Monday, October 15, 2007

The Republicans Lose Business, the Wealthy

There's a couple of perceptive articles out on the problems that the Republicans are having with raising money from big business and wealthy individuals this year. For both Daniel Gross and Jeanne Cummings, the problems of the Republicans with business run deeper than the fact that the Democrats now have majorities in Congress. Cummings emphasizes that big business resented the high-handed way that people like Tom DeLay dictated who business lobbies could hire into their leadership.
Republican leaders threatened a freeze-out of business lobbyists who dared hire a Democrat or ignored the names on the leadership’s private hiring tip sheet.

They also didn't like the shake-downs for bigger campaign contributions that happened every time important legislation came up for a vote in the GOP-led Congress.
Pay-to-play became the insider mantra during the Republican reign. But “extortion” was how many CEOs described the annual shakedowns by committee chairmen with jurisdiction over their industries. No group expressed greater relief — privately and publicly — than the business community when the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banning unlimited corporate donations to politicians became law.

The bullying Republican leadership didn't act any better toward their business friends than they treated their Democratic opponents, and business lobbies didn't like it.

Business leadership also had contempt for the incompetence and cronyism of the regulatory bodies they worked with, the free-spending ways of Republicans in Washington, and wanted health care reform the Republicans refused to deliver.

According to Daniel Gross, Republican business leaders are viewing Hillary Clinton rather than any of the Republican contenders as "the establishment candidate" in this election.
As happens every four years during the primary season, Republican business leaders are rallying around the establishment candidate. This time, however, it's a Democrat. Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack, who raised more than $200,000 for W's 2004 campaign, came out for Hillary this spring. James Robinson III, the Atlanta-born banker, former CEO of American Express, and co-founder of RRE Ventures, told me: "I've been a Republican all my life. I believe in fiscal conservatism and being a social moderate." But this Fed-Up CEO now makes the case for Hillary as effectively as James Carville. "It seems to me she's the person who has got the broadest experience. She understands the importance of business development, innovation, and entrepreneurship," he says.

It's unfortunate that Gross (who's a terrific business journalist) didn't follow up on the "social moderate" part of the quote from James Robinson. Big business has been far from heroic in its treatment of African-Americans, women, and gay people, but large-scale corporations like Disney have gradually begun to affirm the value of diversity as they've sought to appeal to gay, hispanic, African-American, and urban market niches. This has created a large cultural gulf between business and the diversity-hating religious right and is a major reason why
voters in the East making between $150,000 and $200,000 favored Democratic
candidates by a 63-37 majority.

Likewise:
Since 2004, the percentage of professionals identifying themselves as Republicans fell from 44 percent to 37 percent, according to a September Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
The movement of various segments of the big business sector toward the Democrats is far from being a comfortable thing for business. Given that the Democratic Party is also the home of the labor movement and anti-business reformers, it's possible to claim that there is neither a "party of big business" in the United States nor a reform party.

However, the Democrats might find themselves in a state of permanent triangulation if the Republicans continue reducing themselves to a fringe party of the declining farm belts, the old Confederacy, and all the bitter Clarence Thomas-like guys in the audiences of the radio talk shows and readership of the right-wing blogs.

1 comment:

Todd Mayo said...

This is irony if ever I have read it. I now understand why none of Tom Delay's "backers" were particularly helpful in rescuing his political career. If someone bullied, blackmailed, and ordered me around after I spent a fortune helping them out I would crave the day that their arrogance and high-handedness came back to bite them on the ass.

Dictating who they could hire as lobbiests! Talk about the tail wagging the dog!!

Treated the business interests who put them there the same way they treated my party's leaders? In what kind of Bizzarro Washington DC did the GOP believe that they could get away with that? I guess GW's megalomainia rubbed off. What these people did not bother to do was make sure the "bully everyone" strategy would work for their now embattled President before they tried it 'en masse.

So now they've lost big business and the wealthy. I don't know how they ever held together that bizarre big business/wealthy/extreme religious right coalition as long as they did. It never made any sense and now it appears to be fractured beyond repair.

I don't personally believe that Hillary is exactly an "establishment" candidate. My guess is that when compared with likely Republican nominees and with the rest of the Democratic choices, she LOOKS very establishment. My view is, if that is how big business and the wealthy see Hillary, let them. They will do better under "Clinton-omics" than they ever could under the Bush program even with his tax cuts. Those tax cuts have proven yet again to damage the economy, not improve it so why would the wealthy care if their taxes go up a little.

You pointed out some other things I had not considered; "Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack, who raised more than $200,000 for W's 2004 campaign, came out for Hillary this spring. James Robinson III, the Atlanta-born banker, former CEO of American Express, and co-founder of RRE Ventures, told me: "I've been a Republican all my life. I believe in fiscal conservatism and being a social moderate." But this Fed-Up CEO now makes the case for Hillary as effectively as James Carville. "It seems to me she's the person who has got the broadest experience. She understands the importance of business development, innovation, and entrepreneurship," he says." And then there is this; "...voters in the East making between $150,000 and $200,000 favored Democratic candidates by a 63-37 majority." And this; "large-scale corporations like Disney have gradually begun to affirm the value of diversity as they've sought to appeal to gay, hispanic, African-American, and urban market niches. This has created a large cultural gulf between business and the diversity-hating religious right."

All of this tells me that the GOP has pandered to the extremists at the head of the religious right movement for too long, obviously thinking that big business and the wealthy would always be there because Democrats are "too liberal." I guess we're not.

You did mention this; "The movement of various segments of the big business sector toward the Democrats is far from being a comfortable thing for business. Given that the Democratic Party is also the home of the labor movement and anti-business reformers, it's possible to claim that there is neither a "party of big business" in the United States nor a reform party."

I think Democrats will be able to retain the strong connection with labor and reformers as we have since the New Deal. We've never claimed to be anti-business. We are in favor of responsible-business, living wages, worker safety, etc. So while it is true that we are not the party of big business per se', we are the party of economic growth and prosperity. Harry Truman said it best, "If you want to live like a Republican you'd better vote for the Democrats."

So, there is room for the well off and the comfortably off in the Democratic party. We want business to prosper but insist that everyone share in that prosperity.

Perhaps business leaders are beginning to see this as a good compromise after spending 25-30 years under the thumb of the radical right. I hope so.