The manufactured outrage over Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing voting law reform has reached the point of satisfying no one now. The backlash includes black executives facing a very basic question, along with CEOs of large corporations who are now opposing the bill – where were you when the bill was being written and debated in the state legislature? Why is opposition only happening after the governor signed the legislation into effect?
Yesterday I wrote about Delta Airlines, Georgia’s largest private employer, and its CEO’s public statement condemning the election law reform. Just a matter of days before, he issued a statement that bragging about working with other corporations to pressure lawmakers (read Republicans) to take out “some of the most egregious measures” in SB 202. The statement issued Wednesday by Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian was theatre. He was ok with the bill until he wasn’t. The same bill he bragged about giving input into is the same bill Governor Kemp signed.
An amusing story in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution speaks to reaction to another major corporation’s opposition to the bill. Not to be out-woked by Delta, Coca-Cola’s chief executive James Quincey appeared on CNBC to proclaim the law “unacceptable”. That’s the same word used by Bastain, but nevermind. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that both men used the same word in their public opposition.
“This legislation is unacceptable. It’s a step backwards and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity,” said Quincey.
EXCLUSIVE: Coca-Cola CEO says the restrictive Georgia voting law is "unacceptable…it is a step backward…"
Quincey also says "this legislation is wrong, and needs to be remedied, and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and in now even more clearly in public" pic.twitter.com/cdruteEiat
— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) March 31, 2021
Republican lawmakers feel broadsided by corporate executives and black executives who are now jumping on the bandwagon to voice their opposition to the legislation. Those gaining publicity now for their opposition stood on the sidelines while the process took place. Coca-Cola’s move to oppose the bill after it was voted on didn’t sit well with the Georgia House Speaker. He delivered his own little bit of dramatic flourish.
Moments after gaveling the legislative session to an end early Thursday, House Speaker David Ralston stood before a bank of TV cameras and admitted something that many lifelong Georgians would never say publicly: He purposely cracked open a Pepsi.
The questions being asked now by Republicans are legitimate. It speaks to the hypocrisy of woke corporations who are easily cowed by minorities demanding change on their own terms. In this case, the irony is that the new voting law makes voting easier, not more difficult as the opposition claims. An honest look at the bill shows that. The truth is that many states bent some election rules and added special allowances due to the coronavirus pandemic. Georgia, for example, allowed the use of drop boxes at various locations for those voters who didn’t want to go to a polling place out of fear of the virus. That option wasn’t in Georgia law so it was included in the new bill. Delta and Coca-Cola heard the calls from black executives after the executives began to feel pressure from those claiming voter suppression. Joe Biden and Senator Warnock spoke out against the legislation – both referring to Jim Crow in their opposition.
Now Kemp, Ralston and other Republicans wondered aloud where the outrage from these companies was weeks ago – and why they chose the grand finale of the 40-day legislative session to lash out. So did many Democrats who pronounced the sudden corporate blowback to the law too little, too late.
The two corporate giants, meanwhile, were dealing with mounting pressure on their end. Voting rights advocates and religious leaders demanded they take more strident steps. President Joe Biden condemned the law, as did dozens of top Black business executives.
Corporations and black executives are concerned about their bottom lines and are cowed by protesters and hashtags on social media calling for boycotts. The problem with stepping into the political arena is that they end up appeasing about half of their consumers while giving the back of their hand to the other half of their consumers.
Dozens of Black executives, including Merck & Co Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Frazier, had earlier in the day called on their peers in U.S. companies to push back against wider restrictions on voting rights.
Microsoft, which in February announced a major new investment in Atlanta, Georgia’s capital, added its voice with president Brad Smith saying provisions of the law signed last week “unfairly restrict the rights of people to vote legally, securely, and safely.”
And Citi Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said in a LinkedIn post he was “appalled by the recent voter suppression” passed in Georgia.
The campaign against the new law, led by Merck’s Frazier and former American Express Co CEO Kenneth Chenault, urged companies – so far largely silent on the Georgia law – to look past the appearance of partisanship and publicly stand against it and voting restrictions being pursued in other states.
“We’re calling on corporate America to publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote,” Chenault told Reuters.
“American companies need to take a stand.”
Note that the executives offer no revisions of the law. They just voice their opposition now because activists demand they do so. Are airlines and banks going to stop asking for identification from customers because it could be discriminatory? Of course not. It’s ridiculous to say that personal identification suppresses anyone from legally doing anything, including voting.
Governor Kemp correctly calls on people to check out a comparison between Delaware voting laws and Georgia’s. If Joe Biden is so appalled by Georgia’s law, why didn’t he work for different laws in Delaware? He calls Georgia’s law “Jim Crow on steroids” which shows that the president of the United States doesn’t understand what the term Jim Crow means. We are used to such race-baiting from the likes of Stacey Abrams, who also calls it a return to Jim Crow days, but the president should be held accountable for his words.