How Should Republicans Fight The Woke Corporate Culture War?
Pay attention to the man behind the curtain
Greetings from Eagle Pass, Texas, where I’ll be tagging along on a Congressional border trip today — looking forward to sharing some of the material I get from it, and a follow up interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in the coming days. But before we get to that, a few thoughts coming out of the Disney/Ron DeSantis experience and the right’s arguments about it from the past week.
It's easy to feel torn about the Right’s enthusiasm for policy retaliation against woke corporate culture war aggressors. The decision by Florida Republicans to revoke Disney’s special self-governing status in Orlando has inspired many conservatives, including some who might be sympathetic to a more populist conservatism, to worry about what this move might portend for the right's use of government power to fight their political opponents.
Social media companies de-platforming conservative views is obnoxious, even dangerous, but it’s not censorship. If bakers have a First Amendment right to choose which weddings they cater – and they do – Twitter should be able to choose who may post on their website. The “Flight 93 Election” genre of apocalyptic rhetoric is as clumsy as the Left’s climate hysteria about cities flooding by 2030. And American conservatives’ embrace of Hungary’s Viktor Orban as a model for governing a diverse, divided, continental republic sounds like nothing so much as Randianism for social conservatives.
Yet there is one argument supporting a Republican shift toward a more aggressive, even retributive culture war policy platform that is far more persuasive - and it stems from the ubiquitous liberal clap-back, “Build your own!”
Anytime conservatives complain about woke aggression – like social media de-platforming the Babylon Bee, baseball boycotting Georgia over its voter ID law, Amazon not selling conservative books, Facebook hiding stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop - you hear some version of this. And one thing that makes the line compelling is that it’s a particularly American conservative argument.
Yes, these entities may put their thumb on the scale for progressivism, the line suggests, but it’s a free country, brother. Quit your whining. If you want businesses and platforms to promote your views, go build them yourself and compete in the free, fair market against ours. Fox News and the conservative media industry was built on doing exactly that.
And, as a matter of principle, people should oppose using state power to punish partisan opponents just for exercising their constitutional right to engage public debates. So, for a lot of libertarians and conservatives, as daunting as the task seems, maybe building our own cultural and economic eco-system is the only honest way to compete.
Except, we already did.
Almost every institution the Left controls and has weaponized in the culture wars was created by and depends upon special, favorable treatment – even funding – from all Americans.
Conservatives don’t have to build our own social media platforms. We already created them – just like liberals did – when taxpayer-funded research created the Internet, when Congress allowed for its commercialization and wrote rules giving Internet publishers immunity from content responsibility under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Conservatives don’t have to build our own Disney – since it’s only by the generosity of the American people that Disney has enjoyed such special intellectual property protections for decades.
We don’t have to build our own financial system. We already did, when we gave Wall Street the bailout it asked for during the financial crisis in 2008.
We don’t have to build our own education system: conservatives’ taxes finance left-wing teachers unions and left-wing colleges and universities every bit as much as liberal ones.
We built our own sports leagues with tax breaks and subsidized stadiums. We built our own deep state by creating and sustaining the career civil service. Where would Hollywood socialists be without its lobbyists’ influence over federal IP law? Where would politicized scientists and woke public health “experts” be without taxpayer funding?
The problem for the left is that there is no serious consumer market demand for wokeness. It’s all driven by leftist culture war aggression, primarily driven via the federal bureaucracy. Cultural leftist elitism, properly understood, is just one massive government program.
Anti-cronyist conservatives and libertarians usually emphasize corrupt boondoggles like the federal sugar program or the Export-Import Bank. But from defense contracting down to local real estate taxes on retail stores’ parking lots, corporate America is propped up by the spoils of cozy relationships with “business friendly” governments of both parties and at all levels.
U.S. economic policy is not neutral toward business in any kind of pure, Adam Smithian sense, but a gigantic, convoluted network of special treatment for special interests.
So, when elites who run such special interests launch a smug, moral crusade against the same American people who have showered them with special treatment – against kids and marriage and Christianity and Biblical morality and poor students and Asians and straight men and girls’ sports and LGB people and feminists who don’t support trans-radicalism, and against Hispanics and borders and clean voter rolls and fossil fuels and meat-eating and, yes, against parents who don’t want public schools sexualizing kindergarteners -- that abused, insulted public is well within its rights to withdraw some of its munificence.
Contrary to their glamorous, lionized portrayal in the media, woke elites waging culture war are not like Greek gods and goddesses throwing thunderbolts from Olympus. They are more like teenagers throwing temper tantrums in our basement. Woke capital’s obsequiousness toward Communist China all these years shows how shallow and insincere their supposed principles really are. Woke-ism is a marketing scam, a mask progressives wear to baptize their greedy materialism.
This would be one kind of problem if wokeism was a manifestation of public will as expressed by the free market. But it’s not. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.
All of the woke Masters of the Universe are welfare cases – taxpayer funded schools and colleges, unfireable public employees, Wall Street TARPers and market manipulators, publicly financed sports arenas, Big Tech monopolists of taxpayer-created and taxpayer-protected technologies, corporate collaborators in Beijing’s brutality. Look at local, state, and federal budgets. We don’t work for the woke elite. They work for us.
Republicans don't need to scrap two centuries of business-friendly policies across the country. But they should recognize that the culture wars are not actually waged on a level playing field. The supposed commanding heights the Left dominates are almost entirely built on contrivances of public policy, maintained solely by the sufferance of the American people.
(Part of the left's fury about what's happening now with Twitter is that they fear it will be the first institution they have ever marched through which they subsequently lost control of, in a terrifying premonition of government after civil service reform, education after school choice and the post millennial college crack up, and a military that gets back to winning wars instead of performative wokeness.)
Woke capital is of course free to join the Twitter mob in insulting Americans and our bourgeois values and our church-going and our patriotism and rights … but they have no entitlement to do so with our money. Insofar as lawmakers and taxpayers can answer aggressive, intolerant corporate wokeism with policies that withdraw special favors rather than impose special punishments, there really isn’t a good reason not to.
No, parents cannot abuse obnoxious teenage children. But they damn well can confiscate their phones and computers, deny them use of the car, and ground their asses until the grades come up and the attitude improves. If the woke corporate left really wants to follow up the Disney scuffle with a further escalation of their culture war against 80% of the American people, Republicans’ response should be a calm, cool, mom-ish, “Try me.”