The Corner

Politics & Policy

For Conservatives Confronting Corporate Wokeness, Failure Theater Is the Real Enemy

A man walks past shelves of Coca-Cola bottles and cans at a Shoprite store inside Palms shopping mall in Lagos, Nigeria, November 5, 2019. (Temilade Adelaja/Reuters)

In response to the left-wing turn of much of corporate America, Republicans are thinking about using antitrust or weird, vague ideas of differential taxations of corporations based on their size and/or wokeness. These kinds of policies won’t address the concerns conservatives have about corporate America. These suggestions aren’t designed to accomplish anything. They are designed to give the false impression of trying to do something while ultimately preserving the status quo. This is failure theater.

There are things that can be done. Some of it is small-ball. Some companies collect rents (in the broader economic sense) from state governments, such as stadium subsidies or special tax breaks, by having cross-partisan appeal. They never should have had these rents in the first place. If these companies lose some of their cross-partisan appeal by making culture-war interventions, then that is a good time for Republican politicians to take away those rents — because it is always a good time to take away these rents.

The key is that Republican politicians need to follow through. Republicans who threaten in order to get headlines but don’t act on their threats are playing Republican voters for chumps. It’s failure theater.

At the federal level, Republicans can fight to weaken the influence of social-media mobs by reducing the discretion of human-resources departments to sanction employees for political statements made outside of work contexts, and to make managers personally liable for political harassment or targeting of employees. Absent their ability to target people through HR, social-media mobs are mostly just a bunch of angry, sad people on the Internet, and it is long past time to Make Social Media Not Real Life Again.

Republicans can also fight to reduce the power of Big Tech oligarchs to silence the opposition by regulating web-services providers and Internet payment processors as common carriers (there might also be a case for doing the same with social-media companies, but that is a tougher call).

But before anything useful happens, conservatives have to defeat the immediate enemy. That enemy isn’t Joe Biden and the Democrats. It isn’t even the alliance between woke mobs and corporate America. The immediate enemy of conservatives is Republican failure theater. Until that enemy is defeated, nothing good can happen.

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