This sort of cultural partisanship is an abuse of the corporate form. A legal abuse — in a free country, we rightly let companies make their own choices — but an abuse nonetheless of the assets entrusted to corporate managers by their shareholders for the purpose of making money. People invest in Delta Air Lines because they want to grow their own assets for retirement, not because they want to enlist in whatever partisan battle Stacey Abrams wants to wage in a given week. It is one thing for companies to make long-term business decisions, and political contributions, based on their desire for a better business climate for their own operations. A company may even make choices about the values it embodies within its own operations, whether those values are those of wokesters, hippies, or Christian conservatives. It is another entirely to subordinate the company’s business interests to a kulturkampf that seeks to force its values on an entire state. Companies that do this ooze contempt for their own customers and employees who are not in the leftmost quarter of opinion in the country.
In any event, the best medicine for corporate overreach is for state officials to stand their ground and call the companies’ bluff. Actually relocating operations over a momentary political controversy is costly and painful. A few may carry out their threats, but if they find the tactic meeting regular resistance, they will be less likely to repeat it. Moreover, Republican-run states should show solidarity with one another and not be picked off one at a time. They can start by not poaching businesses that pull out of another state over a culture-war flap. Welcoming a company that arrives on those terms is just asking for your own governance to be held hostage later. Few companies or sports leagues are actually prepared to simultaneously boycott half of the states in the country. States can still compete over a better business climate, and companies will respond to that because it involves the long-term interests of business rather than its response to a single news cycle. Many corporate managers would be quietly relieved if they were no longer expected to jump into every debate that trends on woke Twitter.