On Thursday, the Georgia House fired a warning shot against woke capital. Legislators voted to start taxing jet fuel shortly after Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian repeated Democratic talking points condemning Georgia’s new voter integrity law in racial terms. The tax vote will not necessarily translate into policy, since the Georgia Senate has already gone out of session, but the move still sent a powerful message.
“Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote,” Bastian argued in a memo to employees. He noted that Delta and other Atlanta corporations worked to change the law during the legislative process, but he declared that “the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
Bastian claimed that “the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. … The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) rebuked Bastian’s statement, claiming that it contradicts “our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.”
Kemp defended the bill’s requirement that voters must show official IDs such as a driver’s license in order to request an absentee ballot, noting that before any passenger can board a Delta plane, he or she must produce a photo ID.
“Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia — which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license — with other states Delta Airlines operates in,” Kemp added.
Other Georgia Republicans also condemned Bastian’s statement and warned that companies should not bite the hand that feeds them.
“They like our public policy when we’re doing things that benefit them,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R) told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand.”
The state House included the jet-fuel tax in a bill passed on Wednesday, but the state Senate did not take up the measure before lawmakers adjourned for the year, rendering the tax dead for now. Even so, the House had sent the message.
Georgia lawmakers have previously zeroed in on the multimillion-dollar tax break on jet fuel as political retribution. In 2018, state lawmakers killed the tax cut after Delta ended a discount for members of the National Rifle Association. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) later suspended collecting the tax.
Activists have targeted Georgia-based companies to oppose the election integrity bill, leading Coca Cola executives to condemn the law.
Democrats have demonized the Georgia law, insisting that there was nothing wrong with the 2020 election, despite the last-minute election rules changes due to COVID-19 and the Time expose about a “conspiracy” to “save” the election for Biden. While the Trump campaign was unable to prove in court that the former president truly won the election, that does not erase the serious concerns regarding election integrity that the Georgia law and other reform efforts address.
Unfortunately, the Left has seized on the extremely patronizing idea that voter ID requirements are somehow racist. President Joe Biden went so far as to call the Georgia law “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.” This baseless demonization only fuels further polarization. Tragically, much of corporate America appears to have decided upon alienating half of its potential consumer base in the name of pursuing the Left’s agenda on everything from LGBT issues to voting.
As corporations go “woke,” the Georgia House’s move should prove a salient warning that alienating conservatives will cost businesses a great deal. The Left already supports higher taxes and regulations that hurt business, and if woke capital alienates the Right, corporations will find themselves politically homeless — and the target of both parties.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.