That’s some mighty expensive virtue-signaling.
And it is virtue-signaling, of course. Delta insists absurdly that it’s not taking a side in the great gun-control debate by rescinding the NRA group discount, just exiting the debate entirely. But rescission is, of course, taking a side insofar as it deviates from the company’s status quo. At a minimum, they’re broadcasting that they find the NRA sufficiently unsavory at this point not to continue to grant the organization a perk that other interest groups enjoy.
It’s impossible under the circumstances to read that as anything but a rebuke to gun owners more broadly. If they had rescinded the NRA discount months ago over, say, the group’s weird culture-war ads, that would be one thing. But to do it after the Parkland shooting, in a political context in which student spokesmen are pushing for aggressive gun regulations while accusing the NRA and the Republicans to whom it donates of killing children is, emphatically, taking a side in the broader debate.
Maybe it’s in the company’s financial interest to do so. But they’ll be starting in a hole.
“While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a Friday memo to employees obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”
A Delta spokesman said only 13 tickets were sold under the group travel discount for the National Rifle Association.
“Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate,” Bastian wrote in the statement.
Why didn’t they just institute a “neutral” policy of rescinding all underutilized group discounts? They could have announced that any discount that failed to produce, say, 50 ticket sales would be discontinued as not worth the bother. That would have let them drop the NRA and probably a few inconsequential groups behind a (slightly) more convincing fig leaf than “we’re not taking sides in the gun debate.”
As I say, though, maybe it’s in Delta’s interest to make enemies of gun owners. Remember that YouGov poll I posted last night showing Democrats overwhelmingly in favor of banning semiautomatic weapons? YouGov also asked people if they’d be more or less likely to buy something from a company that offered discounts to NRA members. Result:
Eighteen percent are more likely to do business with a pro-NRA company, 34 percent are less likely. What that means in real terms, though, is anyone’s guess. How many gun-grabbers would have remembered a week from now while booking a flight to avoid Delta if they had kept their NRA discount in place? How many gun-rights advocates will remember the next time they book a flight to avoid Delta now that they’ve rescinded the discount? The pro-gun side traditionally has been far more motivated by its pet issue than then anti-gun side has. And remember, the polling data on this question isn’t uniform. A Morning Consult poll published a few days ago found consumer perceptions of corporate brands *dropped* after ending their relationship with the NRA. Delta could have gone the FedEx route, reminded everyone that they’re a common carrier whose group discounts don’t amount to endorsements, and maintained its state tax break probably without losing much business from gun-grabbers. Oh well.
I’m curious now to see if the company sues on First Amendment grounds, as Georgia’s obviously guilty of viewpoint discrimination in yanking that tax break in response to the company’s new gun stance. In normal times that suit would go nowhere since the state was never obliged to grant Delta a tax break to begin with. They’re not imposing a new penalty on the company for its views, they’re simply revoking a special discretionary benefit. In Trump times, however, you never know how far a left-leaning court might go to rebuke a right-wing policy it disagrees with. If I were Delta I’d roll the dice. What’s the worst that could happen?