Beautiful Surry County to our north is a great destination for a daytrip or weekend getaway. Mount Airy is pleasant and home-townish with some interesting artifacts for fans of the classic and beloved “The Andy Griffith Show.” Along with Yadkin County, Surry plays host to Pilot Mountain State Park, one of the most picturesque spots in the state. It’s a land full of natural splendor and good people.
But be warned that before long, travelers to that area may have a little trouble getting their hands on Coca-Cola products. The Surry County Board of Commissioners recently voted to remove 12 Coca-Cola vending machines from the county’s office buildings.
The truth is that visitors to Snappy Lunch won’t likely have much trouble getting a Coke with their pork chop sandwich. And we doubt that the commissioners themselves are carrying lists of Coca-Cola products to the Food Lion to be sure they don’t slip up and grab Minute Maid by mistake. The commissioners surely realize that removing a few vending machines is no real threat to the multi-national, multi-million-dollar beverage company’s bottom line. It’s more a symbolic gesture than anything, expressing their displeasure for Coca-Cola’s recent political stance opposing Georgia’s new voting restrictions.
It all goes back to the Georgia state legislature’s raft of tighter restrictions following the 2020 election, signed into law in April by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. They include a new voter ID requirement for absentee voting and limits on the use of drop boxes to collect votes.
Following the restrictions, Coca-Cola’s CEO, James Quincey, spoke up. “It does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity,” he told CNBC. “This legislation is wrong and needs to be remedied.”
Several other executives also spoke up — an uncharacteristic development.
These are not people who fly off the handle over nothing. They generally prefer to let their money speak for them — quietly.
Which makes the voting restrictions burning across the country seem all the more dire.
Republicans retaliated, including the Georgia House of Representatives, which wrote a letter to the CEO of the Georgia Beverage Association accusing Coca-Cola of taking part in “cancel culture.” Because wanting to make sure that everybody can vote is … because canceling something means … well, because. “Cancel culture,” that’s why.
And Sen. Ted Cruz wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal in which he complained about “woke” corporations, expressing that if this was the way they were going to behave, they shouldn’t expect sweetheart deals from Republicans anymore.
“This time, we won’t look the other way on Coca-Cola’s $12 billion in back taxes owed,” he wrote.
Leading many to ask: “You were looking the other way on Coca-Cola’s $12 billion in back taxes owed?”
That sounds a little … corrupt. In fact, Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said on Twitter that Cruz had appeared to admit that he and others had sold “access” in exchange for funding. He called it the “most openly corrupt thing any Senator has said.”
But back to Surry County’s boycott, which passed by a 3-2 vote.
“It’s a reflection of corporate America trying to affect public policy,” Commissioner Eddie Harris told the Journal on Thursday. “These unelected CEOs are trying to change the political dynamics of this country.”
But … aren’t they allowed? Wouldn’t economic retaliation against a corporate statement be kind of like ... canceling them?
And aren’t Republicans “trying to change the political dynamics of this country” by passing new voting restrictions?
But even though the roar of mighty Surry County might not affect Coca-Cola as a corporation, 37 Coca-Cola employees live in Surry County. A ban certainly won’t help them.
As of Friday, the vending machines hadn’t yet been removed from the Surry County government buildings. A representative of Coca-Cola has reached out to the Surry commissioners. It’s not too late to reconcile.