Many companies and consumer brands avoid politics entirely. They believe it’s better to be above that fray, no matter how they may feel, personally, about certain issues. However, there are others for whom taking a stand is part and parcel of who they are as a company. In recent years, several national brands, including Chick Fil A, Starbucks, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Hobby Lobby, and others have found themselves in the middle of major political stories.
The outcome of that consumer brand involvement in politics has been as diverse as the brands and the industries represented. Chick Fil A and Hobby Lobby did very well, others have taken a beating. With that in mind, a lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen next with Delta.
One of the country’s largest airlines, Delta recently ran afoul of the Lt. Governor of Georgia over its decision to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association. In a clearly political move led by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, the Georgia Senate backed a sweeping tax bill that stripped Delta of a jet-fuel tax break. Delta is huge in Georgia, and the Atlanta airport is a major hub for the airline, so this decision has created a standoff for the brand and the state.
While the actual tax bill was sold to Georgia voters as a way to put about $5.2 billion in “extra” state funds back into the pockets of Georgia taxpayers, Cagle was quick to call out Delta and use the bill as a cudgel to threaten the airline. He tweeted: “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back…”
Shortly after Cagle’s obvious stump speech castigating Delta for not renewing a discount deal for NRA members, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal characterized the comments as an “unbecoming squabble,” while others denounced it as “election year posturing.”
Cagle, with his legislative victory clearly in hand, softened his tone a bit after the vote, saying he had made his point: “Obviously, the political environment does sometimes get a little testy, but in the end, it’s all about the product… And the product we have today is something that all of us can be very proud of.”
Cagle is playing a dangerous game here. There’s no doubt that his comments will play well with his base, but they may come at the expense of aggravating of one of his state’s most prominent employers. If Delta decides they might find greener pastures elsewhere, that could be a major blow to Cagle’s political career. While there’s been no discussion along those lines yet, there are some who are wondering exactly how Delta plans to punch back … or if they will. One of those people, at least privately, has to be Cagle.
Who will blink first, the airline who stands to lose cash, of the government that will soon be hearing from untold numbers of Delta employees who will likely feel the sting of this decision in their paychecks?