We will feel the aftereffects of the nearly cataclysmic siege of the Capitol last week, and perhaps in the ensuing days of tumult, for a long time. It will take years to build back trust with our allies, trust among ourselves, and trust in our democracy. We can only imagine what historians will be writing about in the years and generations ahead. Was it a lesson in government? A lesson in civics? Or, a lesson in business?
Most immediately, besides all of the damage to our psyches, to the Capitol building itself and to democracy, we’ve seen a power vacuum, and not in the traditional sense. Every presidency has a lame duck period, with the exceptions of those who were assassinated, or in Nixon’s case, resigned. But this period has been notoriously different. In the weeks since Trump became a lame duck, he has issued a full-throated denunciation of our democracy, and initiated its full-throated destruction, all based on lies.
While the legislative branch, led by the U.S. House and Speaker Pelosi, starts the impeachment process, there’s only so much Congress can do to hold those accountable for what happened last week, given the fact that only a handful of Republicans will agree to do the right thing. The Judiciary has already spoken, including the Supreme Court, and over 60 other courts in rejecting the attempts to overturn the election and repudiating all of the lies within Trump’s petitions.
So, whose responsibility does it ultimately become to lower the boom, once and for all, on Trump, the injuriously wayward Republicans, and all those who lied to the American people on the taxpayers’ dime? Almost overnight, corporate America has jumped into the leadership abyss, and staked its claim as vanguards to truth and accountability.
Money talks, and as the bottom-line catchphrase attests, it’s all about the money, even in politics. Corporate fat cats not only fill the coffers of would-be politicians and incumbent legislators, they are the lifeblood of a thriving campaign. Without the corporate and trade money, those who run for office are nothing more than a town barker, standing on a crate, pontificating into the wind on an empty street.
According to the Wall Street Journal and other reports, a growing list of corporations said they are pausing or reviewing their political action committee donations in the wake of last week’s sedition. JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, GE, AirBnB, Best Buy, Marriott and others are stopping all PAC donations, the latter two to Republican lawmakers who objected to President-elect Biden’s electoral win. And if you think the money will stop flowing from just these four, you would be sadly mistaken. When the big banks balk, everyone else will play follow the leader, and when the money evaporates, panic sets in fast.
The WSJ story pointed out that Marriott’s PAC had given $1,000 to panic-inducer Senator Josh Hawley, as well as another $1,000 to the PAC he heads. A Marriott spokeswoman said the company would pause giving from its PAC. “We have taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election into consideration,” she said. This is a bold move that will ripple across corporate America. When you try to take away democracy, you are literally fucking with capitalism, and that’s an unforgivable strike at all the greed that is stock price, dividends, corporate earnings, and profits.
To be sure, it’s not entirely altruistic, since staking a claim against the Republicans and to anarchists like Hawley will only ingratiate these companies to the incoming Biden administration, who will be responsible for applying regulatory and industry rules to these corporations. Acting as intermediaries of truth will only ingratiate companies and industries to the new administration, but it will also serve as a public relations coup for these brands and sectors to attract consumers who were sickened by the recent nihilists' attempted coup.
And also acting as arbiters of facts are technology companies who have stepped in to thwart the escalation of lies, violence, and anti-democratic pronouncements on social media and the internet. It appeared 100 percent certain that on January 20, 2021 at 12:01 p.m., a fed-up and freed-up Twitter was going to pull the plug on @realDonaldTrump; however, Trump’s sinister snippets went too far with an insurrection of rioters overfed on Trump’s indoctrinating tweets. Facebook, YouTube, and everyone else, almost in unison, kicked him and his insurgents off social.
Many are saying, it’s about time, or too little too late, but just like the attempted overthrow of the government, Trump was bound to be bandied off broadband. The giant social media companies aren’t being entirely altruistic either. They had no choice because sooner or later, many people, equally addicted to their posts and feeds, would have started saying, it’s either him and them or me, and to that end, when Trump came to an end on Twitter, all eyes turned downward.
Lurking beneath the social kings was Parler, where conspiracy theorists and devotees of Newsmax and OANN conversed in whacked out words and loquacious lies. There’s a saying in the blame game that shit slides downhill, so as Twitter, et al, pushed the revolting reactionaries’ revulsion off their space, all that shit slid down into the underbelly that is Parler. And low and behold, the platform kings (Apple, Google, and Amazon) collectively agreed that all that shit on Parler needed to be pushed off their devices and internet. Now, lies, liars, kooks, and kanivers are left plaform-less. Private enterprise doesn’t give a crap about freedom of speech, and they are under no obligation to do so. They, too, need their money and their moxie. The majority of consumers want their brands to be, or at least perceived to be honest. If they are dishonest, there’s always someone more authentic.
Which is where Forbes steps in to ensure that whoever is speaking for those brands is authentic as well. According to an article on Business Insider, in the wake of Wednesday's atrocity Forbes's editor issued a warning to any companies thinking about hiring former communications officials from Trump's administration. Businesses that choose to hire Trump spokespeople will be held to close scrutiny. "Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie," the magazine's editor, Randall Lane, wrote. "We're going to scrutinize, double-check, investigate with the same skepticism we'd approach a Trump tweet."
In the Forbes article, Trump's press secretaries Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and Kayleigh McEnany were called out, as well as Trump's former White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway. It should be noted that previous presidential press secretaries and advisors went on to big corporate jobs, making big bucks because they acted with professionalism while standing at the podium each day (the Trump press room podium, in contrast, gathered lots of dust) in the White House. Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers served as Chief Communications Officer at Warner Bros., Obama communications veteran David Plouffe became an SVP at Uber, and Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs was Chief Communications Officer at McDonald's.
Do we really believe that any company, in their right mind, with all that money, stock options, brand loyalists and a yearning for a bountiful bottom line at stake would hire someone who spoke for Trump? If it’s all about the money, there’s absolutely no way that any corporation would risk hiring anyone perceived as a liar. Think about it. Who would take money from a company where Kayleigh McEnany works? Who would want someone like Huckabee Sanders to speak for them when she can only speak on Parler? And if Parler doesn’t have a platform, that leaves the brand, with spokespeople like Spicer and Conway, without a platform to communicate with their customers. There is no bottom line when you’ve reached the bottom rung.
And that’s where Trump, his loyalists, his fanatics, his enablers, his disciples, his convicted co-conspirators and his conspirators are – they’ve nose-dived to the nethermost. The PGA and Deutsche Bank have severed ties with Trump. New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichik refused the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and others are running, not walking away, from a future with the instigator-in-chief.
Employers are also hitting back, firing and suspending employees who participated in the assault on the Capitol. Trump and anyone associated with him are being relegated to the dustbins of history, in the lairs of liars, the sewer of the senseless. And sitting above them all, somewhat ironically, is corporate America, leading the way for justice as Republicans dither on serving Trump with any consequences for his sedition. Corporate America is all about the bottom line, but with the GOP, there's no bottom.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.