Column: GOP, corporations find themselves in a bind

  • Contributor Wayne Gersen in West Lebanon, N.H., on April 12, 2019. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 4/24/2021 10:10:07 PM
Modified: 4/24/2021 10:10:04 PM

Two seemingly unrelated topics dominated the news cycle recently — new voting laws in Georgia and President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. A closer look reveals that these topics share some commonalities: They place the Republican Party on the wrong side of issues that have wide public support, and they also create significant public relations challenges for corporate America.

A recent New York Times article by David Gelles described the bind corporate leaders faced in Georgia, where the Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature made it much more difficult to cast ballots in predominantly Black precincts where Biden prevailed over Donald Trump by wide margins. For example, the CEOs of Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, both headquartered in Atlanta, tried at first to stay out of the flap. Delta CEO Ed Bastian worked behind the scenes to pressure legislators to remove especially egregious elements of the proposed law.

But once the bill passed and was signed by the governor, it became clear that those compromises were not sufficient. A bloc of Black business leaders from across the country joined a bloc of moral and civic leaders in Georgia to protest the new law, calling for corporate leaders in Georgia to take a stand.

Ultimately, both Delta and Coca-Cola issued statements denouncing the law and were joined by more than 100 national corporations. Major League Baseball also pulled its revenue-generating All-Star out of Atlanta and moved it to Colorado.

The GOP pushback was swift and predictable. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to businesses interposing their “woke” ethos into politics and threatened to retaliate.

But how he would do that was unclear, and the hollow threat provided fodder for left-leaning pundits. Would the GOP support increased regulations on corporations? Would it support legislation to help workers unionize?

How about repealing the Citizens United decision that gave corporations free speech rights like individual citizens?

Given the Republican Party’s strong support for legislation favored by corporate America, it was difficult to imagine exactly what it would do to “punish” corporations without simultaneously supporting issues that the Democrats typically back. The threat of retaliation was off the table in 48 hours.

The GOP and corporate America face a similar predicament when it comes to Biden’s infrastructure initiative, the American Jobs Plan.

Like the general public, Republicans and corporate America also want to see infrastructure improved. In 2016, Donald Trump’s platform called for a trillion-dollar investment on infrastructure.

Corporations invariably seek government funding or tax breaks to improve roadways, septic and water systems when they are looking for sites to locate factories and offices.

However, the GOP expressed concern over Biden’s broader definition of “infrastructure,” his higher price tag and, most of all, his source of funding.

The GOP does not support raising corporate taxes, clawing back profits shifted overseas, raising taxes on the top 2% or redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to green energy infrastructure projects. These are also anathema to most corporations and their shareholders.

But since these revenue sources would not have a direct impact on 98% of the general public, they are viewed as an acceptable way to pay for the popular infrastructure projects.

The bind the GOP and corporate America faces is, in part, a result of a change in voter perspective as a result of our shared experience with COVID-19. It is also the result of the election of an experienced politician as president.

We’ve all spent the last year sharing in the suffering of the pandemic. Some of us have contracted the disease or lost loved ones. Others have missed the company of colleagues and classmates. All of us have experienced some degree of loneliness and disruption to our routines.

We have also witnessed the important role government must play in solving complicated problems, and we witnessed the importance of working together on things we can agree on and letting go of differences that cannot be reconciled.

This emerging consensus of community spirit led voters to choose Joe Biden, the ultimate politician, over Donald Trump, the ultimate my-way-or-the-highway leader. New York Times columnist Ezra Klein described Biden as a politician who senses what the country wants, intuits what people will and won’t accept, and then works within those boundaries. When public sentiment was “government is bad and individual freedom is more important than community-building,” Biden divined that sentiment and worked within those boundaries. Now that we’ve all seen the value of government and of working together, Biden is responding to that.

The American Jobs Plan is far from passed. Biden has opened the door to dialogue on the definition of “infrastructure” and the method of payment.

But he wants government to solve the problem of infrastructure because he senses that is what the public wants. In the weeks ahead, that, too, will be debated.

In the end, the ultimate question is this: Will corporate America and the GOP support any solution if businesses are asked to cover the costs, even if such a solution is supported by the voters?

Wayne Gersen lives in Etna. Email him at

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy