Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican party were not blindsided by opposition to RFRA by gay rights activists. What knocked them back were major corporations, such as Apple, Walmart, and Angie’s List, and organizations such as the NCAA that denounced the law, in many cases announcing boycotts of Indiana.
Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen writes powerfully in First Things about the defeat of the RFRA, viewed by most on the Left as legalized bigotry; by most on the Right as an essential defense of the rights of small business owners; and by most of us on the Center-Right as a well-intentioned but probably redundant law that would create more problems than it would solve.
Deneen’s primary point, though, is not a defense of the RFRA (though he makes one later in the article that will do nothing to sway the bill’s critics or fence-sitters like me). It is, rather, to point out that the response to the bill may have shed the first public light on a new elite coalition in the US between corporate America and social libertarians. It is a compelling proposition, but one that needs more evidence than the RFRA to support it.
Our view at the Pacific Bull Moose is rather more nuanced. It is not whether corporations are aligned with Republican causes and candidates. They are. Neither is it that corporations are aligned with Democratic causes and candidates. They are that as well.
Our view is that corporations align themselves to whichever political party or movement offers the the most lucrative commercial prospects. And this is exactly the problem with handing political power to commercial interests: it makes them a political power center that serves a small elite group and is answerable to no one, all while operating in a manner that serves the interests only of themselves, and not the nation as a whole.
Their alignment on both sided of the political spectrum means that it is impossible to align against corporate interests merely by choosing a political side. Their power must be fought on an issue-by-issue, election-by-election basis.
Deneen makes the point that America is devolving into a nation “where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant.”
That is a sentiment that should resonate with Americans of every political stripe. And it should frighten us all.