We’ve known since the late 1800s that corporations are people in the United States. That’s when the fine gentlemen of the railroad companies asserted their right to the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In 2010, we had the Citizens United decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were entitled by the First Amendment to make unlimited political contributions without restriction, accountability or consequence outside the actual free market in which they operate.
That allegedly “free market” is often referenced by Republican lawmakers as the ultimate check against corporate malfeasance, financial indiscretion, bad decisions. And while it’s true that Citizens United benefits labor unions and philanthropic nonprofits as readily as it does corporations and the politicians who enable them, thus far corporate personhood has not been to the benefit people who are not rich and white.
That changed last week when Georgia put into the marketplace of ideas a slate of election laws designed specifically to hinder the Black and Brown vote, which helped award the state two Democrat senators, one of whom was confirmed the same day that domestic right-wing terrorists stormed the US Capitol Building.
The provisions of the bill — fewer polling places in Black neighborhoods, making it illegal to give water to people waiting in line to vote and the like — don’t matter so much as its unpopularity among those who aren’t still clinging to this failed ideology.
And so the free market spoke.
Major League Baseball — which has a preponderance of Black and Brown employees — pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta, relocating it to Colorado. Delta Airlines, the state’s largest employer, formally rebuked the law. Most telling: Coca Cola, probably Georgia’s most recognizable corporate citizen, issued a rebuke of the law and the folks who wrote it, but only after protests in the streets and letters from powerful Black executives in the boardrooms.
That is, only after the marketplace forced its hand.
Pushback from the right is feeble: Corporations like it when you accuse them of being “woke” — it’s good for business. Good luck boycotting Delta if you want to fly out of the Atlanta airport. Trump, who called for a boycott of Coca Cola, went exactly one day before being photographed with a bottle of the stuff.
In some ways, it’s better to be a corporation than a person: more money and power, a longer lifespan. And unlike, say, politicians, all corporations must ultimately answer to reality as measured by the free market.