The Sciences

Are Republicans Still the Party of Corporate America?

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJul 25, 2011 6:23 PM

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Something very interesting is happening in U.S. politics right now. It is this: The U.S. Republican Party, long the ally of the business community, is becoming increasingly unhinged from that traditional base of support, even as the Democrats become more friendly with it. The reason is that both groups share an outlook characterized by centrism and pragmatism; this stands in increasingly stark contrast with Tea Party extremism, which is not at all good for the stability or growth of the economy, as even corporate leaders now recognize. They listen to the economic experts and the ratings agencies, even if Tea Parties don’t. I give you Doug Oberhelman, the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar and a longtime Republican, criticizing the failure to raise the debt ceiling, and avoid catastrophic U.S. default. Heck, I give you the entire U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying the same thing. And the debt ceiling isn’t the only example. Many corporations, like GE and Duke Energy, joined Democrats in supporting cap and trade legislation, because they wanted a stable business environment going forward and considered greenhouse gas regulations to be inevitable, eventually. Indeed, many companies see the potential for great profits once we put a price on carbon. Meanwhile, mainstream Democrats today do not take any of the left wing environmental positions traditionally associated with being anti-corporate: They are not anti-GMO; they are not anti-nuclear; heck, they are not even anti-fracking. It is one thing to want less regulation, as corporations inevitably do. For a long time, Republicans were more supportive of this agenda, and to a measurable extent they still are. But deregulation isn’t the only thing corporations want—they want economic growth and an economically stable environment in which to operate. They want to be able to look out years hence and know what they’re likely to find. That is what is being threatened right now, and very gravely indeed. There may well be drawbacks of Democrats becoming the party of Big Business—but it’s hard to focus on them now. To fight the Tea Party, you need all the help you can get.

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