Meet Doug Ducey, culture warrior.
Also, meet Doug Ducey, attention-seeker.
In the same way that some conservatives burned their Nike apparel last year after the company created an ad campaign featuring former football player Colin Kaepernick – whose respectful silent protest of police brutality against minorities forced people to confront ugly realities about existing racial problems in our society – our governor Tuesday morning publicly torched a package of state tax give-aways to Nike.
Ducey, who rode to the governor’s office as a champion of economic-growth-at-all-costs and had never seen a corporate tax break he didn’t like, suddenly is throwing in with the own-the-libs crowd who set their shoes ablaze and smashed their Keurig coffee machines to make a political point.
Those who destroyed their own property last year because someone had a different perspective on life did so with a “look at me” attitude. Likewise, Ducey’s Nike-related declaration is clearly aimed at getting attention and burnishing his bona fides as a Trump-era conservative.
But unlike those people, Ducey is using the power of government to bully a business and threaten the future high-paying jobs of more than 500 Arizonans.
The governor is incensed because Nike had the audacity to make a business decision not to offend some of its customers. Specifically, it chose to scuttle plans to sell shoes featuring the 13-star “Betsy Ross” flag. Nike’s decision came amid a private complaint from Kaepernick and public criticism from other people of color that the flag has been appropriated by white-supremacist groups and that it represents a time in American history when anyone who was not a white man was oppressed.
In a middle-of-the-night Twitter thread that was oh-so-coincidentally timed to get him maximum play on the national stage – the thread posted at 2 a.m. Arizona time, or 5 a.m. on the East Coast, just in time to make the morning national news shows – Ducey slammed Nike for abruptly canceling sales of the limited-edition $140 sneakers.
It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it. 6/
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) July 2, 2019
“Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism,” Ducey wrote on Twitter. “It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”
To retaliate against Nike, Ducey announced that he is ordering the Arizona Commerce Authority to “withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion” that were being given to Nike so it would build its plant in the West Valley and hire some 500 or so Arizonans.
The Arizona Commerce Authority just clarified it has no control over the $2 million in incentives outlined in the Goodyear deal, but is separately withdrawing an “up to $1 million grant” from its Arizona Competes Fund. https://t.co/1TDj97jq0g
— Maria Polletta (@mpolletta) July 2, 2019
That amounts to about $1 million from the Arizona Competes Fund, which exists to use tax dollars to provide subsidies for large companies to relocate or expand to Arizona. To receive grants from the ACF, companies must meet specific thresholds for number of jobs created, average pay and capital investment. All of which is to say that the purpose of the fund is to attract high-wage jobs to a state that ranks 38 in per capita income.
Not to worry, though, because Arizona’s economy will keep humming along even without Nike. “We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.
Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history. 8/
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) July 2, 2019
The City of Goodyear might disagree that losing Nike is no big deal. On Monday night, the city council agreed to give away $2 million to lure Nike to invest $185 million on a building and hiring at least 500 workers. Those jobs will pay on average more than $48,000 a year – about 36% more than the $35,000 per capita income in Goodyear as a whole.
And Ducey’s hand-waving the jobs away because “Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike” surely means little to the people who would actually perform those jobs when the plant opens a few years from now.
(Whether large tax incentives are actually good public policy is a separate debate, but there’s no disputing that Ducey has long favored them as a way to attract businesses to Arizona.)
Already, Ducey’s reaction to Nike has prompted New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to publicly court the company.
— Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) July 2, 2019
Ducey’s strongman routine against Nike marks the third time in recent months that the governor has stiff-armed big business as he scampered to show fealty to a president who values shows of loyalty above all else. In April, he flip-flopped on Trump’s threat to close down the U.S.-Mexico border. In May, Ducey was the only border governor who stood with Trump’s call to implement stiff tariffs on Mexico in response to a surge of migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S.
Whether Ducey is angling for a spot in Trump’s cabinet or has his eyes on 2024 (maybe as a potential running mate for Vice President Mike Pence’s bid for president), it’s clear that he has concluded that the only way his political career continues beyond his current office is to embrace the Trumpification of the Republican Party.
And as Trump has demonstrated again and again, the currency of today’s GOP is overwhelmingly white grievance.
Now, he’s singing from the same hymnal as the man he once called a diversion and governing by tweet.