BOSTON (CBS) – Hallmark cards are famous for their feel-good messages. But they greeted the news that two GOP senators to whom they’ve given thousands of dollars in political donations – Josh Hawley of Missouri and Roger Marshall of Kansas – had voted to reject certified election results even after a pro-Trump mob defiled the US Capitol with an unwelcome reply: give back the money. Those votes, said the company, “Do not reflect our…values.”
Ditto American Express, withholding future donations to lawmakers who voted to “subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power.” And other major firms – Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Facebook, Google and Microsoft just to name a few – are also getting out of the campaign donation business over the January 6 DC debacle.
“It’s sending a ripple effect across all these campaigns because Donald Trump is radioactive,” said CBS News political analyst and Republican consultant Leslie Sanchez. “The question campaigns are asking themselves is, how long is this going to last and can they separate their campaign from the larger Republican Party and the aura that it has?”
Scandalous behavior provoking a public uproar and sending corporate interests scrambling for the high ground is becoming a familiar pattern. “This is part of a larger reckoning we’re seeing in our society,” said Robby Mook, a Democratic consultant and CBS News contributor. “Employees of these companies really care about what their leadership is doing, about what happens to this PAC money that they’re donating. And we saw how this was transformational in sports, in entertainment. And I think we’re going to start to see it in corporate America as it relates to politics as well.”
And in recent years we’ve seen these movements produce serious consequences. The #metoo backlash against sexual harassment and exploitation has sent some of the biggest names in entertainment and business into early retirement or to jail. The racial reckoning sparked by the police murder of George Floyd continues to yield private-sector efforts to promote workforce diversity and support racial equality.
But the big question is, will it last? Or are these corporate reactions to the Trump coup attempt just a spasm of virtue signaling?
In politics, money talks and most everything else walks. If the Trump acolytes within the Republican Party continue to play their deadly game, they may find themselves starved of their folding-green mother’s milk. There are still resources they can rely on, but those are constrained – the MyPillow guy does not have unlimited funds, and preaching to the relatively small choir on right-wing social media may not get the job done.
Right now, out of a toxic mix of fanaticism, derangement and outright fear, most of the Trumpers in the GOP congressional ranks are holding firm, at least publicly. And if they show over the next two years that they can still wield power from their bunker – by, say, winning back the House in 2022 – there will be pressure on corporations who must do business with Congress to renew their financial relationships.
After all, the business of business is…business.
But the fact that #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, and now the war on democracy have provoked such intense private-sector backlash speaks to a broader truth that GOP right-wingers have struggled to absorb – the demographics of America are changing, have been for some time, and not in the direction of whiter, older, more rural or socially conservative. Pay attention to the “liberal” values with regard to racial and sexual equality portrayed in a weekend’s worth of network TV ads and you’ll get the drift.
So while impeachment is getting big headlines, the corporate backlash may be the more important sign of how badly the president and his mob have blundered.