The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.
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If misery loves company, the feeling isn’t necessarily requited. Late last month the New York Times reported on one of the unintended consequences of this year’s unusually contentious GOP nomination contest:
Some of the country’s best-known corporations are nervously grappling with what role they should play at the Republican National Convention, given the likely nomination of Donald J. Trump, whose divisive candidacy has alienated many women, blacks and Hispanics.
An array of activist groups is organizing a campaign to pressure the companies to refuse to sponsor the gathering, which many of the corporations have done for the Republican and the Democratic Parties for decades. . . .
In addition to Mr. Trump’s divisive politics, there is the possibility that protests, or even violence, will become a focus of attention at the convention. Mr. Trump has suggested that there will be “riots” if he is not chosen as the party’s nominee, and the city of Cleveland recently sought bids for about 2,000 sets of riot gear for its police force.
Among the wavering firms: “Walmart, which contributed $150,000 to the Republican convention in 2012, has yet to commit to contributing this year. . . . Apple and Google declined to comment.”
And: “Coca-Cola has declined to match the $660,000 it gave for the 2012 Republican convention, donating only $75,000 for this year and indicating that it does not plan to provide more.” A left-wing group called Color for Change took credit for the Coke reduction; its executive director, Rashad Robinson, asks rhetorically: “Do they want riots brought to us by Coca-Cola?”
Trump, who’s been relatively subdued the past couple of weeks, brought up the possibility of violence, albeit apophatically, while campaigning in outer-borough New York yesterday. The Washington Post:
“I hope it doesn’t involve violence. I hope it doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that,” Trump told reporters on Sunday here in Staten Island. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I don’t think it will. But I will say this, it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system. It’s 100 percent corrupt.”
The bitter Republican divisions, meanwhile, are having another unintended consequence, as Politico reports this morning. They are making corporations hesitant about supporting the Democratic convention in Philadelphia:
Several Fortune 500 companies—including Bank of America, Duke Energy and Time Warner—are taking a pass on chipping in for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia or, with just 100 days to go until the event, won’t say whether they’ll participate. Target, which has had a presence at both parties’ conventions in the past, is joining other companies in skipping this summer’s events in Philadelphia and Cleveland.
None of the firms are publicly pointing to Trump as the reason they’re staying away. But the GOP’s more well-documented struggles appear to be taking a toll on Democrats, since many companies prefer to give to both conventions or neither in order to project an image of balance.
There was a hint of that in the 2½-week-old Times story too, which noted:
In a statement, [Kent] Landers, the Coca-Cola spokesman, said the company had also provided $75,000 to the 2016 Democratic convention, adding, “The Coca-Cola Company is a nonpartisan business and does not endorse presidential candidates or nominees, nor do we endorse any specific party.”
This is exactly the behavior you’d expect from major publicly traded corporations. Their purpose is to maximize profits, and toward that end it is almost always best to avoid controversy.
True, companies are known to take sides in political fights, and usually on the left, the current spate of boycotts against North Carolina being a case in point. But in those cases, the left is better organized and louder than the right, so that yielding to the left’s demands is, or at least seems, safer than resisting them.
But when the conflict is partisan rather than ideological, there is a symmetry between the sides that militates toward corporate neutrality. To sponsor one party’s convention but not the other’s risks alienating customers who identify with the latter party—not to mention government officials, should the disfavored party win the election.
Even Facebook has been at pains to distance its corporate identity from the political views of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who disdains Trump, as CNET.com reports:
Facebook said Friday it wouldn’t use its algorithms to influence voting in the US presidential election this November. “We as a company are neutral,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”
That statement comes after a Gizmodo report about a weekly internal poll at Facebook. Employees considered questions they should bring before CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and among them, reportedly, was, “What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?” Facebook didn’t respond to a request to confirm the question was actually in the poll. . . .
While Facebook has the ability to toy with its 1.6 billion users, it’s now clarifying that voting is too sacred a civic institution to influence.
Also, it would like politicians to keep using its site.
“Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community,” Facebook said in its statement. “We encourage any and all candidates, groups and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues.”
There’s another reason why companies may want to beg off on both parties’ conventions this year: There’s no guarantee the Democrats’ will be a sedate, orderly affair either. Bernie Sanders, running a surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton as a socialist, has promised a “political revolution.”
Unlike Trump, he hasn’t spoken of riots, but some of his supporters have. This is from an op-ed piece by longtime Democratic activist Kenneth Lamb, which appeared in New York’s Daily News contemporaneously with the Times piece we cited up top:
The inconvenient truth about the force propelling Sanders and Donald Trump on the GOP side is the wholesale repudiation of the Establishment. If this force is frustrated, the riots that accompanied the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are very likely to come back and release the pent up anger of the everyday people recognizing they cast meaningless votes.
The superdelegates are nothing but the Establishment’s insurance policy that it will remain the only force that matters.
Once Americans see their entire democracy is nothing but a cruel joke on them carried out by the elites who could care less about the fate of Main Street, the riots will only be an introduction to the chaos that will follow.
And…actress “Hanoi Jane” Fonda “predicted violence if [Mrs.] Clinton secures the Democratic nomination and goes on to beat the Republican presidential nominee in the general election”:
“Every time women move forward, there is going to be problems,” Fonda insisted. “So one of the things we have to do is help men understand why they are so threatened, and change the way we view masculinity. We have a toxic masculinity and that’s what needs to be addressed.”
Fonda more or less endorsed Mrs. Clinton: “She’s had the experience. The world right now is so complicated—she has the background to deal with all the complications.” She might have added that Mrs. Clinton has extensive personal experience with “toxic masculinity.”
But think about it: If you were an executive with a corporate image to worry about, wouldn’t you want to stay as far away as possible from all of this?
For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.