March 2, 2018

Corporate America Is Becoming Tribal

The more people boycott companies (and vice versa), the more divided our economy is going to become.

Corporate America has long been under attack by the Left, which often criticizes companies for underpaying workers, damaging the environment and maximizing profits. But leftists have become ever-more aggressive in forcing private businesses to take direct stands on political issues by using social media campaigns and organizing boycotts to extort them into compliance.

The result is that CEOs across the country are so fearful of having their reputations tarnished by the progressive media political machine that they’ll do anything to earn their favor, even if doing so means alienating a significant portion of their customer base. The result is further dividing Americans into warring tribes.

Michael R. Strain writes, “It surely says something about the tribalism that increasingly defines American life. I can’t imagine why anyone would care if their car rental company has chosen the ‘right’ side of the latest controversy. I’ll bluntly say that for most controversies, they shouldn’t. But many seem to, which strikes me as unhealthy.”

One of the latest companies to hop on the issue bandwagon is Dick’s Sporting Goods, which announced it will stop selling guns to anyone under 21 years of age and will no longer sell AR-15s at all. This isn’t the first time Dick’s has succumbed to the hysterical media response to a mass murder. After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Dick’s banned the sale of AR-15s in its stores. This new ban applies to its other branded stores, boosting the chain’s virtue signal.

During an appearance on Good Morning America, Dick’s CEO Ed Stack explained his company’s decision: “We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us.” Stack added, “We know this is a complicated issue. We hope to spur a conversation.”

Ending the sale of the AR-15 in Dick’s stores doesn’t “spur a conversation,” nor will it have any impact on the availability of these lawful and common firearms. NBC News reports, “A small fraction ─ about 12 percent ─ of the hundreds of thousands of AR-style rifles sold each year in America are purchased at big-box merchandisers like Dick’s.”

In other words, Dick’s political decision won’t do anything except alienate current or potential customers.

But where does this type of reaction stop? Are all companies going to “spur conversations” over hot-button issues like gun control? What other issues will stores like Dick’s take up next? Our country is divided enough due to the onslaught of progressive policies and Marxist social theories. Companies shouldn’t be dividing customers even further by making it harder for them to decide where to shop.

But it gets worse. If companies are going to take a moral stand, then they should be consistent. Paul Bois writes, “Whenever a company or a prominent public figure condemns the NRA, chances are they either feel ambivalent towards the murderous actions of Planned Parenthood or outright support them with their dollars. One such company is the already widely-hated United Airlines, who joined a wave of self-righteous corporations across America last week in announcing that they would cut ties with the NRA following the Florida school shooting. Since they are a private company, that is their right, but supporting the abortion conglomerate Planned Parenthood while blasting the NRA reeks of hypocrisy.”

And this is why none of this bodes well. Politics is everywhere now. There was a time when Americans could gather with friends to watch a football game, or head to the local mall to do some shopping without having to think about political issues. No longer. We don’t have anywhere to turn to escape politics. For now, companies are willing to risk losing customers, and that appears to be what’s happening.

A Morning Consult poll of 2,201 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 23-25 reveals a significant impact on the way people view companies that focused their rage on the NRA. The poll reveals that among all adults, favorability ratings fell from 49% to 25% for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, from 35% to 21% for LifeLock, and from 33% to 21% for MetLife. Every company in the poll lost support for their efforts. As expected, the drop was more significant among Republicans, whereas Democrats’ favorability increased for these companies. Nonetheless, the overall impact was very negative.

Progressives are masterful at using media outlets to create a national movement from scratch and pushing a groupthink mentality on the rest of the country. And while it’s easy to understand why some CEOs have a knee-jerk reaction to atrocities like that of Parkland, in other situations companies are actively taking sides on divisive issues or adopting liberal philosophies of social or environmental justice — like the bathroom bill in North Carolina. In many cases, they’re betting on Millennials who they think are begging for companies to lead the way on social and political issues.

Ed Morrissey says, “According to Morning Consult’s data, millennials are no more likely to base consumer decisions on corporate political agendas than other age demos.” He adds, “Perhaps the blowback will be short-lived, but then again, that would probably have been true of whatever perceived benefit these companies got from cutting ties to the NRA, too. A final point to ponder: Do these large corporations really believe that any short-term boost in standing among anti-corporate progressives will last? Really?”

Apparently, this is the risk that companies are willing to take as long as they’re being mobbed by social media tyrants on the Left. So maybe it’s time for conservatives to stop sitting by idly and watching as one progressive group after another threatens the free markets with political blackmail. With a little pushback of our own, we can remind these CEOs and their shareholders that the heartland of America is tired of being threatened and that we’re willing to take our business elsewhere.

In the end, when the money walks, these companies may very well discover that playing politics isn’t good for business.

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