In 2022, only 26% of Republicans said big business had a positive impact, a figure similar to that of Democrats and well below the percentage three years ago, according to the Pew Institute.
But Professor Mizruchi asserts that politicians’ attacks on business are “mostly a smokescreen,” noting that on issues such as unionization, taxes and regulation, corporate America and Republican leaders remain closely aligned.
The majority of official corporate political donations in 2022 went to Republicans, as they have for nearly three decades, according to OpenSecrets data.
“Republicans have to play this very careful game of supporting the wealthy and big business behind the scenes, but making it publicly look like they’re on the side of ordinary citizens,” Mizruchi notes.
“So going after the woke is a good way to do it, because it’s not a matter of first necessity [for companies].”
How big is the impact
The financial impact of conservative attacks appears to be limited so far.
BlackRock lost less than 2% of its portfolio.
Bud Light’s sales decline in the first three weeks of April accounted for only 1% of Anheuser-Busch’s total volume.
But the outrage has altered the mood, says Martin Whittaker, executive director of Just Capital, a nonprofit that ranks companies on issues such as worker pay and environmental impact.
Many companies are moving ahead with internal initiatives. For Whittaker, public discussions have become more sedate. “You don’t see CEOs sticking up for themselves.”
Disney, which spoke out on the Florida bill under pressure from its employees, has taken legal action against the Florida government. But other companies appear to be in retreat.
A step backward
In BlackRock’s annual letter this year, climate risks are barely mentioned, although the firm acknowledges the challenges posed by the “divergence of views across regions.”
Credit card companies have announced they will not move forward with changes that activists had hoped would help track gun purchases, citing legal uncertainty.
Some large financial firms such as Vanguard have backtracked on their support for climate change initiatives, citing “confusion” over their views.
Will Hild is executive director of Consumers’ Research, a group that since 2021 has spearheaded multimillion-dollar ad campaigns targeting companies such as Nike, American Airlines, Major League Baseball and Levi’s that it points to for putting “woke politics over consumer interests.”
“People forget that in 2021 there were companies that publicly joined the election integrity debate at the state level in Georgia and Texas,” Hild says.
“In the years that followed it didn’t happen again. To us that’s an indication that our campaigns have been successful.”
Last month, after weeks of attacks from conservative analysts and politicians over its association with Dylan Mulvaney, Anheuser-Busch suspended two executives and released a barrage of Bud Light ads splashed with images of American flags and horses galloping in open fields.
The company, which did not respond to the BBC’s request for comment, said it does not intend “to be part of a conversation that divides people.”
“What has happened with Bud Light is a wonderful start. It should be that way for all companies,” Sarah opined on the company’s change of stance, which has been seen by many as a victory.
“We need to be less afraid and start making our voice heard more.”