Several major domestic airlines have taken stands in support of voting rights in recent days, and yesterday, they were joined by United Airlines. "Legislation that infringes on the right to vote of fellow Americans is wrong," the company said as part of a written statement.
For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), this and other recent statements like it have become a thorn in his party's side. As Reuters reported yesterday, the Republican Party's top senator has felt compelled to engage in public pushback against his ostensible corporate allies.
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell lashed out at corporate America on Monday, warning CEOs to stay out of the debate over a new voting law in Georgia that has been criticized as restricting votes among minorities and the poor. In a sign of a growing rift in the decades-old alliance between the conservative party and U.S. corporations, McConnell said: "My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don't pick sides in these big fights."
The Kentuckian added that corporations "will invite serious consequences" if they continue down this road, though the GOP leader did not elaborate as to the nature of his threat.
McConnell's message to Corporate America wasn't exactly subtle. The Republican effectively argued that the GOP will continue to target voting rights, and businesses should keep their mouths shut about it -- or else.
It's an amazing posture for McConnell, of all people, to take. Ordinarily, we'd expect to see someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticizing business leaders for siding with Republicans on issues pertaining to taxes or regulations. In 2021, however, we're seeing the nation's top GOP senator threatening Corporate America not to interfere with Republican efforts to undermine voting rights.
There's also an extraordinary amount of irony to the circumstances. Mitch McConnell, as much as any living human, has defended the role of corporate cash in politics, insisting that businesses not only have free-speech rights, but must also have the ability to spend freely to dictate the outcome of elections.
Remember the McConnell v. FEC case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform? Kentucky's senior senator was the plaintiff. Remember Citizens United v. FEC? McConnell was a cheerleader for the ruling that defended expansive corporate intervention in politics.
After the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, one of McConnell's principal concerns was how his party's many corporate donors might respond to the insurrectionist violence.
For the Senate minority leader to now argue that business leaders should "stay out of politics," because he's annoyed at criticisms of Republican voter-suppression tactics, is breathtaking given his own history of begging corporations to get into politics.
But let's not brush past his threat to Big Business about the "serious consequences" they may face if they continue to defend voting rights amidst GOP attacks on the franchise.
Republicans have been increasingly bold of late in trying to stifle dissent, threatening major corporations with retaliatory policy measures if they dare to criticize -- not take sweeping actions, just criticize -- the GOP's voter-suppression. McConnell's rhetoric yesterday served as a reminder that this style of punitive pushback is likely to intensify.