Prepared January 20 2021 – Inauguration Day in the USA
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
These are troubled times in the United States of America. After the national elections in November 2020, political and social rhetoric became even more heated and widepread sharing of rumors and lies intensified than even in the weeks leading up to the ballots being cast by well more than 155 million citizens in the 50 states of the Republic. (There are more than 200 million registered voters in all of the states.)
Moving toward the inauguration of the new president the major social media platforms unfortunately served as rioter assembly stations and important [negative] information sharing tools that helped to spread lies, rumors, and volumes of false and dangerous information. The large platforms stand accused now of having helped to enable many thousands of protestors to travel to and assemble in Washington, D.C. for a January 6 rally that quickly spun out of control.
There will likely be short- and longer-term fallout here: What was a growing public debate on the role of social media and the focus on tech companies at the center of controversy (think of Facebook, Twitter, Google, others) quickly became a public ranting from all sides of the political spectrum.
The tempo of the public policy debate has sharply increased: What actions should be taken to address concerns about the tech leaders and their role in spreading false and dangerous-to-democracy content? (Stay tuned to this important public policy debate in 2021.)
To recap what happened: On January 6th, 2021 a mob of an estimated 8,000-plus men and women attended a rally and then took the point to travel with an even larger group behind them, along the major thoroughfares that lead from the White House and nearby National Mall to the Capitol Hill complex that houses the U.S. Congress (the House of Representatives and US Senate) -– ranting slogans and waving their flags along a brisk and angry 3.6 mile march (4.8 kilometers).
By the time the government complex on the hill was reached the point of the mob was out of control. The “tip of the spear” leadership group quickly pierced the Capitol Hill ramparts and the mob poured in behind to do their damage inside the halls of Congress.
The mob -– characterized by many now as being in fact domestic terrorists -– swarmed the complex, confronted a police force numbering about 1,400, swept past those guardians and into the Capitol Building to wreak havoc, steal items such as the Speaker of the House’s office laptop, and destroy government property.
They were there for hours. And much of this was broadcast live, on various news platforms and including on social media — by participants!
The mob even seemed to be threatening the very lives of the Members of House and Senate — and it seems, the well-being and maybe the life of the Vice President of the United States (Michael Pence) who also served as presiding officer of the US Senate during the crucial vote to accept the 2020 Presidential voting results. (The mob’s intention was to overthrow Congress and change the vote outcome to make Donald Trump the winner.)
The widespread criticism of these actions was immediate; much of the American public was outraged. Anger was directed at the mob, at the social media platforms helping to spread the messages of the insurrection leaders and participants, at the President of the United States and his political allies for encouraging the unrest.
24/7, major news media published, broadcast and telecast news and the volumes of criticism — and, indeed the collective outrage of most of the nation – out to all of the nation and world.
A Day of Infamy for the USA – and Corporate Response
In Utah, the Deseret News described this in its headline as “Jan. 6, 2021: Another day that will live in infamy for Americans”.
An important sea change: The corporate community, including major players in financial services sector industries, quickly became very visible among the critics. For some companies the silence about the “Steal the Vote” protests was a form of diffidence or even support. That changed!
Prominent corporate leaders and their trade associations blasted the actions, of both rioters and supporters, and took (and continue to take) actions in response to the horror that they witnessed. We bring you highlights of some of this initial response this week.
Following the attack there was dramatically expanding news of what was to come as a new legislative and executive branch was taking shape -– the days after January 6th were climaxed by the inauguration of the new president and vice president on January 20th (done!) and the convening of a new US Senate leadership team (in process as we write this).
All of this news and opinion was being shared in the context of the continuing threat posed to the American nation by homegrown, domestic terrorists.
This is usually a time of great celebration of the peaceful transfer of power, a 200-plus year tradition in the USA that occurs every four years following the presidential elections. Instead, these January days became a time of sorrow and sadness and disappointment. All that was being reported out to the world as well.
The days leading up to the January 20th inaugural event had most Americans very jittery, with media reports of continued threats (such as possible physical harm to the national and state capitals, more heated partisan political talk, even the possibility of threats to human life posed by armed citizens in so-called ragtag “militias”).
There were more U.S. military members present in Washington DC on Inauguration Day to protect our capital city than were present in the Middle East conflict zones.
The ongoing turmoil poses a serious threat to the American Experiment in Democracy as well as to the long-term symbolism of the Capitol Hill complex that many citizens of America (and even many in the world) consider to be a shining city on a hill, the citadel of democratic rule.
With this commentary we bring you some highlights of the immediate corporate sector response, and what some see as the responsibility of the corporate leadership to help move the nation forward. The tempo of the corporate response is quickening and we’ll share more with you in our G&A Institute’s Sustainability Highlights newsletter and in this blog.
Here is some of the immediate Corporate Sector responses to the mob’s January 6 attack on the US Capitol – with specific corporate responses that target the financial of candidate campaigns. The corporation’s role in society is in even sharper focus now.
- Business Leaders Condemn Violence on Capitol Hill: This Is Sedition (Source: The New York Times)
- Companies Pull Back Political Giving Following Capital Violence (Source: The New York Times)
- US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organizations, representing a broad swatch of American business interests for a century – the CEO’s Statement on Presidential Transition
- The Attack on the Capitol Prompted an Unprecedented Wave of Responses From Corporate America – We’ve Collected Them (Source: Just Capital)
- Leaders from DC, corporate America & around the globe condemn Trump for attempted government coup (Source: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)
- Business and the Renewal of American Democracy (Source: BSR)
- The USA is a nation proud of its Rule of Law – the American Bar Association, professional membership organization of 400,000 lawyers and members of the judiciary, and related legal fields, speaks out on the violence at the US Capitol
- The AFL-CIO, representing 12 million-plus members of 55 unions, spoke out on the Assault on Democracy
- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – with 14,000 member companies – spoke out on the events in Washington DC
Looking forward: The news media is now also focused on the future – there is a new administration in place now, led by President Joseph Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and a House and Senate led by the Democratic Party. The focus on ESG issues is intensifying:
- Advocates promising big push in Washington on all things ESG (Source: Pensions & Investments)
- Why Socially Responsible Investing Is Likely To Gain Momentum Under Biden (Source: Forbes)
We will be sharing considerably more news along these lines in the days ahead. Stay Tuned!