Remember: Capital is capital; it is not your friend. Conservatives are learning this the hard way, and those on the left shouldn’t forget it, even when companies happen to decide the best bet is the morally correct one. As Ross Douthat pointed out recently in the New York Times, “Corporate activism on social issues isn’t in tension with corporate self-interest on tax policy and corporate stinginess in paychecks. Rather, the activism increasingly exists to protect the self-interest and the stinginess — to justify the ways of C.E.O.s to cultural power brokers, so that those same power brokers will leave them alone.”
But the fact that we can’t rely on capital to do much besides look out for its own cupidinous interests presents more than comeuppance for conservatives who’ve spent the past few decades building strategic political alliances with big business. It also foregrounds a key imbalance in our politics: While capital can strike on a whim and effectively shut down a political program or initiative, labor’s ability to similarly assert itself in the public sphere is comparatively limited.