Coca-Cola to conservatives: Never mind, let's be friends

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Hundreds of companies signed on to a letter which ran as a two-page ad in the Wednesday print editions of the New York Times and Washington Post. The purpose of the ad was for the leaders of the companies to show their opposition to voting law reforms currently under consideration in many states. Two corporations not listed were Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines. This was odd given their vocal opposition to a bill signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp at the end of March from both companies. What happened?

After Georgia’s election reform law was signed, Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola came under pressure from black CEOs to come out against the new law. So, they did. Others caved to the pressure, like Home Depot, but Coke and Delta were the most public about their opposition. The CEOs gave cable television interviews and used social media to get their messages of woke opposition out.

Amazon and Google are two of the big companies that signed the two-page ad in Wednesday’s newspapers. Others include General Motors, Netflix, Starbucks, BlackRock, Target, Facebook, Bank of America, MasterCard, and United Airlines. United Airlines made headlines last week for announcing a new quota system to be implemented in hiring pilots to increase diversity. The letter is an exercise in virtue-signaling where none is needed. The Georgia bill, for example, has been criticized yet those doing so do not point to any specifics. Blanket statements are for dramatic effect, not for productive discussion.

A government of the people, by the people. A beautifully American ideal, but a reality denied to many for much of this nation’s history,” it reads. “As Americans, we know that in our democracy we should not expect to agree on everything. However, regardless of our political affiliations, we believe the very foundation of our electoral process rests upon the ability of each of us to cast our ballots for the candidates of our choice.”

Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, organized the letter. This is the second type of letter the two have spearheaded, the first of which came last month and was signed by 72 black executives.

Wednesday’s letter does not specify any specific state’s bill or any specific change that they are against.

The CEOs admit they offer no solutions, just complaints. And they are promoting a false narrative that not everyone (conservatives and Republicans) supports voting rights.

“We are not being prescriptive,” Chenault said, according to the New York Times. “There is no one answer.”

Frazier explained that the letter avoided specifics because they wanted the letter to appear nonpartisan, saying that what they’re talking about “are not political issues.”

“For American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us,” the newest letter reads. “We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot. Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and we call upon all Americans to join us in taking a non-partisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.”

So, where’s Coca-Cola on this list of companies? Why did they not get in on the action? More than 500 companies and individuals signed on. Surely the Black Economic Alliance who organized the letter and ad reached out to such a big, vocal voice as Coca-Cola, right? Not according to the company’s statement. Suddenly, Coke wants to make nice to everyone.

Coca-Cola said in a statement to the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that the company “had not seen the letter” initiated by the alliance but is “certainly open to hearing their perspective.” It said it has supported the right to vote and that it will assess how to support voting rights.

“We believe the best way to make progress now is for everyone to come together to listen, respectfully share concerns and collaborate on a path forward. We remain open to productive conversations with advocacy groups and lawmakers who may have differing views,” the company said. “It’s time to find common ground. In the end, we all want the same thing – free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Coca-Cola’s CEO, who only days ago called Georgia’s legislation “unacceptable” and a “step backward”, must have suddenly remembered that not all of their consumers are liberal race-baiters looking to score cheap political points over a false narrative. The reason the CEOs don’t give specifics of the bill to which they object is that the Georgia bill expands voting, it doesn’t place new restrictions. Even the one provision about not providing water to voters in line is about electioneering. Water may be provided but it cannot be passed out to voters by specific political campaigns or ask voters to vote for a specific candidate. Conservatives and Republicans began pushing back when CEOs decided to go public in labeling them as Jim Crow racists, as did the President of the United States.

Look for more of this as the forty-plus states that are working to reform election laws come under scrutiny. Progressives are pressuring companies to push back on everything and leave in place the measures taken to accommodate voters during a pandemic. Coca-Cola caved, wanted to reassure everyone how woke of a company it is, and now they feel the wrath of about half of the country. There is no need for companies to get into these political wars. It is really short-sighted and ends up driving customers away. This seems to be a lesson companies have to learn over and over again. The virtue-signaling goes one way as companies throw in with the far-left progressives looking for a Marxist utopia. Perhaps Coke will set an example to the others now and stop demonizing one side of the aisle.