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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Corporate Tilt Toward Democrats: Promise and Peril

In “Republicans are in a messy divorce with big business. Democrats could benefit: As corporations flee the Republican Party, liberals should welcome them into the Democratic coalition – with conditions,” Andrew Gawthorpe writes at The Guardian:

It is premature to predict a wholesale collapse of the Republican party’s alliance with big business. But the events of recent years present an enormous opportunity for Democrats to make political inroads. In 2020, the counties won by Joe Biden produced a whopping 71% of US GDP, compared with only 29% in the counties which voted for Donald Trump – a gap which is 14 points higher than in 2016. Democrats also increasingly represent the more educated voters who corporate America covets as consumers and employees, and who have fled the Trumpified Republican party.

Democrats also represent the values and competence which American businesses – and the workers who depend on them – need to thrive. Trump’s plutocratic tax cuts and shamelessness in gutting the regulatory state might have provided a sugar rush to many businesses, but his woeful handling of the pandemic and impulsive trade wars harmed them. The paranoid, reality-denying, cultish Republican party of today cannot be trusted to elevate competent figures into key political and policymaking positions. As Trump demonstrated, the costs of having a clown in charge can generally be tolerated while the economy is thundering along in normal times – but they become catastrophic when a serious challenge arises.

Democrats, on the other hand, don’t just represent a steady hand in a crisis. They are also advancing plans for infrastructure, increased R&D spending and a green energy transition which are all necessary to the future competitiveness of the American economy. Such plans involve winners and losers, but overall they represent an enormous investment in the economy which can solidify the party’s appeal to corporations, employees and voters.

Republicans are in a race with the clock. They have plased a big bet that white working-class anger  towards Democrats alone will give them the edge they need to take back majorities in the House and Senate in 2022. Meanwhile, however, Biden is making all of the right moves that can actually benefit working-class voters, win corporate support and improve the Democrats’ image as the “recovery party.”

It won’t be a cakewalk for Dems, as Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column:

Finally, for Democrats, the leftward shift of business is a mixed blessing.

On the plus side, Democrats gain an ally in pressing a liberal agenda on social and racial issues.

On the downside, the perception of the party as allied with corporate interests may take root and Democratic officials are very likely to face pressure to make concessions to their new allies on fundamental economic policies — bad for the party, in my view, and bad for the country.

But Gawthorpe sees a more optimistic outcome, if Democrats seize the opportunity:

Progressive Democrats are right to be wary of calls for the party to identify itself as pro-business. And it’s absolutely right that Democrats seek to reform capitalism at the same time that they embrace it. But Republican tensions with big business give Democrats exactly what they need to accomplish that – leverage. Faced with the alternative, groups like the Chamber of Commerce have proven more open to Democratic proposals like raising the minimum wage than under previous administrations. Their support makes such policies easier to pass and more likely to be enduring.

Something even more important is at stake. For decades, corporate America has been a key pillar in the Republican coalition. That pillar is starting to crack, providing an opportunity for Democrats to weaken a dangerously extremist party which poses an existential threat to American democracy. As big business flees the wreckage of the Republican party, the best thing to do for the future of the country is welcome it into the Democratic coalition – with conditions.

If Biden keeps his current trajectory in the polls and the economy keeps improving, it will be hard for swing voters to deny that only one party offers a credible vision and policies for steady progress, while the other continues to marinate in anger and resentment.

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