ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is taking Big Business to task.
In an op-ed published Monday, the Republican from Florida called corporate America “the instrument of anti-American ideologies.” Rubio bemoaned what he described as corporate America’s “wokeness,” which is a catch-all phrase for being sensitive to social problems such as racism and inequality but which is also derided by critics as virtue-signaling or adopting neo-Marxist world views. He proposed holding corporate leaders legally liable “when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.”
Rubio said large companies should be required to disclose how much they invest in the U.S. and their boards of directors should be made to show they have no conflicts of interests with foreign adversaries such as China. Teachers and firefighters whose pensions feed institutional investment funds should be able to vote on shareholder proposals rather than the fund managers who “push ‘woke’ policies at corporations by voting in corporate elections on their behalf,” Rubio said.
“The companies that control the vast majority of America’s economic resources and curate the information we see and hear on a daily basis now say that America is a racist or sexist country,” Rubio wrote in The American Conservative. “These oligarchs believe the very existence of America is fatally flawed, and they are devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to advance corporate propaganda that reflects these beliefs. They aim to remake our society, our culture, and our country.”
Rubio delivered a virtual speech later Monday before the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando in which he spoke about the declining economic fortunes of many Americans. He said changes to economic policies in the past few decades have left many feeling divorced from the American Dream of good jobs and being able to raise their families in safe neighborhoods. He added, “that has to be addressed, because that dream is at the core of our national identity.”
“Promising to just cut more regulations and corporate taxes that’s going to get applause from campaign donors and get some glowing coverage in media outlets focused on the stock market,” Rubio said. “But it leaves millions of hard working Americans, people who do not want a woke socialist America, it leaves them with no voice in our politics and no answers to their problems.”
Rubio’s op-ed and speech mark a break for the senator from the traditional pro-business stances that helped his political rise, which included an unsuccessful run for president in 2016. Rubio is facing re-election next year, and his expected Democratic opponent is U.S. Rep. Val Demings from Orlando. If he wins re-election, he is expected to be in the mix of Republicans running for president in 2024.
Republican politicians have been aligned with business interests for generations, but former President Donald Trump shattered many of those norms by engaging in trade wars and attacking technology companies.
Neither the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation nor the Florida Chamber of Commerce responded to an email inquiry seeking comment.