Can CEOs Be a Moral Compass for the Polarized Worlds in Austin and Washington?

President Donald Trump said he wasn’t putting anybody on a moral plane after the violence in Charlottesville, but corporate America sure is.Many top CEOs criticized Trump’s response and denounced the hate groups promoting racism. So many executives threatened to quit Trump’s business advisory panels that the president disbanded them.As The New York Times summed it up over the weekend: CEOs have found their moral voice.The Charlottesville tragedy was unique, but a Texas political fight over transgender rights had a strong parallel: When elected leaders failed to do the right thing about the so-called bathroom bill, business helped fill the moral vacuum.Hundreds of CEOs and companies objected to the bathroom bill, which opponents said was cruel and discriminatory. Corporate leaders signed letters of opposition and lobbied lawmakers, both publicly and behind-the-scenes. IBM took out full-page ads and sent 20 employees to work the Capitol.The response from business was crucial to preventing the legislation. “That’s a huge difference” said Rep. Byron Cook, who chaired a key House committee.It’s not the first time that business pushed Texas politics in the right direction. In the 1980s, corporate executives drove a major overhaul of public education, which included the no-pass, no-play rule to make schools more competitive.The question today is whether Texas employers are willing to step into the political scene in a sustained way. That includes shaping the legislative agenda and encouraging employees to participate to the process.  Continue reading...

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