Paper Tiger: Why Republican Threats of Counter-Boycotts Over Voting Laws Are Toothless

They were happy to run roughshod over civil rights and voting rights arguments, but the economic response to Republican voter suppression efforts across the country - pioneered by Georgia’s Jim Crow 2.0 law - is making Republicans across the country nervous.

With Georgia’s homegrown companies denouncing their legislature and Major League Baseball moving their All Star game to Colorado from Georgia, the sting of losing money is making the GOP feel the pinch. But more importantly, they see the corporate response, led by public threats of boycotts against companies that do not respond to these kinds of laws with a clear and unequivocal message, as an affront to what they view as their god-given right to trample on voting rights of Black people in order to advance Donald Trump’s big election lie.

So they are threatening to retaliate with their own boycotts. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Aquabuddha) said this morning on Fox News that conservatives and Republicans should start their own boycotts so companies feel it in their pocketbooks and heed Mitch McConnell’s warning to stay out of politics.
Donald Trump has himself urged - through his new mode of communication of a tweet-like press release now that he’s been banned from Twitter - the boycott of Delta, Coca Cola, MLB and even Citibank.

Despite the growing calls and threats from right wing leadership and the rank and file, though, things are only getting worse for them. As a voter suppression measure moves through Texas, corporate giants based in the state - like AT&T, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines - have all taken a strong corporate stance against it.

It keeps getting worse for them for many reasons, and I don’t envy them the task of finding companies to do business with after they disavow essentially all the companies that provide goods and services to Americans. But the primary reason is that right wing boycotts, even if they were able to organize and materialize one, poses little to no threat to business. On the other hand, if liberals were to organize a successful boycott campaign, the potential hits to corporate pocket books are much worse.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won just 487 counties in America on her way to beating Donald Trump - who won 2,626 counties - by 3 million in the popular vote count. But those 487 counties accounted for 64% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. And on his way to smashing all popular vote records en route to the White House, President Biden won roughly 520 counties accounting for 71% of US GDP, a 7-point jump in favor of Democrats from just four years ago.

This liberal dominance of the economy is visible in every sector. America is growing more diverse and more urban and suburban - further concentrating economic activity away from ruby red rural Republican strongholds (wow, did I just say that many ‘R’ words one after another?). None of the 15 busiest airports in the country is located in a city with a Republican mayor.

This makes business decisions fairly uncomplicated. The answer to whether a company wants to be in the good graces of those to comprise 71% - and growing - share of the economy or those that comprise just 29% (and declining) does not exactly require a degree from the Wharton School of Finance.

Liberals have also demonstrated our ability to actually create collective action - and thus collective pain for corporations who stand on the wrong side of history - while the right can point to no such modern success. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to ending Apartheid in South Africa, considered and targeted boycotts led by Black people to numerous poisitive changes.

Liberals organized a major campaign to get advertisers to drop Rush Limbaugh’s show in 2012 after he called activist Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Limbaugh, though he did not admit the loss of 45 major advertisers was the cause, apologized to Sandra Fluke for using those words.

On the flipside, a threat of right wing boycott of Ford for appealing to the LGBT community almost worked in 2005, when Americans were far less gay-friendly than they are now but counter-threats by the pro-LGBT consumers made Ford reverse course.

As a group, the far right has far less economic power and are they are much less likely to to able to organize what little they have to pose a threat, especially against a countercurrent of buy-cott, if you will, and goodwill the companies that reject right wing hate are likely to benefit from.

If it helps the right any, this is not personal. Avoiding liberal boycotts and brushing off Republican ones just makes good business sense.

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