Our newest culture warriors: Activist CEOs

C.E.O. activism has typically not brought people together, working from the middle out. Instead, this type of activism, largely from the progressive side, has begun to galvanize conservatives. For example, in Georgia, lawmakers stripped tax breaks for Delta over its decision to cut ties with the N.R.A.

In the short term, Dick’s will become another corporate poster child for how political polarization and so-called negative partisanship — an automatic rejection of members of the opposing party — are infecting our society. There will be a rash of news stories about increased sales from liberal consumers rushing into Dick’s stores to vote with their wallets. Conservative media will point to boycotts and highlight other retailers that are stepping in to serve disaffected consumers.

But the real story will be the long game. C.E.O. activism represents a historic shift in the way corporations intersect with national politics. Rather than chief executives shaping political discourse, however, our toxic political environment is dictating corporate strategy. Instead of being cast as practical technocrats who could unite us, chief executives will be swept up in our cultural war, just like university presidents, celebrities, professional athletes and religious leaders before them.