Climate-Change, Voting-Rights, Department-Of-Justice, Merrick-Garland

Climate-Change, Voting-Rights

It’s Time to Treat Voting Rights Like Climate Change

Private investing could be one crucial answer.

6/13/2021 9:24:00 AM

How supporters of democracy can successfully pressure companies like Coca-Cola into taking a stand on democracy, following the example of climate change activists.

Private investing could be one crucial answer.

In the United States, political polarization has checked efforts to enact even modest federal climate change legislation for decades. Out of frustration, one might even say desperation, some activists have looked to the world of private investing and major corporations—yes, even oil companies—to press a climate change agenda. And those efforts have been somewhat successful. On the one hand, there are now reasonably large investment funds that, through their investment criteria, in effect take resources away from companies that have poor environmental track records and reward those who have better records. On the other hand, activists have also purchased stock in some of the major polluters and used their status as shareholders to push shareholder resolutions and fight for seats as outside members of the boards of directors. Remarkably, a third activist was just elected to the Exxon board.

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AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementThis strategy should now be extended to the fight to preserve democracy in the United States. All across the United States, Republican majorities in state legislatures are pushing to restrict ballot access, and even to politicize (in their partisan favor) how disputes over the outcomes of close elections will be resolved. Distinguished

the United States as being on the verge of slipping from a flawed but real democracy to a nation where power will reside in an essentially anti-democratic (smalld), even authoritarian party, regardless of what the majority of Americans think and desire. Of course, the Biden administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress are trying to enact federal legislation that would override anti-democratic legislation at the state level. But the odds of such legislation actually being enacted are slipping by the day. And if it is not enacted soon, state-level restrictions on ballot access and state-level gerrymandering could ensure Republican control of Congress as a minority party for years to come.

AdvertisementSo far, corporations have been relatively quiet about the fact that the United States, at the hand of one of two major political parties, may be on the verge of losing its democratic system of government. It is true that Delta and Coca-Cola expressed their disappointment over Georgia’s adoption of an anti–voting rights law, and Major League Baseball went further, moving its All-Star Game out of Georgia. But there continues to be relative silence from major corporations around voting rights, even as bills restricting voting edge toward passage in dozens of states. That quiet is explicable. Big business and the Republican Party have had a long, close relationship, and the majority of CEOs probably are (or until recently, were) Republicans. More to the point, CEOs care about making money, and especially their companies’ short-term profitability and stock performance, and so it makes sense for them to try to avoid alienating Republican leaders in Mar-a-Lago, Congress, and the state legislatures.

AdvertisementAdvertisementWhich is why corporations must be pushed to take a stand. Both through “democratically responsible” investment funds and shareholder activism, investors can push corporations to state loudly for all to hear which voting measures they approve and which they denounce. Investors could push for corporations to issue “democracy” impact statements, which would detail the corporations’ political contributions, relevant lobbying efforts, and other measures that affect the fight for preserving democracy in the United States. Investors might push corporations to commit not to make direct or indirect campaign contributions to any politician or state party that supports anti–voting rights legislation, or federal candidates who oppose measures that would protect democracy such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Admittedly, determining which investor demands on corporations would be productive in terms of the fight for democracy is not straightforward or obvious. But that is all the more reason why the effort to make those determinations needs to begin right now.

Read more: Slate »

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