Free market alignment

Published April 22, 2021

By Thomas Mills

Governor Roy Cooper joined Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in organizing a letter from prominent current and former elected officials calling on big businesses to speak out against voter suppression laws. They assembled a bipartisan group that included several former GOP governors, though no sitting Republicans. Their effort is part of the realignment that is shaping the politics of the future. 

After decades of being the party of corporate America, the GOP is having a major falling out with big business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has traditionally been seen as one of the GOP’s staunchest allies, backed Democrats in several 2020 clashes. Florida Senator Rick Scott, who is also Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned “woke corporate America”that it will face a reckoning for its disloyalty when Republicans take back the House and Senate. 

Republicans are quickly becoming the party of the white working class and predominately focused on cultural divisions instead of economic ones. They’ve adopted the Trump posture of insulting enemies and making idle threats. They are alienating their country club wing that has supported GOP candidates financially and are lashing out against those abandoning them. In contrast, Democrats are wooing them.

 For its part, corporate America is both looking out for its best interests and working to portray itself as part of mainstream America. Like most of the country, they hear the thinly, and sometimes not so thinly, veiled racism in Republican rhetoric. They watched the assault on democracy on January 6 and saw a Republican Party unwilling to call out the traitors or even correct the lies and disinformation. And they know that the country is becoming more diverse, not less. 

Corporations are self-interested and they see the power of the purse increasing among people of color and first and second generation immigrants. They see rural America, where so much of the white working class lives, aging and shrinking. While they may be taking a moral stand against a GOP that would limit democracy, they are also aligning with the part of the population that’s becoming increasingly prosperous—and politically ascendant. 

 In addition, Republicans are losing college educated voters. Democrats now hold a 13-point advantage among this group. Twenty years ago, Republicans held an 11-point edge. People with college degrees earn more than $30,000 more per year than people who have only high school diplomas. Corporate America is chasing the dollars.

After decades of telling us that corporations are people, too, the GOP is suddenly upset when those “people” use their First Amendment rights to take a stand other than filling campaign coffers. Instead of getting angry, Republicans should step back and evaluate their positions. If they believe what they’ve said about the power of the free market to determine outcomes, then the free market is sending them a clear message. They would be wise to moderate their views and fight for the support of the rising, multicultural electorate instead of alienating it. Suppressing votes might bring short-term gains, but will ultimately bring long-term losses—unless they can eliminate democracy altogether.