Corporate and Blue America: Aligned at last?

By Bradley Honan and Arick Wierson | July 7, 2022 | Original Article

An underappreciated but critically important implication of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is that corporate America has again been thrust squarely into the national political dialog. Unlike the Disney fight with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the so called “Don’t Say Gay” law, the Roe decision has forced many companies — large and small, public and private, no matter how publicity shy — to take a stand on the hottest of hot button issues.

Far from being an exception to the rule, we see companies increasingly being drawn into the political fray, forced to weigh in on what are divisive political and social issues facing the country.

And while Democrats, left-leaning Americans, and the majority of the country that polling shows supports abortion rights are correctly devastated by the court’s ruling, they ought to be encouraged that Big Business is increasingly helping to carry the water for left-leaning social and political causes. Indeed, we see the support of Big Business on the critical issues of the day as fundamental for achieving overdue progress in this country.

Far from whispering quietly in the shadows, major companies have publicly weighed in with bold language about what they think about the Court’s ruling, expressing significant disappointment and outrage and using their might to fight back. Liberals once decried a Supreme Court ruling safeguarding corporations’ political speech rights; they might think twice about that position now.

Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world, came out and stated plainly that “health care decisions are best determined by individuals in consultation with their health care provider” — a clear signal they are pro-choice and on the side of women and doctors.

Companies from Condé Nast, to Dick’s Sporting Goods and Disney joined major companies like JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Starbucks and Telsa to cover travel expenses of employees who need to travel to a state where abortion is still legal. The list of companies offering abortion-related travel reimbursement polices continues to grow by the day — a clear rebuke to the Supreme Court.

Levi Strauss & Co. went even further and urged companies to make their voices heard and take a stand on this issue noting that “protection of reproductive rights is a critical business issue impacting our workforce, our economy and progress toward gender and racial equity”. They continued by calling their peers to action, saying “given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard.” We couldn’t agree more strongly.

Bumble, a female-focused dating app, went as far as donating to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Planned Parenthood Federation to help them counter further attacks on reproductive freedom.

Even PC Gamer, a video gaming review site, pivoted from computer hardware reviews to providing links for how to help fight for reproductive rights, including donation buttons for organizations fighting for reproductive health.

These are not outliers or one-off examples, rather they demonstrate clearly that corporate America is using its footprint, its policies, and its megaphone to express outrage.

No matter how they feel about business, progressives and those on the left should celebrate their political ideology being co-opted by corporations. As we have seen with the fight for civil rights, environmental justice, and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, social progress on key issues gains adoption more quickly when big business takes sides.

Indeed, this is why there has been such a strong outcry on the right about business becoming “woke.” Conservatives and Republicans are fighting Democrats tooth and nail across the country, and in many cases they are winning. However, the field tips radically to Democrats when business engages on our side.

To the cynics who say that corporations speaking out is merely PR, we say that’s not quite right: Companies are moving to act, not just speak, and even if it’s good PR, business weighing in further solidifies support for reproductive rights. Would you rather big business be silent?

Let’s welcome the age of elite engagement where big business, for whatever reason, pushes for important social change.

Honan is CEO of Honan Strategy Group, a Democratic polling and data analytics firm and co-president of the New York Metro Chapter of the American Association of Political Consultants. Wierson is a TV producer and former senior media adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.