Editorial: Conservatives show hypocrisy on Delta tax

Students take part in a "lie-in" on the road outside of the White House Monday, February 19, 2018 in Washington, D.C., for three minutes at a time in an effort to symbolize the short amount of time it took alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz to gun down numerous people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre the past two weeks has been fraught with departures from long-standing political norms.

Republican President Donald Trump called for comprehensive gun control measures at a televised White House meeting yesterday, suggesting the government should “take the guns first, go through due process second.” And Republicans outside Washington, D.C., are subverting another common stereotype of their party — being pro-business.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Georgia, a Republican, criticized Atlanta-based Delta Airlines Monday after the company ended discounted rates for its customers who are also members of the National Rifle Association. Cagle said he saw the change in policy as an “attack” on conservatives before going on the offensive himself.

“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits [Delta] unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with [the NRA],” he tweeted.

Cagle’s threat against a private-sector business exercising its freedom of association comes across as oddly dissonant. His move seems to reflect a belief that the government should bully companies into doing what it wants them to do by targeting them with taxes. If conservatives want to make a convincing case against gun control, this surely isn’t the way to do it.

As students from the Parkland High School continue to keep the attack at the forefront of the national news media’s attention, more and more companies have begun to take action on the issue — if for nothing else but the sake of public relations. Dick’s Sporting Goods announced Wednesday it would immediately discontinue all sales of assault-style rifles at all its stores. It will also no longer sell guns of any kind to customers younger than 21.

It’s unfair for politicians to go after individual companies simply because their political stances differ. If Delta believes its best bet to not lose customers is to end its relationship with the NRA and rescind discounts for the gun rights group’s members, it should be allowed to do so.

When conservatives push the argument that business owners should have the freedom to turn away LGBTQ+ customers from their services, they should remember Cagle’s ultimatum to Delta. Giving business owners the right to deny services to one group they don’t want to associate with while simultaneously attacking them for ending a discount to another group doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t take a cynic to see that the conservative position on this issue is less about businesses and more about which people they think should be excluded.

Cagle and other elected Republicans don’t work for the NRA — they work for the government. If he wants to defend the rights of NRA members, he should switch careers. But until then, picking favorites and choosing which businesses shouldn’t be allowed to make their own decisions feels uncomfortably similar to extortion. And that’s something everyone — conservative or not — can agree is unacceptable.

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