“When the Republicans return to power, Apple and Disney have to understand one thing: everything will be on the table,” Ingraham warned. “Your copyright, trademark protection. Your special status in certain states. And even your corporate structure itself. once and for all for the good of competition and ultimately for the good of the consumers who pay the bills.
It might have been an unusually eloquent articulation of the Republicans’ new punitive approach to economic policy, but it’s not unique to Ingraham.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) is furious that Disney has publicly criticized his new law banning classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity (dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law) ; Beyond using his bullying pulpit to speak out against Disney’s alleged indecency, he’s threatened to rescind Disney’s half-century special status under Florida law that allows the company to govern itself effectively on the grounds of its theme parks. Likewise, last year, DeSantis signed a (likely unconstitutional) law to punish tech companies for content moderation decisions determined by individuals, and another law that fines private companies that try to impose workplace vaccination requirements.
In other states, like Georgia, GOP politicians have punished private companies for taking so-called “woke” positions on issues such as gun violence. Republicans in Congress have also tried to use antitrust enforcement and other government levers to punish companies whose public stances on voting rights or internal policies on content moderation don’t sit well with them.
This approach to governance was expertly modeled by Donald Trump, who as president frequently used state power to reward his friends and punish his perceived political enemies.
It did this through tax legislation, tariff policy, and other subsidy proposals that picked winners and losers based on their political affiliations. He selectively applied energy policies, such as allowing offshore drilling, to distribute favors to friends. He reportedly tried to block a government contract with Amazon because its founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post; he also tried to raise the prices the retail giant pays for shipping through the US Postal Service. It launched a bogus antitrust investigation into automakers that had objected to its lax emissions standards. He threatened to revoke the “licenses” of broadcast media companies whose coverage he disliked.
And that doesn’t go into all the times he’s tried to arm his presidency to prosecute or otherwise punish politicians and private citizens (rather than corporations).
At the time, these behaviors might have seemed an aberration from standard GOP rhetoric and politics, the delusions and abuse of a would-be authoritarian leader. At times, his fellow Republicans even called out Trump about these Soviet-style command-and-control efforts to intervene in markets and curb free enterprise. Theirs, after all, is a party that has spent years complaining about how Democrats have too often tried to rig market rules to favor particular outcomes. (Remember the deluge of campaign announcements on Solyndra.)
Beyond their half-hearted complaints, Trump’s fellow supporters have done little to hold him back. Now his instincts have infected the rest of the right, from Republicans to the federal government to Fox News.
It’s far scarier than the “cancellation culture” phenomenon that Republicans so often decry.
Undo culture, however ill-defined, generally refers to the use of voluntary social pressure to punish those whose views are deemed in some way unacceptable – through public reprimands, boycotts, avoidances, firings, or other refusals to engage with someone non grata on the public place. Republicans (like Democrats) have of course engaged in all of these behaviors and worse: Trump himself has frequently called for boycotts and firings, including for the peaceful expression of political speech.
But now his party is trying to codify those answers in the lawusing the power and weapons of the state against those who disagree with them.
Last fall, as this evolution of the Republican Party and its open warfare with business became increasingly evident, I urged Democrats to take advantage of it – to position themselves as the new party of political freedom and economy and the rule of law, and to embrace the prosperity that such values can engender. Instead, they have let their own populist instincts guide them toward rhetoric and policies that emphasize their own punitive treatment of disadvantaged businesses.
It’s not too late for the Democrats to correct their course. Someone has to.