The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion American businesses should wise up. Republicans endanger capitalism.

Protesters in support of Florida's Republican-backed bill that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity gather for a rally outside Walt Disney World in Orlando on April 16. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Open Secrets reports that from 2019 to 2020, business PACs poured more than $21.3 million into Republican coffers. (Covering their bets, they also gave roughly $15.8 million to Democrats.) The rotten return on their largesse should prompt corporate executives to rethink their political giving.

After the Jan. 6 insurrection — and after many Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 election — many corporations declared they would no longer give to Republicans. Many have since reconsidered. Did business leaders think these Republicans have turned over a new leaf?

If so, they were terribly naive, given Republicans’ subsequent conduct. In continuing to fund antidemocratic Republicans, corporations are courting disaster not only for the country but also for their corporations, which depend on the rule of law, functional democracy and peaceful transfers of power.

At the state level, Republicans have continued to undermine democracy with a tsunami of voting suppression and election suppression laws. When Major League Baseball and other businesses objected to Georgia’s voter suppression bill last year, the Republican governor and state lawmakers — not to mention Republicans inside the Beltway — threatened to retaliate.

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Texas has been no more hospitable to business. Republicans there also passed a massive bill to undermine voting, resulting in thousands of rejected absentee ballots. Meanwhile, a flurry of legal challenges contend that Texas’s new election maps seek to maximize GOP power at the expense of non-White voters. Democratic legitimacy is illusive if partisans run the election machinery and some voters are systematically denied a voice.

Aside from destabilizing elections, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has proved a hapless leader. He failed to keep the power on during 2021′s frigid winter. And this year, in a stunt to prove his anti-immigrant credentials, he enacted onerous trucking inspections at the border that slowed commerce and aggravated the nation’s supply chain problems. He was forced to withdraw his edict on Friday. Though he imagined it would extort Mexico into beefing up its border security, instead he wounded Texas businesses and consumers.

And let’s not forget Abbott’s abortion bounty bill, which entices people to report women who seek an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with financial incentives. When Citigroup and other employers in Texas said they would provide benefits for employees who seek abortion services out of state, Republicans introduced a bill to ban the government from doing business with companies that provide such benefits. Apparently, state legislators want to run the benefits departments of private companies.

What sort of recruitment efforts will Texas businesses now need to persuade educated, diverse workers to move to the state? (Ignore the man behind the curtain!) Investors might prefer to park their capital in democratically stable, inclusive states instead.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has spent his time promoting the state’s “don’t say gay" bill and devising ways to go after schools that make White people feel uncomfortable. To boot, the state now is banning dozens of math books that allegedly violate rules banning critical race theory.

Moreover, DeSantis has decided that he should be running corporations in his state, not managers or shareholders. He sued to prevent cruise lines from enacting covid protections. And he went to war with Disney over the company’s objections to the “don’t say gay” bill. The Post reports, “He said the legislature is reevaluating Disney’s special tax status in Florida, scrutinizing ‘some of the things that are really unique to Disney over many, many decades.’” That’s how Republicans treat one of the state’s largest employers, which contributes more than $75 billion to Central Florida’s economy and gives “millions to politicians in the state, mostly Republicans.” Supporting a party with that outlook seems to have been a misjudgment.

To recap, red-state Republicans continue to undermine democracy and are setting the stage for future voting conflicts. They are politicizing their schools (which already lagged blue states) and persecuting LGBTQ students. They are willing to risk commerce (not to mention reliable elections) to keep their MAGA supporters happy.

Recall also that vaccination rates for covid-19 are much lower and death rates much higher in states run by Republicans. Potential and current residents might want to reconsider their options. Meanwhile, Democrats should make clear that they offer a stable business environment, eschew anti-business stunts, want effective covid protections and support public schools. Oh, and they don’t support post-election violence.

Business leaders should get a clue. In supporting lawless bullies who want to micromanage their companies, they enable a threat to democracy and increase the risk to their companies’ profitability and reputations. If it’s their bottom line they’re concerned about, CEOs should recognize Republicans have shown repeatedly that they are not on their side.