Republican chaos and Democratic hostility are making it harder for executives to choose sides, writes Jonathan Bernstein
I wouldn’t want to be a political strategist for U.S. business right now.
The natural position of business in U.S. politics is to be an independent interest group, aligned with neither party. That allows business interests to lobby whichever party is in office.
And in theory, it’s a viable strategy; after all, few politicians are comfortable with flat-out anti-business rhetoric — and even many of those who bash business in public know that employers are important to their constituencies, even if they don’t like the way business treats workers.
During a time of strong partisan polarization, however, that’s a difficult stance to maintain. Unless businesses choose sides, they’re apt to lose influence.
Business for the last century has generally been more comfortable on the Republican side. But today’s Republicans are a mess. Not only are they increasingly using anti-business rhetoric, but … well, have you looked at today’s Republicans?
Business tends to be uncomfortable with the anti-democratic Republican agenda — many corporate political action committees cut off donations to members of Congress who voted against accepting the presidential election results on Jan. 6, although many have resumed that funding.
Even when Republicans aren’t trying to overturn elections and risk all sorts of chaos, their opposition to pragmatic deal-making and compromise are hardly the kind of atmosphere that’s good for business.
Business leaders are presumably even more uncomfortable with Republican policies that seem destructive for no particular reason at all. A botched reaction to the pandemic was bad, but could perhaps be written off as simply a consequence of having Donald Trump in the White House.
But now Republican agitation (including in Republican-aligned media) against the vaccine is both a big threat to the economy and can’t be blamed on Trump, who more or less supports vaccination.
Trump’s erratic policy leadership on trade, immigration and more had already sometimes pushed business away from the Republican Party. That’s even more true now. And with Trump as their leader, many Republicans aren’t hesitant to use government power to punish those they feel have betrayed them.
But it’s not as if a move to the Democratic Party is an appealing option for a lot of business executives. While Republicans have become increasingly incoherent on policy, Democrats have moved in a liberal direction, as demonstrated clearly by President Joe Biden’s initiative last week to increase competition and boost employee bargaining power, which drew prompt business opposition.
Whether it’s taxes or any number of regulatory issues, the mainstream of the Democratic Party is on the wrong side of numerous policies from the standpoint of business. Yes, business interests could overlook many of those issues and choose to accept arguments of liberal economists that many seemingly friendly deregulatory and tax policies have produced an era of mediocre growth.
Indeed, there are quite a few Democratic policies business could theoretically support out of enlightened self-interest. But whatever the merits of that idea, it’s quite unlikely to prevail, especially considering the hostility from the part of the Democratic Party led by Senator Bernie Sanders and the more militant members of the House of Representatives.
Of course, business is hardly a monolith. Even during the era when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other large business groups were firmly aligned with the Republican Party, there were plenty of corporate interests that supported both parties and plenty of local companies and organized business groups that worked well with Democratic politicians in their areas.
But at the national level, and even at the local level in many instances, it’s harder and harder to do so without courting backlash.
- Jonathan Bernstein is an opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics. This article is republished from Bloomberg read the original article.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Republic Mail and its associates.