The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which allows states to ban abortion, is the biggest political bombshell in America in half a century. That’s not hyperbole, the case was the culmination of a five decades effort by the Pro Life movement to overturn Roe v. Wade. Predictable protests erupted at this sea change, but from one quarter the reaction has been muted, quiet even. Major corporations, so eager in recent years to dive into the political and cultural fray are laying off of this one. And they are wise to do so.
Just a day or so after the decision, The New York Times noted this with a headline that read, “Companies are More Vocal than Ever on Social Issues. Not on Abortion.” What the Times picked up on was notable. When culture war issues flare up, we have grown accustomed to a deluge of Tweets, corporate statements, and promises to stand in solidarity with those supposedly harmed by whatever the issue of the day is. But not this time. And it’s not just because the issue is abortion, it’s because corporate brands are realizing that publicly sucking up to leftist causes is just bad for their bottom line.
Georgia, for example, has long been a hotbed for corporate anger at conservative policies. Back in 2016, both Disney and Netflix threatened to boycott the Peach State over its law assigning bathroom access with biological sex. Five years later, Major League Baseball would rip the All Star Game from Atlanta over voting legislation it claimed was racist and undemocratic. Never mind that this year’s primary in the state broke voting records. It was never clear what these companies were actually getting from their stances, but it was easy and painless for them. That has changed.
It was a vampiric relationship that the progressive left had with major corporations in recent years. That is because the value bled by brands flows directly into the veins of leftist movements. Activists and politicians are by nature biased sources, but corporations are not. Corporations have a veneer of neutrality that can make a contested position on something like trans rights or voting laws seem like a settled societal position. What was never quite clear was what these companies, which exist mainly to make profit, were getting out of the deal. In retrospect, the answer seems to be nothing – but then it started getting even worse.
This year, when Disney decided to go all in on a campaign against Florida’s education bill banning sexual education in Kindergarten through 3rd grade, it ran into a buzzsaw. Governor Ron DeSantis went scorched earth, even attacking the corporation’s sweet property rights in Florida. It was a financial and public relations disaster. The stock price fell as did the estimation of Disney in the eyes of the public. Suddenly there was a price to pay for leftist activism.
The Disney fiasco set the stage for the muted response from our corporate brands to the abortion decision in Dobbs. As the Times notes, the major response from big companies was to talk about health care, transporting employees who want an abortion to states where it is legal, that kind of thing. But gone were the steadfast statements of allegiance to the cause. Meta, which owns Facebook, even barred discussion of the case from its internal systems and deleted messages that dared mention it. Social Justice, it seems, went from a healthy part of the corporate portfolio, into a dangerous third rail that CEOs are eager to avoid.
In the end, it looks a lot like simple math. About half the country is Pro Life, so why risk alienating them? But wasn’t this true of trans bathroom access and voting laws? It was, but the key calculus was that conservatives just didn’t really care. They would just buy the products and services they like, not those aligned with their values. But Disney’s Florida fracas changed all that. Now there is a price to pay for praying at the altar of progressive shibboleths. And if the reaction to Roe being overturned is any indication, companies are no longer willing to pay it.
The bottom line is that being in the business of culture wars is bad for business. And many Americans will welcome this change in corporate philosophy. They should. It did nobody any good for brands to pretend that divisive societal issues only had one side, that the arc of history is whatever progressives say it is. Hopefully this strange era of corporate activism is over and companies can just be companies again. If the reaction to the Dobbs decision is any indication, that change has already occurred.
David Marcus is a writer and theater artist based in Brooklyn, NY.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.