican Party – and vice-versa. To hear Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio come out swinging against Delta Airlines for its criticism of Georgia’s new voting law is, therefore, both confusing and disconcerting. If “woke” capitalist corporations have joined the ranks of the Republican Party’s enemies, then who the hell are its friends?
Before answering that question, however, let’s sample just a little of Rubio’s invective. According to the left-wing American periodical, Mother Jones:
“In a strange line of logic, the Florida senator seemed to argue that the law, which among other restrictions bans non-poll-workers from distributing water to waiting voters, was not as bad as genocide against Uighur Muslims in China, where Delta also does business, and therefore should not be subject to the company’s reproach. ‘They make billions of dollars in a country that doesn’t even have elections…and they don’t say a word about it,’ Rubio argued, ‘but in America they’re prepared to boycott a state and condemn them publicly…They’re hypocrites.’”
Not that they would stoop so low, but Delta Airlines could have responded that Georgia’s Republicans and the Chinese Communist Party have all the appearance of political brothers, given that in both jurisdictions only one party is allowed to win.
The airline might also have pointed out that, while a boycott of China by Delta would have not the slightest impact on the fate of the Uighurs, a boycott of Georgia would greatly assist the efforts of black voters in that state to defend their hard-won civil rights. Certainly, the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 had that effect!
The Republican Right is, however, absolutely convinced that to “go woke” is to “go broke”. It simply does not believe sufficient Americans feel strongly enough about voter suppression to make any kind of boycott remotely effective. Clearly, the Board of Directors of Delta Airlines disagree.
And, they’re right. The demographic structure of the United States population is undergoing a profound transformation. It is becoming younger and browner and, worse still, from the Republicans’ perspective, it is becoming “woker”. If this were not the case: if the ‘natural home’ of a clear majority of American voters was the Republican Party; then what possible interest would GOP-controlled state legislatures have in making it harder for young, brown and black Americans to cast their ballots?
Capitalists, both in the United States – and here in New Zealand – are rightly focusing their attention on the workforces and consumers needed to generate profits in the future. Far-Right political strategists refuse to acknowledge this. Unfortunately, for them, the terrified and angry whites upon whose slumping shoulders Donald Trump built his 2016 victory, are growing older and sicker and deader. Their political dominance can only be maintained by keeping voters who do not look and think like themselves away from the polling booths. But, that way lies the suppression of democracy and civil war – neither of which is particularly good for business. The last thing intelligent capitalists ever want to see is blood in their own streets.
Donald Trump’s Republicans must be getting ever-so-slightly panicky about how many of the party’s friends and allies are abandoning them. They are right to be worried. By alienating corporate capitalism and making bitter enemies of the mainstream media and universities, the Trumpists are, if they only knew it, corralling their followers into a socio-economic and cultural dead-end.
When all is said and done, it is corporate capitalism that manufactures the future, the mainstream media which decorates it, and the universities that pass out the credentials entitling their holders to live in the nicest parts of it. By shutting themselves out of liberal capitalism’s Emerald City, Trump’s poorly educated munchkins are slamming the door on their own and their children’s best chance for a happy and prosperous future.
“Go woke, go broke!”, the Far-Right gurus bray. They should pay more attention to history. For more than 250 years, Capitalism has avoided going broke by consistently putting its prodigious energies behind those widest awake to the future’s most profitable possibilities.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 9 April 2021.