Opinion: Cagle answers attacks on conservatives, re: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines represents part of the bedrock of our state’s economy. Delta has made Atlanta America’s front door to the world, and we owe the company and its employees our appreciation for the role they play in our economic success.

It’s important that I say this first because we can’t let it get lost in the discussion about how conservatives in Georgia have responded to the company’s decision to sever ties in a very public fashion with supporters of our Constitution. Everyone should understand that no punitive action was taken against Delta for its decision.

Delta is family in Georgia, and like many family members, we sometimes disagree. And this disagreement is rooted in values that conservatives in our state hold dear, and for which we are willing to stand and defend.

Being a conservative in America today means being ridiculed and belittled by many elements of the news media, Hollywood, and – increasingly – corporations who feel the need to take positions on social issues. Ridicule is one thing – the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to make controversial statements – and part of being a conservative is understanding that our constitutional freedoms matter the most when they are being exercised in ways we find objectionable. However, when that attitude crosses into overtly singling out and penalizing people because of what they believe, it’s a different story.

Ask any conservative who has tried to have a successful career in fields such as academia, journalism or entertainment and you’ll find out pretty quickly that there is a clear bias against people who have right of center political views. While this behavior has been largely confined to certain industries, it’s alarming to see the same approach spreading to corporate boardrooms.

Sadly, Delta is not alone in feeling pressured to take liberal positions on controversial issues. Make no mistake about it, abruptly severing an agreement with the largest Second Amendment association in the world in a very public fashion sends a clear message: We find your views deplorable and we are no longer willing to give you the same treatment we routinely give to members of other organizations. This is exactly what liberal activists set out to force Delta to do when they targeted the company on this issue.

In the context of this larger debate, I believe the Georgia General Assembly has responded appropriately to the company’s decision. We cannot continue to allow large companies to treat conservatives differently than other customers, employees and partners. The voters who elected us and believe strongly in our rights and liberties expect and deserve no less. And, if we don’t speak up for ourselves, no one else is going to speak up for us – certainly not the mainstream media.

I also want to take issue with others, including several of my opponents, who have criticized the underlying economic policy that Gov. Nathan Deal proposed. Gov. Deal and his senior staff have relentlessly sought to grow Georgia’s economy, and anyone who says otherwise is simply ignoring the facts. We should continue to strengthen Georgia’s connection to the U.S. and global economies. While we don’t always agree, I commend the governor for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work alongside him to grow our economy.

Businesses have every legal right to make their own decisions, but the Republican majority in our state legislature also has every right to govern guided by our principles. None of this detracts from the fact that Delta continues to be a beloved bedrock of our economy – our state’s political leadership will continue to have an open door to all our economic partners.

Casey Cagle is Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor.