Big business once had a home in the Republican Party. Democrats wanted to steamroll the free market with taxes and regulation, but the Republican pro-business establishment reliably fought against expansions of government in order to provide breathing room for the market. Yet in the wake of Donald Trump’s political realignment, Republicans are championing workers and the business establishment has gone “woke,” alienating the party that once represented its interests.
Last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rallied a broad coalition of business associations to join with leftist groups in condemning then-President Trump’s executive order directing federal contractors to avoid “white privilege” trainings that claim the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist and that scapegoat Americans based on race or sex.
Yes, the Chamber of Commerce fought a Republican president in order to support the Marxist critical race theory that helped inspire the destructive riots of the past summer — riots that burnt many businesses to the ground (and took the lives of at least 22 people).
It gets worse, however. In the 2020 presidential election, the Chamber of Commerce coordinated with a bevy of leftist activists to “fortify” the election in ways that helped Joe Biden defeat Trump.
Yet it seems the Chamber didn’t read the reviews before placing the Amazon order for Joe Biden. As PJ Media’s Stacey Lennox noted, the Chamber seemed to express buyer’s remorse when the Democrats attempted to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour in the COVID-19 “relief” bill.
Did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce really not know that Democrat Joe Biden, who rushed to the Left in both the primary and the general elections, in order to placate his rabid base, would actually pursue leftist agendas? Did the Chamber honestly think there wouldn’t be a cost when it abandoned the party of the free market for the party of socialism-lite?
The political strategy firm GCGN Group published an excellent analysis of the GOP’s drift away from big business on Wednesday. In that analysis, the firm noted that conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt savaged the Chamber for abandoning the GOP.
“The embrace of Democrats in campaigns failed, betraying its members and its legacy. Time to revolt Main Street. It’s the Chamber of Beltway Buddies, not Commerce,” Hewitt tweeted.
“Note here that Hewitt is not a right-wing firebrand, but a sober-minded member of the GOP’s establishment and a regular commentator on Meet the Press,” CGCN Group explained. “He is conservative, no doubt, but not in league with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, or Mark Levin. He may have offended NBC’s corporate sponsors, but he was also playing to his listeners’ views. That he is playing at all suggests something is afoot.”
The firm also noted two prominent Republican Senators’ response to Democrats’ minimum wage push in the COVID-19 bill.
To counter the Democrats’ push (which ultimately failed) to include a federal minimum wage increase to $15-an-hour in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package, [Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)], along with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), introduced an alternative, dubbed, “The Higher Wages for American Workers Act.” Of interest, Cotton included a wage hike to $10-an-hour and attached Trumpian immigration policies strengthening penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants.
“America has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but for years Congress has allowed the pay of our poorest workers to be eroded by competition from illegal immigrants and skyrocketing cost of living,” Cotton and Romney wrote. “With this bill, we have a chance to correct both these failures.”
In this alternative, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee (Romney) teamed up with a leading 2024 presidential contender (Cotton) on a bill requiring a minimum wage hike and immigration policy that many corporations oppose. It’s a lose-lose proposition for big business — but Romney and Cotton hoped that by offering a weaker minimum wage compromise, they could bring Democrats around to support some border control. No dice — but not because the Chamber fought it.
Big business has grown increasingly irrelevant in the populist GOP, and Democrats aren’t exactly vying to be more friendly.
CGCN Group noted that the more business-friendly establishment GOP types — like Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Bill Burr (R-N.C.), Richard Shelby (R-Al.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — are retiring, leaving room for a younger, more populist, and culture-war-oriented GOP.
“What does that mean for tax policy, and much else? For one thing, a party that once made cutting corporate income taxes a standard policy trope may be fading from view,” the firm warned. “Trump may be out of office, but his legacy, which GOP members indelibly embraced through letters, press releases, votes, and op-eds, lives on. In good measure thanks to Trump (and his U.S. Trade Representative, Bob Lighthizer), the GOP no longer accepts the inevitable tradeoffs of free trade and globalization.”
The Republican Party appears to be reconsidering “supply-side orthodoxy, especially on spending and taxes.” That does not mean Republicans will favor more spending or higher taxes across the board, “but for the populist GOP, ‘America First’ is about putting the ‘American worker’ before those concerned about corporate bottom lines.”
In the old GOP, the culture war issues — opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, support for prayer in schools, fidelity to the text of the Constitution — often played second-fiddle to the pro-business establishment. Now, as the Left strays ever further into radical social policy, the GOP is defining itself on culture war issues.
Business had been trending in this direction for years. When North Carolina passed its infamous bathroom bill to protect women’s safety against voyeurs — or worse — posing as transgender, business after business announced it was pulling out of the state. Really?! Is virtue signaling on this divisive social issue really worth sacrificing good business for?
The gambit worked in the short run, but the companies that forced North Carolina to reconsider only succeeded in losing the trust of the Republican base. If woke CEOS will virtue signal against Republicans’ core beliefs, why should Republicans give them a tax cut?
It seems the woke CEOs have been hard at work alienating the one party that could represent their interests. Now that even the Chamber helped pull strings to elect a Democrat, the business establishment can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
Embracing Democrats’ woke social agenda will only destroy businesses’ concrete economic prospects, but it seems so many CEOs simply don’t care — they have bought into the heinous demonization of social conservatives as “bigots” or “haters.”
Here’s hoping a new generation of American entrepreneurs will reconsider this Faustian bargain.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.