Americans tell CEOs: Drop the Woke and get back to Business
As companies gear up for an economic downturn, cutting costs and staff, CEOs might want to heed the rising voice of consumers who want them to focus on business rather than politics.
According to a poll this week of more than 1,000 likely voters by the Trafalgar Group and Convention of States Action (COSA), nearly 80 percent said that, given the choice, they are more likely to buy from a company that is politically neutral. In a rare case of bipartisan consensus, both Democrats (76.9 percent) and Republicans (78.8 percent) felt this way in roughly equal measure.
Mark Meckler, COSA president, told The Epoch Times that the message to CEOs was: “Go back to doing what you were hired to do, which is to make money for shareholders.”
“This is a blowback that’s coming,” Meckler said. “It’s coming big time against all this ‘woke’ politics in business. It’s not even that folks want their companies to reflect their politics; they want their companies, the people they buy from, to just ignore politics.”
The term “woke” is used by both liberals and conservatives to describe a number of more radical progressive ideologies, including critical race theory, social justice, and gender theory.
Disney is a cautionary tale for CEOs, he said. Disney has become a left-wing political advocate in recent years, introducing sexual content and a “not-at-all-secret-gay-agenda” into children’s programs, promoting critical race theory and demanding reparations through shows like “The Proud Family,” and fighting a parents’ rights law in Florida that bans sexual topics in public school for kids in third grade or younger.
This has been off-putting for some Disney customers, and the company’s share price has been hammered by shortfalls in subscribers to the Disney+ Channel, claims of a hostile work environment by conservative staffers, and retaliatory actions by the state of Florida to revoke the privileged status of Disney’s main theme park near Orlando.
“Capitalism, luckily for all of us, is a force of nature,” Meckler said. “You either make profits or you don’t, and ultimately companies that don’t make profits are going to be punished in the marketplace. I think one of the things you’re going to start to see is companies proclaiming their neutrality,” he said, “just staying out of politics. And I think that would be much healthier for the country as well.”
Political Agendas Becoming Unaffordable
In response to pressure from investors like Nelson Pelz, who demanded that Disney improve its financial performance, the company fired CEO Bob Chapek, who initiated the fight with Florida, and has announced a corporate reorganization that will include laying off 7,000 employees and cutting more than $5 billion in costs.
Corporate cost-cutting will likely take a toll on corporate politicization, hitting HR departments and diversity-equity-and-inclusion (DEI) executives, who are becoming increasingly unaffordable.
A January report in Bloomberg stated that listings for DEI jobs were down 19 percent last year, a greater decline than in legal or HR departments in general. This follows a dramatic expansion in DEI hiring after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Adding to this are claims by laid-off diversity workers at Meta that they received eight weeks of severance pay, while most employees who were let go got 16 weeks. The diversity employees were part of Meta’s newly created Sourcer Development Program, designed to recruit minority employees.
Corporate executives may be seeing ideological pursuits as an increasingly unaffordable luxury. According to a 2022 survey by KPMG, a management consultancy, half of the CEOs polled stated that they were putting their ESG plans on hold because of the current business environment.
And in addition to consumers, investors seem also to want companies to focus on business over politics. A 2022 survey by Consumers’ Research of 2,000 retail investors found that 70 percent of them said their primary goal is to save for retirement or generate income, versus 3 percent who invested for ESG goals like fighting climate change or social justice.
Despite this, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) moved in March 2022 to implement a new requirement that all listed companies produce annual audited reports on the carbon emissions of their company and all suppliers and customers, as well as a plan to reduce them.
The SEC, established to protect small investors from securities fraud, claimed as justification that investors were demanding this information. However, the investors who support the SEC rule appear to be large institutional asset managers and progressive state pension fund managers rather than the people who depend on those investments to fund their retirement.
Convention of States
COSA, which co-sponsored the consumer survey, is an organization that is working to organize a convention of states, according to a provision in the Constitution that allows amendments to be written by a coalition of three-quarters of U.S. states. This movement seeks to rein in the power of the federal government through provisions like term limits for Congress and federal officials, budget caps, and other provisions to de-centralize America’s political system and return more power to state governments.
“We’re starting to see movement in this direction generally,” Meckler said, “and it’s because people, regardless of party, are fed up with Washington D.C.”
Currently, 19 states have fully approved legislation calling for a convention of states, seven states have approved the measure in one legislative chamber, and 11 states are considering legislation this year.
“The only way we stay together as a nation is by coming apart, and the way that we come apart and still stay together is by being a federalist nation,” Meckler said.
“We were founded on the premise that we really don’t like each other, we really don’t trust each other, but there are some things that we know we need to do together if we’re going to be successful in the world. Those things were the 17 enumerated powers in the original Constitution, and much of the discord that we see in America today is because we have one-size-fits-all policies coming from Washington D.C.”
The Walt Disney Company was contacted regarding this article but did not respond.