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Tina Casey headshot

How Expensify Raised the Bar on Democracy and Corporate Social Responsibility

By Tina Casey

The business expense management firm Expensify touched off a media firestorm last week, when CEO David Barrett sent an email that reportedly reached all of the company’s 10 million customers with a powerful get-out-the-vote message. Expensify also shared the message on its website and social media. Corporate action in support of voter engagement is nothing new, but the Barrett email went one giant step forward, by specifically urging voters to boot President Trump out of office.

When not voting for Joe Biden and democracy is not an option

Barrett’s advocacy for presidential candidate Joe Biden has touched a nerve with some critics.

However, that misses the point. In his message, Barrett makes no case for supporting Biden from a policy or party loyalty perspective. Instead, he makes a compelling case for preventing Trump from achieving another four-year term in office.

His argument is a simple one. There is no strong third-party candidate in 2020, so it all boils down one person, and Biden happens to be it. He is the one - and the only one - who can prevent Trump from serving as the U.S. president for another four years, or longer as the case may be.

As Barrett emphasizes, there are other ways to not vote for Trump. Writing in a candidate, voting third party, or not voting at all are options, too.

Nevertheless, if the goal is to prevent a second Trump term, then the only action that matters is casting a vote for the candidate named Biden. It’s as simple as that.

The bottom line, existential case for Biden and democracy

Of course, the message is an empty one unless Barrett can convey just why it is so important to keep Trump out of the White House after his first term expires.

Barrett could cite a litany of Trump policies that have harmed businesses, especially those in the tech sector, from immigration bans to a new executive order that places onerous restrictions on diversity training. Withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change also puts domestic businesses at a disadvantage as the global marketplace pivots to sustainable technology.

However, Barrett is careful to steer clear of Trump’s policies or experience when making his case, just as he is when referencing Biden.

Instead, his case against Trump rests on the argument that the President poses an existential, bottom-line threat to Expensify, its customers, and other U.S. businesses.

The evidence consists of the president’s own words before and during the 2020 Election cycle, in which he calls into question the very bedrock of democracy: the peaceful transfer of power after an election.

Concurrently, Trump has fostered an environment that encourages intimidation by gangs of armed thugs, who identify as “militia.” That includes encouraging his followers to act as unauthorized poll watchers.

In addition, the current president has repeatedly lied to his followers about his prospects for winning, and has encouraged them to believe that anything other than a Trump victory is a fraudulent outcome.

All of this contributes to the fear, held by Barrett and many others, that widespread violence will break out during Election Day on November 3 and perhaps continue indefinitely.

“Expensify depends on a functioning society and economy; not many expense reports get filed during a civil war,” Barrett emphasizes.

The last word on voter suppression from Expensify

In addition to citing bottom line concerns, Barrett offers an additional, policy-neutral framework for understanding the 2020 election.

He frames it as a referendum on voter suppression, stating that “this election will decide if widespread voter suppression is an acceptable governing tactic.”

A vote for Trump is to endorse voter suppression, it really is very basic. This isn’t about party politics: if Biden were advocating for half of the voter suppression that Trump is actively doing, then I'd be fighting against Biden, too,” he explains. “This is bigger than politics as usual: this is about the very foundation of our nation.”

Like others who are concerned about Election Day violence, Barrett advocates for the highest possible voter turnout. The thinking is that a Biden victory of overwhelming proportions would counteract any attempt by Trump to thwart the will of the voters through the courts. A wide margin of victory would also help put a damper on any Trump supporters who are planning murder, mayhem, and domestic terrorism.

In that regard, Barrett’s message is not much different than conventional get-out-the-vote efforts supported by business leaders.

After all, these efforts are intended to express the will of the voters to the fullest extent possible, regardless of party policy.

Examples from the 2020 election cycle abound, including the NBA’s offer of arenas for polling places, Levi’s public outreach campaign, and Business for America’s “Time to Vote” campaign, which advocates for companies to provide paid time off for voting.

The only real difference is that Barrett has said the quiet part out loud.

“As CEO of this business, it’s my job to plot a course through any storm -- and all evidence suggests that another 4 (or as Trump has hinted -- 8, or more?) years of Trump leadership will damage our democracy to such an extent, I’m obligated on behalf of shareholders to take any action I can to avoid it,” he concludes. “I am confident our democracy (and Expensify) can survive a Biden presidency.  I can’t say the same about Trump. It’s truly as simple as that.”

Image credit: Suzy Brooks/Unsplash

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

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