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Home Depot to be impacted by its ‘silence’ over Georgia voting laws: Fmr. MA Governor

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Deval Patrick, Former Democratic Governor of Massachusetts and Co-Chair of American Bridge 21st Century, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Alexis Christoforous to discuss the latest on voting laws and boycotts.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to do a hard turn here now and talk about a new phase in the battle over voting rights in Georgia. So a major coalition of Black religious leaders in the state are calling for a boycott today of Home Depot. They say the company did not push back on Georgia's new controversial voting law. But a lot of Democrats and even some civil rights groups have been reluctant to support those boycotts. They say they really just wind up hurting employees of the companies.

Joining us to talk about that and more is Deval Patrick. He is the former governor of Massachusetts and co-chair of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. It's so good to have you with us here.

DEVAL PATRICK: It's good to be here. Thank you.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I know that you have a unique perspective. You're a civil rights attorney. You've worked for some big Fortune 500 companies, of course, the former governor of Massachusetts. Do you think that these boycotts are the most effective way to deal with something like these controversial voting laws?

DEVAL PATRICK: You know, Alexis, I think the way I come at this is to say that it'd be hard for any company to describe itself as a good corporate citizen when the very foundation of citizenship is under assault in the way it is with the Georgia and these other states voting suppression laws. So whether it's a formal boycott or not, in today's world where everyone knows so much about what decisions and choices corporations are making, there is going to be an impact on Home Depot for being slow or-- or silent or indifferent at a time like this.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, 43 states are considering restrictive laws. We've all been talking about Georgia quite a bit lately, even Texas, but they are not alone. And so if someone is at home and wants to use perhaps the power of their wallet or is struggling to figure out what they can do to get involved to make sure that some of these bills do not get passed, what do they do in those other states around the country?

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, I think in every case, folks should be in touch with their local legislators and their governor to object. Whatever their political leanings are or party affiliation or no affiliation, they should be in touch to let their lawmakers and policymakers know that suppressing votes is wrong. If we mean what we say about being a model of democracy for ourselves and the world, then we should be encouraging participation and not discouraging it.

That's the first thing. Secondly, I think folks should be looking at businesses that do business in their communities and considering what choices they have and can make on how they spend their time and their money to support those businesses who align themselves with a vibrant and successful democracy. And suppressing the vote just simply doesn't do that.

KRISTIN MYERS: Do you think, Governor, that economic boycotts could work in the case of Georgia, that it could work in other states that are considering this kind of legislation? How much economic pain do you think needs to be put either on the states themselves or the companies that do business there or are headquartered there for some sort of change to happen?

DEVAL PATRICK: It's, Kristin, it's an impossible question to answer. I think quantitatively, you know, I remember back during the time when there was so much debate about whether to-- to boycott businesses that did business in South Africa during apartheid times.

And there was no real consensus about whether the actual economic impact was going to change minds. But the collective power of the moral authority brought to bear by all of these companies over time saying we will not associate with a regime that suppresses and-- and in fact subjugates the majority of its population did contribute to the movement to-- to overturn the apartheid system.

I think it's similar here. You know, businesses don't want to feel like they have to take a position on every political issue. I totally get that. That's an experience I've been close to in my career. But this is not a political issue alone. This is a question about the success of our democracy. And we should not be about looking the other way, indeed supporting any effort that makes our democracy weaker.

And so I think there is a trend today. There is behavior today among consumers thinking about what the impact is of their spend, time and money. And I think that will be the case here whether or not there are formal boycotts.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Governor, I want to ask you specifically about Coca-Cola's response here. They were out with earnings. They were quite good yesterday. And during that earnings call, they avoided addressing the situation in Georgia with these voting laws.

You know, it's sort of you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. They were facing boycotts from liberals who said you need to stand up against these laws. And they were-- some Republicans were saying you shouldn't be getting political. We're going to boycott you. I know that you were actually the chief lawyer for Coca-Cola for three years. If you were there now, how might you guide the company through this?

DEVAL PATRICK: Well, first of all, I'm proud of Coca-Cola and the team there for the position they've taken. I think it's exactly right. And Coca-Cola is a very important iconic presence in Georgia and-- and beyond. So kudos on them. Politics would not normally be central to the work of the Coca-Cola company or other-- or many other companies, but this is the point.

Alexis, when you say liberals say do this, and conservatives say do that, part of what's wrong here is that we are dividing this issue along partisan or liberal and conservative lines. That's not what this is about. Suppressing the vote is about the success of our democracy. And either we're serious about that, or we're not.

And so many of these laws are based on that so-called big lie that the last presidential election was somehow fouled. Very interesting that some of the same people who were successful in that election on the same ballots are the ones arguing that it somehow was flawed when it came to casting the presidential vote. But we know that that has been challenged in court some 63 times and thrown out every single time mostly for lack of evidence. So the lie is foundationally a problem.

But the notion that, you know, you should be trying to stack the deck so that one side wins by cheating rather than just having a competition of ideas is wrong. And it's a position we have called wrong as observers in elections all over the world. And we used to be able to call it wrong here in the United States when the Voting Rights Act had all of its teeth. That has to be called out now because it's an existential question about who we are as a nation and as an American democracy.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, we're going to leave it there. Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts, thanks so much for joining us today.