All Aboard the Woke Corporation Train


“Get woke, go broke.”

A common enough refrain from center-right observers, it supposes that a for-profit corporation will suffer some penalty in the free market for attacking some of its own customers in an effort to signal its support for that day’s progressive cause célèbre. For example, on February 25th of this year, Oreo — known generally for cookies — decided to announce a bold position on transgender people (they exist).

On one hand, many center-right observers may ask why a cookie manufacturer would feel the need to make such an announcement. But on the other hand is the idea that Oreo, in theory, would lose some loyal cookie-eating customers who might disagree that transgender people exist, or are so offended by the comment (even if they do not disagree) that they will stop buying these confections.

A better way to approach this phenomenon is understanding that once a corporation or public nonpartisan apolitical entity enters the world of signaling its progressiveness to the Twitter mob, they’re all aboard the woke train.

Use the recent uproar about legislation that expanded voting access in Georgia. Since this bill was passed by a Republican legislature, many corporations, some of which were even based in Georgia, saw bright flashing lights on their social media monitoring dashboards. Immediately, the Twitter mob and left-wing leaders demanded that public, for-profit corporations declare their agreement or else. Hence, a Republican bill that created more opportunities for Georgians to vote in elections was described as a voter suppression effort so heinous that it could even be compared to the Democrats’ best efforts from decades past, the stain of Jim Crow.

Did Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, or Major League Baseball suffer much for their actions? In some ways, yes. A recent poll by Morning Consult  fielded April 5-11, 2021, reports that self-identified Republicans went from having a +47 favorable image of Major League Baseball in mid-March to a +12 favorable image now. Not great!

Major League Baseball, in their case, abandoned a celebration of the late Hank Aaron in Atlanta to move their All-Star Game to Denver, after desperately seeking a Democrat-governed jurisdiction that could be argued to have more voting access than Georgia, something that shouldn’t have been such a challenge had a word of their argument been true in the first place.

More important than the collapse of their image among Republicans is that their image among Democrats is lower today (+41) than their image was among Republicans before the grandstanding (+47). In short, MLB insulted Republicans, and gained nothing from the Democrats who demanded they do it.

Americans as a whole have been remarkably clear that they don’t want companies to have this role in our society.

In a brand new Marist Poll for NPR and PBS NewsHour (which may be sent down the memory hole by the time you, dear reader, have the opportunity to read it for yourself), fielded April 7-13, 2021, respondents were asked: “Do you support or oppose American companies using their public role, position, or events to influence political, cultural, or social change?”

American adults opposed companies having this influence by a 57-36 margin. Among registered voters, a 58-35 margin. Only 53% of self-identified Democrats support it, while 79% of Republicans and 62% of independents oppose it.

Asking specifically about professional sports teams and organizations, the margin narrows slightly, with 55% opposing and only 40% supporting their influence. Here, 66% of Democrats support it, while 84% of Republicans and 58% of independents oppose it.

To be clear, in this same survey, opposing American companies using their influence to change our society is a more popular position than supporting Joe Biden’s beloved infrastructure grab-bag, more popular than Biden’s handling of the economy, and more popular than Biden’s handling of the Presidency as a whole.

Here’s the problem for the corporations who have bought their ticket for the woke train: now, when the Twitter mob fires up a hashtag, if they demand that you declare the sky is green, you’re stuck. The mob is in the conductor’s seat. The Republicans who you attacked to make your hashtag klaxon stop firing in the digital department will not race to your defense either. The time has long passed for that.

The hard work of winning back the trust of Republicans and the plurality of Americans by these corporations and others who have sabotaged their own standing will begin eventually when the damage is too clear to ignore, but fixing it will take asking the right questions of the right people, listening to the answers, and taking concrete steps to repair their image.

The corporations that became such fast experts in the past few months on Georgia elections, voting laws, and the role of misinformation in modern American politics have dug themselves quite a hole. If you want proof, see if you can get one of them to answer this simple question: who really won the Georgia governor’s election in 2018?