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Opinion

Boycotting the boycott


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Apr. 19, 2021 - 2:14 PM

Boycotting the boycott

Marc Hyden is the director of state government affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.

On a recent trip, I settled into the comfortable seats of my Delta Airlines flight.

After landing, I frantically refreshed my phone to see how my Atlanta Braves were faring and enjoyed a couple mixed cocktails with my favorite Coca-Cola products.

The drinks were refreshing and the flight was great. But the Braves were a little underwhelming, which isn’t too surprising.

All of this came against the backdrop of Georgia’s voting bill, recently signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. The legislation reformed Georgia’s elections, and for those that actually read it, there are both improvements and some concerning provisions.

Nevertheless, the measure almost immediately became a lightning rod—drawing both effusive praise and rebukes. Even after enactment, activists continued to press companies to denounce the new law.

In response, Major League Baseball (MLB) pulled the All-Star game from Georgia, and Delta and Coca-Cola announced their opposition to the elections bill. “We are disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting legislation,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey wrote. Similarly, Delta’s Ed Bastian said, “The final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”

While the MLB took a much stronger approach, Coca-Cola’s and Delta’s responses seemed measured. They simply expressed their opposition—an opinion and nothing more.

Despite this, their statements set off a new wave of seemingly never-ending political fury. After a quick perusal of my social media, I spotted plenty of calls to boycott these companies because “real conservatives” don’t drink Coca-Cola or fly Delta—whatever that means.

It would seem that many grassroots activists are suggesting that people must boycott all businesses that hold any single opinion at odds with their own. But so-called “real” conservatives have positions on virtually every issue—meaning there’s a lot to consider when determining which companies to target and why.

Let me be clear: companies have every right to disclose their unhappiness with various pieces of legislation—though I prefer businesses that tend to be more apolitical.

Likewise, consumers should feel empowered to boycott companies for whatever reason—even if it makes little sense to do so. However, customers need to reject the false dichotomy that one must either support or oppose companies solely due to their position on single pieces of legislation.

Making decisions to patronize a company based on each of its political stances is entirely untenable. In 2021 alone, Georgia lawmakers introduced over 2,000 bills and resolutions. If I were to listen to some activists, pundits and social media trolls, I would need to know where companies stand on every single one of these issues before deciding to give them my business.

If they took any posture that rankled me—or an outspoken social media darling—then I shouldn’t buy their products, according to this line of thinking. That’s an utterly ridiculous notion, leaving virtually no companies to patronize, but that’s essentially what people are suggesting: shun all companies unless they are in 100 percent agreement with your personal views.

It’s a strange response to company opinions, but in our hyper-political, semi-tribalistic world, I guess it makes some bizarre sense. After all, people have told me that they cannot associate with me because of political positions that I (and about half of the country) hold—even if they were ones that I’ve never really opined about.

I am sure that I will ultimately take flak for continuing to give certain companies my business, as I did during my recent trip, but I do so primarily based on the quality and cost of their products and services. Political positions do not solely define people or companies.

Continued support for morally repugnant activities should play into consumers’ decision-making, and I understand considering companies’ political activities to some extent. However, that’s not what we are talking about here. Rather, there’s a push to drive companies out of business based entirely on a single opinion from their leadership.

I am uncomfortable with the trend of using private companies as political tools for issues that aren’t central to business interests, and I am a little bewildered by the push to boycott Delta and Coca-Cola simply because of their opinions. If you make your decisions solely on political activities, then you’ll probably be a very unhappy person. There’s more to life than politics. My advice is to go “have a Coke and a smile” and enjoy life a little. It’s really not that important where private companies stand on every issue.

Marc Hyden is the director of state government affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.