Given Georgia’s role in securing the U.S. Senate for the Democratic Party last year and the bitter upcoming Republican gubernatorial primary, Atlanta is going to be a key battleground for activists and politicians alike to advance their interests on a statewide and local level.

Judson Hill

As we’ve seen in recent primary campaigns thus far, we can expect Republicans to focus heavily on social issues and campaign against corporate wokeism ahead of the 2022 elections. Republicans taking this route may be setting the stage for more government interference in the policy-making of private businesses and straying too far from their conservative roots.

Senate Republicans recently underscored the importance of this during a Senate nomination hearing for Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard to become vice chair of the U.S. central bank. Before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee earlier this month, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., pressed Brainard about whether federal regulators should assert their power to discourage private banks from lending to oil and gas companies or gun manufacturers and dealers. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wy., echoed Kennedy’s line of questioning, pressing Brainard about whether she believes the central bank has the authority to broadly curtail community banks’ investments in oil, coal, or gas exploration.

It was clear from their questioning that these two Republican senators want to make sure the Federal Reserve is not directing banks on what sectors or businesses they can serve. Yet several GOP party figures have turned away from this critical pillar of conservatism.

In a November letter to U.S. financial institutions, over a dozen Republican state treasurers and chief financial officers threatened to pull hundreds of billions of dollars in combined contracts from banks that refuse to halt their “ongoing and growing economic boycott” of the fossil fuel industry. The treasurers repeatedly stress their support for a free market, but promise government intervention in private companies that don’t do as they say. This is inherently anti-free market.

We are seeing a similar effort on the left. Washington state Sen. Reuven Carlyle plans to introduce a bill that imposes a fee on global financial institutions funding fossil fuel projects, in an effort to punish banks for their portfolios. Republicans should not be taking a page from the progressive left’s playbook by punishing private businesses for making legal business decisions. Yet, if private businesses want to receive government special treatment like earmarked tax benefits they might wisely refrain from engaging in corporate wokeism.

Thankfully, Georgia Treasurer Steve McCoy is standing strong for the right of private business to determine their own policies free of government interference, as have Republican state lawmakers. Our state leaders understand that private companies should be free to do business (or refuse business) with whomever they choose without fear of government retaliation.

Given Georgia’s political importance at the national level, Republicans in our state have a prime opportunity to lead by example and ensure that government does not dictate the policies of private companies, regardless of who is in power. As the 2022 midterms inch closer and the political temptation to use all available means to fight corporate wokeism grows stronger, Georgia Republicans must hold the line on protecting private business and continue to stand for small government principles.

Judson Hill of Marietta is a former Georgia state senator.

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