A lobbying and communications outfit with deep ties to GOP leadership argued in a recent memo that the rise of “woke CEOs embracing avant-garde social agendas” is fueling a populist surge in the Republican Party that threatens to upend its longstanding pact with big business.
There’s “trouble ahead for the tried-and-true coalition of Republicans and corporate America—and the issues they care about,” CGCN Group wrote.
That coalition has, for years, pushed back against what it saw as big government, anti-free market policies, the authors argued. But as more members of the Republican old guard retire and young up-and-comers hardened by battles on the barricades of America’s culture wars gain more influence in the GOP, the memo’s authors see the stirrings of a realignment within the party that they characterize as an “anti-big business bent.”
“Whether on issues related to technology and social media, immigration, taxes, trade, and much else, congressional Republicans—many of whom are under the age of 50—are gravitating more and more to the views and demands of their conservative base,” they wrote.
“As noted, ‘woke-ism’ is a central target of GOP voters, and their younger leaders are attacking what they perceive is its unholy grip on the nation’s major social, cultural, and economic institutions.”
The policy implication of this shift, the memo argues, is a Republican Party “increasingly unwilling to listen simultaneously to corporate priorities on, say, tax and trade policy, alongside their CEOs’ latest cultural forays.”
While the memo did not offer specifics on how executives are playing social justice politics, the “sharp left turn” of corporate America—in the words of Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel—is a phenomenon that has come increasingly into the limelight over the past four years, and surged to the forefront after the deplatforming of former President Donald Trump.
“Big Business over the past four years has increasingly signed up for leftist politics,” Strassel wrote in a recent op-ed, pointing to examples like “‘wokewashing,’ peddling causes or figures for brand benefit—think Nike’s Colin Kaepernick commercial or Lacoste’s replacement of its crocodile logo with endangered species.”
“Some was spinelessness, caving in to the liberal mob—think Goldman Sachs’s refusal to finance fossil-fuel projects. Some was strategic—Twitter and Facebook attempting to ward off regulation with ever-changing policies on ‘misinformation.'”
This trend veered more sharply to the left, she wrote, when some companies—Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—banned Trump or clamped down on his content, and others—like Stripe and Shopify—restricted his ability to process campaign contributions or do business. She also pointed to the bevy of companies that announced they would withhold donations to Republicans who supported Trump’s election challenges.
“Business titans are positioning themselves as arbiters of political speech and activity—by withholding essential services to conservative individuals, companies, and groups,” she wrote. “They’ve turned themselves into political entities, raising constitutional and antitrust questions.”
She said that corporate America was “moving from captives of wokeness to active accomplices.”
Big business abandoning its role as a bulwark against anti-free market impulses and big government encroachment is an argument increasingly being made by critics who accuse corporate America of falling into the clutches of the “woke” movement.
Stephen Soukup, author of the book “The Dictatorship of Woke Capital: How Political Correctness Captured Big Business,” told The Epoch Times’ “Crossroads” that American big business had traditionally served as a free-market-loving shield against what he said was a long, leftist march for control of the institutions of Western civilization.
But that’s changed, Soukup said, arguing that the left “effectively took over business within the last decade.”
Soukup urged conservatives to take action to save American big business from falling deeper into the grip of the “woke” movement.
As for CGCN’s advice for corporations, “the business community needs to rethink how it engages the GOP on issues they consider fundamental, because their list of priorities and the GOP’s may not always overlap in the same way it once did,” he said.
Joshua Philipp contributed to this report.