Corporate Lessons From the Komen Affair: Hiring Right-Wing Ideologues Will Wreck Your Firm
One of the best takeaways we could hope for -- and one that we should be pushing for -- is for corporations (both for- and non-profit) to learn that putting right-wing ideologues into places of power is a risky, dangerous thing to do. It Does Not Pay, and no board that takes its fiduciary responsibility seriously should ever consider it.
The analogy is: No sane board has put an avowed Communist on its board since McCarthy. Everybody knows, viscerally, that doing this would be an unnecessary threat to their company and brands. It would be presumed that someone who's an open Communist would likely have an ideological bent that was hostile to the long-term health of the enterprise, and might be inclined to put their political agenda over the health of the corporation. Simply naming such a person would also cause others to question the stability of the company's management. In the business world, this is viewed as a risk that nobody needs to take, and so nobody does.
It's now blindingly clear that hiring right-wing ideologues creates exactly the same problem. As Handel proved, they also come with a built-in ideological agenda that they won't hesitate to put before the best interests of the firm. You never know when they'll try to grab hold of the enterprise and drive it off into the weeds for their own causes, without a moment's concern about the potential damage to your company's assets. And it should be non-controversial (to say the least) to point out that anybody who's likely to do that should not be put in a position to make important fiscal or policy decisions for any firm.
The tricky part of this analogy is that, unlike Communists, the political right has wrapped itself tightly in the mantle of religion -- and Americans are loathe to discriminate against each other on the basis of religion. So let's be clear: the issue is not with Handel's religious beliefs. Rather, the concern is that her religious views are driving an extreme political agenda. And her headlong, thoughtless stampede to sacrifice Komen's brand to that agenda is what caused this problem in the first place.
Many of America's harder-headed corporate leaders are already deeply suspicious of right-wing nut jobs. The Tea Party has scared the crap out of them. For them, the takeaway from all of this should be an even more confirmed belief that RWNJs are too crazy and unstable to ever be put in positions of trust at serious organizations. If that's the general lesson that's picked up here, it will go a very long way toward blunting the long-term power of the social conservatives, and put a further barrier between them and the levers of power. And that's perhaps the best long-game win we could hope for.