Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has had quite a week. On Monday, McConnell threatened American businesses with "serious consequences" if they spoke out against the rash of GOP voter suppression laws sweeping the nation. On Tuesday, he doubled down, saying, "My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics." McConnell quickly added that he wasn't "talking about political contributions," because of course not. Effectively—‘shut your traps and donate, or else the GOP will quit doing your bidding.’
Perhaps being extorted isn't sitting so well with the GOP's corporate donor base. On Wednesday, McConnell tried to put a more genteel spin on his threat.
"I didn't say that very artfully yesterday," McConnell told Kentucky reporters, referring to his explicit threat. "They certainly are entitled to be involved in politics. They are," he conceded, referring to the corporations that have spoken out against Georgia's voter suppression law. "My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill,” he said of corporate CEOs.
Gosh, golly gee, what a relief. For a second, it seemed as though McConnell had declared both the free enterprise and free speech of the corporate sector dead all in one breath. American businesses had to either toe the GOP line or suffer the consequences. It was quite a reversal for McConnell and Republicans, who have spent decades prioritizing the rights of corporations over the rights of everyday Americans, even when lives were on the line. But with corporate profits no longer aligning with Republicans' ongoing culture war, McConnell was drawing a line in the sand.
Let's be clear: the damage has been done. McConnell may be trying to soften the blow and give himself an out, but that threat was heard loud and clear in board rooms across the nation. And this is by no means the end of the story. The GOP's grievance politics will continue to be at odds with a culture that is rapidly outstripping Republicans and the increasing number of corporations trying to market to that culture.