By John Ruberry
In 1960, shortly before I was born, my father briefly worked for the Quaker Oats Company. Sixty years ago many large companies and corporations had ethnic identities. For instance the first episode of Mad Men, coincidentally set in 1960, contains a plotline centered around the decision of a Jewish business owner to change advertising agencies and hire one that wasn’t “Jewish.”
Big firms also had politial identities.
Quaker Oats was a Republican company. R. Douglas Stuart was the longtime CEO of the company when my dad worked there. In Stuart’s Wikipedia entry, and that of his son, it’s stated that they were “active in the Republican Party.” The younger Stuart also served as CEO of Quaker Oats.
My dad was hired by the Chicago-based company as a junior executive, an in-house farm club concept from that era.
It was a great time to be an Irish Catholic Democrat in 1960 and my dad was able to proudly check all three boxes. John F. Kennedy, who potrayed himself as a devout Catholic, was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Unlike the doomed Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president of a major party, Kennedy’s chances for moving into the White House looked promising. But JFK’s Republican opponent, Richard M. Nixon, was the slight favorite early in the campaign. Kennedy, people like my father reasoned, needed every bit of assistance to nudge him over the goal line. So my dad placed a Kennedy poster in the front window of our Chicago bungalow and he wore a Kennedy campaign button everywhere he went.
Including at Quaker Oats.
But my dad was a probationary hire–there was a three month period before a final decision was made on whether he would stay on. He didn’t make it–he was told at the end of those three months that he “wasn’t a fit for the Quaker Oats culture.”
Years later, after my father’s passing, I met a woman who worked closely with my father at Quaker Oats there and she confimed this story as it had exactly been told to me. She added that my dad was “a real blast” and a “breath of fresh air at that stuffy place.”
Later in the 1960s attitudes changed. Major corporations became less ethnic. One large company after another stopped being WASP, Jewish, or Catholic. The hiring doors for all positions were opened to minorities. And of course those were all good things. Politics was de-emphasized in the business world too.
But politics didn’t vanish from corporate America. Another legacy from the 1960s is that big corporations began envisioning themselves as being responsible for more than providing products and services and making money, explaining in annual reports and countless press releases that they had a “responsibility to the community” and the like. And over time, colleges and universities, even their business schools, drifted even further to the left. So did the political leanings of their graduates. A decade or so ago poltics made a roaring comeback in the boardroom and elsewhere in corporate America.
When there is a political controversy–such as the hasty anger about the new Georgia voting laws–which most people who hate them only do so because they saw Twitter comments or headlines on their smart phones that claim that Georgia has returned to the Jim Crow era–CEOs naturally, such as Delta Airlines’ CEO Ed Bastian, fall in line and echo the opinion of the left. Oh, the fear of a left-wing boycott is part of their rationale too. Coca-Cola, aka Woka-Cola, which went full-woke earlier this year, has also declared its opposition to the Georgia election law. And not just them.
Corporate politicking needs to end because it is an accessory to the dangerous dividing of America. The last time I bought airline tickets I needed to get someplace–and get flown home. That’s it. I don’t need the airline’s politics, I have my own already, thank you. The same goes if I need a beverage or anything else. Ed Bastian and Coca-Cola’s CEO James Quincey need to shut up and stick to keeping flights somewhat on time and ensuring beverages are tasty and safe. They need to avoid subjects they know little about.
The majority of Americans, when they learn more about the Georgia bill, will likely see these reforms as reasonable. For instance already most states have voter ID laws, including Biden’s home state of Delaware. And signature verification as the sole tool to determine if a ballot mailed in was completed by that voter, isn’t a strong enough security measure, at least I think so.
Elections need to be free and fair.
Did Quincey and Bastian cave to the left on Georgia only because they read an MSNBC or Daily Beast headline?
I am also compelled to address the bad decision by Major League Baseball to move the 2021 All-Star Game, and the MLB Draft, out of Atlanta. Two days prior, while being interviewed by woke ESPN, President Joe Biden said he supported taking away that game from the Braves. MLB needs to stay out of politics too. Had MLB done a bit of research on the subject it would have learned that the woke Washington Post rated a key Biden claim about the law with Four Pinocchios.
Instead of a leftist boycott now Delta, Coke, and MLB face boycotts from the right–and the loudest call comes from former President Donald Trump. Remember him? He received the votes of 75 million Americans five months ago.
My message to corporate America: Keep out of politics and stick to your products and services. It’s good for your business and best for America. And it’s great for your employees.
Oh, my dad learned his lesson. He never wore a political campaign button again. He enjoyed a happy and properous career at other places. After Chappaquidick my father was done with the Kennedy family. After Jimmy Carter’s election he was done with the Democrats.
Quaker Oats was acquired by Pepsico, Coca-Cola’s rival, in 2001.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.