Overview:

Pro-business Republicans are almost extinct, replaced with culture warriors who demand corporations fall in line behind the conservative moral agenda.

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The Trump era has had a transformative effect on the Republican Party. Pro-business, small-government Republicans are nearly extinct, replaced with culture warriors demanding that corporations fall in line behind the fearful conservative moral agenda that motivates their shrinking voter base. In the 1980s, Reagan Republicans professed to stand for free trade, low taxes, and the promotion of corporate America. The modern Republican Party is ready to throw away all of those things for corporations that refuse to back conservative values.

The most recent example comes from Texas, which has attempted to eliminate virtually all abortions in the state. Citigroup, along with such companies as Yelp and Apple, responded by expanding employee benefits to pay travel and other costs for employees or their spouses to travel out of state for needed abortion care. 

This prompted Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain to send a cease and desist letter to Citigroup, arguing that they openly flouted state law. “Employees, volunteers, and donors of abortion funds will be criminally prosecuted if they do not immediately halt their illegal acts and stop paying for abortions performed in Texas,” Cain said. “These are criminal organizations. It is a crime to pay for another person’s abortion in Texas, and anyone who gives money to these abortion funds will be prosecuted.”

Although the corporate efforts are a step in the right direction, Leila Abolfazli, director of federal reproductive rights for the National Women’s Law Center, believes that they aren’t close to enough to change outcomes for most women in the state of Texas. Abolfazli called the efforts a “small drop in the bucket.” Cain also threatened that Citigroup could be blocked from underwriting municipal bonds, a vital aspect of the corporation’s business in the state. 

After Disney came out in opposition of Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” bill and paused political donations in the state, conservative protesters attempted to block access to the Orlando-based theme park.

But Texas isn’t the only example of conservatives attempting to bend corporations towards their moral positions. After Disney came out in opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and paused political donations in the state, conservative protesters attempted to block access to the Orlando-based theme park. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis followed up the protests by pushing to remove the corporation’s special district status, which some experts believe could lead to a significant tax increase for the residents of Orange County. “This will be a huge property tax increase for the rest of the citizens of Orange County. Probably 20 percent,” said Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph.

Such attempts to force corporate support for conservative politics are only likely to increase. Where the Reagan Republicans sought to open the door to business interests, modern Republicans seek to close those doors to corporations that refuse to toe the line. One result could be less corporate expansion into red states and fewer jobs for state residents. But another possibility is that corporations decide to enforce conservative social values in order to maintain access to these markets, which could further jeopardize the civil liberties of women and marginalized groups.

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.