Is there anything more galling than conservatives deploying the phrase “woke capitalism”?
When social democrats use the phrase as a term of derision, at least they are being consistent, since they were skeptics about unregulated capitalism from the get-go. But to hear conservatives, who have for decades lauded radical laissez-faire and fear-mongered about taxes, regulation, and campaign finance limits, suddenly do an about-face on capitalism the moment that the markets start to steer in substantive directions they find uncomfortable, is quite remarkable. To be sure, not all conservatives are against regulation (especially when it comes to their own areas of moral concern, like pornography), but for the most part, in recent decades, Republicans have been complete advocates of free and unregulated markets, and of the rights of Americans to speak with their wallets – to support businesses (and political programs) they like, and to boycott ones they don’t, trusting that the markets will sort things out. Except, of course, if that means intentionally supporting Black-owned, or overtly feminist, or environmentally sustainable businesses. Then it’s just “wokeness,” and that nonsense has got to be shut down.
Jonathan Chait does a great job exposing Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy on this front, with reference to recent remarks the senator made in response to a series of corporate statements denouncing Georgia’s new voting law (“Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country.”). Republicans used to trust markets to sort out pretty much everything, and certainly massive potential financial influence over important political actors was nothing too concerning. Now, they must be blamed and threatened for daring to take a simple principled stance against voter suppression and in defense of basic voting rights. As Chait puts it, according to this new, complicated ethos, “Corporate money is speech, but speech isn’t speech.”
It’s a topsy-turvey world out there! Chait’s article is worth reading in its entirety.