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Why some Georgia Republicans are removing Coke from their offices

As one observer joked, "We're 48 hours away from Georgia GOP representatives relabeling Cokes as 'Freedom Colas.'"
Image: Coca-Cola
Shoppers select from wide selection of Coca-Cola products in Springfield, Ill., Monday Feb. 6, 2006. Coca-Cola announced a deal with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters that would let consumers make its sodas at home. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)SETH PERLMAN / AP

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) told local reporters last week that he'd cracked open a Pepsi at a closed-door caucus meeting. The Republican said it was "not that bad, actually," before adding, "I drank it 'til it got warm."

At first blush, this probably doesn't seem especially notable, except the geography matters: in Atlanta, home to Coca-Cola, politicians don't generally go around bragging about the beverage giant's principal rival.

But for some in the GOP, there's a new front in the culture war. The Hill added yesterday:

A group of GOP state legislators in Georgia are seeking removal of Coca-Cola products from their offices after the company's CEO criticized the state's recently passed voting law. The legislators signed on to a letter, dated Saturday and addressed to Kevin Perry, who serves as president and CEO of the Georgia Beverage Association, knocking the company for caving to what they called "cancel culture."

In March 2003, then-Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) decided to take time from their busy schedules to tinker with the menu in Congress' cafeteria. Annoyed that France had withheld support for the U.S. war in Iraq, Ney and Jones used their authority to change the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries" in the House dining hall.

Jones, who came up with the idea, explained at the time, "This isn't a political or publicity stunt. We feel sincere as to what we've done. This isn't going to change the debate or course of the world. It's a gesture just to say to the French, 'Up yours!'" (The North Carolinian later changed his mind about the war and expressed regret for having changed the cafeteria menu.)

Nearly two decades later, Georgia Republicans appear to be thinking along the same lines. Dan Drezner joked, "We're 48 hours away from Georgia GOP representatives relabeling Cokes as 'Freedom Colas.'"

Among the problems with the response in Georgia is the fact that Coca-Cola really hasn't done much to draw Republicans' ire. While GOP legislators advanced a controversial voter-suppression bill, voting-rights advocates hoped the company would help lobby against it. Coca-Cola nevertheless remained largely on the sidelines.

After the measure had already been signed into law, the company's CEO, James Quincey, told CNBC that the Republicans' anti-voting policy is "wrong" and "needs to be remedied."

The criticisms were welcome, but they were also overdue and too late to make much of a difference.

Nevertheless, many GOP officials in the state are outraged -- to the point that they're banning Coke products from their offices as a symbolic gesture.

The fact that these same Republicans are decrying "cancel culture" in the midst of their antics adds a touch of irony to the circumstances.