Money Talks

In the aftermath of the voter suppression laws in Georgia there is much renewed talk of economic boycotts. Any of my regular readers know I am both a fan of and believer in this tactic. Like any other strategy it has its limitations.

The initial idea was to pressure corporations headquartered in Georgia by threatening to boycott their goods or services. The threats got some of them to make public (who knows what was or wasn’t said in private) and belated statements against the new laws. The proof of their effectiveness (which was negligible at best) became apparent when the Georgia Republicans rammed through voter suppression legislation in a matter of a single work day.
As of this writing other states are moving ahead with various versions of the Georgia legislation. Are you going to propose boycotting every good or service of any corporation headquartered in any of them? That is simply not practical.

A counterattack strategy has been proposed; massive voter registration and get out the vote efforts in every state that enacts voter suppression legislation. Kind of a don’t get mad; get even strategy. This has merit and gives people an opportunity to take an active role by either political action or contribution. But again we have shifted the onus down to the man and woman in the street and out of the corporate ivory towers. Besides this should be normal political activity.

If you can get me to be non-partisan for a moment (not an easy task) and ask me what is the biggest problem in American politics today I would answer the inordinate influence of money in politics. I distinctly remember sitting down with a candidate for State Senate just a few years ago and the first question I asked her was, “Can you raise one million dollars?” Think about that for a minute; raising a million dollars to fund a race for a State Senate seat that has a two-year term is obscene. Unfortunately it was what was required to be competitive in that situation.

Every significant corporation funnels big buck to candidates via dark money instruments like SuperPACs or “individual donations” from its executives which in reality are “laundered bonuses”. Individuals donating $20 to $200 here and there cannot make up for often six and seven figure donations which fuel congressional campaigns. What was needed from the big corporations was not public declarations; it was personal conversations that told legislators that if they supported voter suppression legislation or did not support voter protection legislation their funding would not only be cut off but they could expect it to go to their general election opponents. That would get their attention and make a difference.

I do want to send a deserved shout out to Major League Baseball (MLB). They announced they were pulling the All Star Game from Georgia. The biggest driving force behind this announcement was the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA). The game generates significant revenue along with tremendous publicity and prestige.

A few years ago North Carolina passed a disastrous bathroom bill and an economic boycott led by the NBA pulling its All Star Game from Charlotte led to its eventual repeal. Going further back Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day and the NFL pulled the Super Bowl from Phoenix. Sports “sanctions” alone cannot reverse discriminatory actions but they can certainly generate a ton of publicity and get the ball roiling. (No pun intended.)

Today’s version of the Republican Party has settled on an extremist strategy instead of changing its stances to welcome a greater percentage of the electorate. In that case it can only survive as long as it effectively gerrymanders and suppresses the vote of all but its people. If you are looking to be saved by the Supreme Court I don’t think you have been paying attention. While the Court has given liberals a few victories on social issues they were firmly anti-voter even prior to the two recent additions. Chief Justice John Roberts has a history of suppressing the vote. The only chance of solving this situation is by passing HR 1 and HR 4 – both of which appear to have zero Republican support in the Senate at this point – and then hoping the Court upholds them. That would counteract any state actions at least in federal elections. This is a case where money – or the withholding of it – talks!

In an unrelated note I want to wish all my readers in Poland and any of Polish ethnicity regardless of domicile a Happy Dyngus Day!

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