There’s an old saying to the effect that karma is a bitch. A decade or more after Citizens United and Mitt Romney’s pious declaration that “corporations are people too,” we may be seeing an example.
My friend Mike Leppert has a weekly blog, and last week he considered the current state of corporate-GOP relations.He pointed to emerging policy differences between some of America’s largest corporations and the Republican Party that has for many years reflexively relied on their money and support.
Leppert–and a significant number of other pundits–focused on a statement made by Mitch McConnell in the wake of corporate criticisms of GOP efforts at vote suppression. McConnell warned corporate America “to stay out of politics.” He hastily added that he wasn’t talking about political contributions. Those, evidently, should keep coming.
As Leppert noted, it was tantamount to telling the business community to pay up and shut up.
On Wednesday, McConnell admitted he had not spoken “artfully” the day before, but continued to warn against “economic blackmail,” which is his description for the corporate responses in Georgia to its recently enacted voter suppression law.
It wasn’t all that long ago that local Chambers of Commerce were functionally an arm of the GOP. Their interests were the same; as Leppert says, both loved low taxes, small government, little to no regulation–“money-making stuff.” But demographics really can be destiny. Those white male Country Club Republicans can no longer count on running things.
There is less and less money in alienating black and brown people. Women and LGBT people generally don’t think much of voter suppression either. And all of these groups of Americans represent customers, talent, and yes, even investors in companies of which the GOP used to rely. The country club members just aren’t as enamored with where the Republican Party has been heading lately, and since I brought it up, country clubs aren’t as desirable as they used to be either.
Add to that observation the fact that the GOP has changed rather dramatically since the heyday of country-club Republicanism. It’s no longer a business-friendly interest group; it has devolved into a White Supremicist cult waging culture war. Whatever one’s differences with those bygone country club Republicans, a significant portion of them described themselves as “fiscally conservative but socially liberal,” and they have been horrified by the current iteration of the GOP. Tax cuts can only go so far in insuring partisan fidelity.
The disenchantment of Corporate America with the GOP may have been exacerbated by efforts in Georgia and Texas to suppress minority votes, but it has been building over time. In January, following the insurrection at the Capitol, the New York Times reported on a survey of corporate executives.
To better understand this moment it is worth considering the results of an informal poll of 40 top executives conducted by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management. Mr. Sonnenfeld regularly gathers C.E.O.s to gauge their views on the most important issues facing their companies, and he did so virtually this week amid increasing alarm in the business community at what they witnessed in Washington. The results are revealing. Here’s a selection:
Did President Trump help incite last week’s violent attack on Congress?
Yes: 100 percent
No: 0 percent
Should President Trump be impeached and removed from office?
Yes: 96 percent
No: 4 percent
Was it right for the social network tech firms to block President Trump from their platforms?
Yes: 85 percent
No: 15 percent
Should business PACs and trade associations cut off donations to legislators who aided sedition?
Yes: 100 percent
No: 0 percent
Should business halt all political donations?
Yes: 42 percent
No: 58 percent
There was more, but these responses and several others should have served as a warning to McConnell and his ilk not to take the relationship between Republicans and Corporate America for granted.
The short-sighted folks who cheered the decision in Citizens United said they wanted free speech for business. Evidently, it didn’t occur to them that the interests of the business community and the Republican Party might diverge, and that those free speech rights might be exercised to express disapproval of the GOP.
Karma is a bitch.
Excuse me while I experience a bit of schadenfreude.