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Where Is Andy Warhol When Woke Corporate America Needs Him Most?

Photo of Andy Warhol's Campell's Soup cans (Public Domain, PoorCans Inart Space, Tainan via Flickr)

The late Andy Warhol was no one’s idea of a conservative, but it’s impossible to imagine that the idiosyncratic pop artist would side with Woke Corporate America’s war against normalcy.

The man behind those Campbell’s Soup paintings and other artistic depictions of American consumerism understood and appreciated its democratizing power more than most.

Warhol wrote in his 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Technological progress, especially in the last two decades, lent even more credence to Warhol’s observation.

Picture a luxury car from 1975, the same year Warhol published his book. A ’76 Cadillac Seville (introduced in ’75) was a midsize sedan with all the goodies, including a 5.7l V8 engine, a three-speed automatic transmission, and a nicely appointed interior. A brand-new Seville started at $12,479, or over $61,400 in today’s prices.

While not cheap, at that price the Seville represented an attainable level of luxury.

Flash forward to 2021.

A Toyota Camry family sedan delivers much more power and performance than that Seville (while getting much better gas mileage), plus a leather interior, and a bunch of electronic goodies that would have seemed like science fiction in ’75.

All for about $36,500, or not much more than someone paid back then for a lot less car.

But what happens when a Coke isn’t just a Coke any longer? What happens when your car represents more than just your financial status?

Coca-Cola tried going Woke in the early weeks of 2021, stepping on rakes the whole way.

We learned in February that that giant Atlanta-based purveyor of sugar water was using a training video encouraging its workers to be “less white.

Not long after, Coca-Cola corporate decided to weigh in on Georgia’s new voting law, despite apparently not having actually read it.

The resulting backlash wasn’t exactly a pause that refreshes.

That’s the trouble with going woke, and something Warhol could have advised Coca-Cola not to do.

Now that Coke is all woke, having a Coke means so much more than having a Coke.

Pop that top and you can prove your smug superiority over lesser beings who still have quaint notions about a color-blind society or election integrity.

Board an American Airlines flight and you’re doing so much more than just flying from Austin to Denver — you’re showing the world that Black Lives Matter.

The “correct” kitchen spray doesn’t just remove baked-on-grease from your range top, it also cleanses your soul of white guilt.

Even your choice of body soap can demonstrate to the improperly-washed bourgeoisie that idealized body types are filth to you.

In each of these cases, consumers revolted against being told that their purchasing choices made them better or lesser people. Most Americans don’t want a squeeze of moral superiority in their Coke. We just want the same tasty beverage we’ve always enjoyed, and that everyone else enjoys, too.

Coke versus Pepsi shouldn’t be Woke versus Normal. It should just be whichever one you like the flavor of better.

Americans are by nature one of the most egalitarian people in the world — sometimes too much so. Alexis de Tocqueville worried two centuries ago that “Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”

And while there’s truth in that — as we see with every new “progressive” policy proposal from the Biden administration — our devotion to equality can also be a saving grace.

In the case of Woke corporatism, Americans see right through the moral retention, unconsciously embracing Warhol’s notion that it doesn’t matter if you’re the president of the United States or a bum: Everybody is supposed to be able to enjoy a Coke and a smile.