The Republican party is in the midst of a public divorce from its longtime partner: corporate America.
In the wake of criticism from corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola regarding the recent Georgia voter reform bill, and the MLB’s decision to move its all-star game from Atlanta to protest the same bill, prominent Republicans have turned on their one-time allies. Be it Senate Minority Leader McConnell telling corporations to stay out of politics or Texas Governor Greg Abbott refusing to throw the first pitch at the Ranger’s home opening, the Grand Old Party has made clear that its leaders are not amused with big business.
However, this represents only a recent manifestation of what began with then-candidate Donald Trump promising to make the GOP a worker’s party. While many of Trump’s policies couldn’t be construed as anything but Wall-Street friendly, his relationship with big business and especially big tech was tenuous at best and openly hostile at worst. Taking his lead, 2024 presidential hopefuls from Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have made their enmity with the corporate world clear, with both Cruz and Hawley going so far as to attempt to legislate this feud. This is a mistake. The GOP should reverse course and patch up its relationship with big business.
The United States is an explicitly capitalist country, founded on a Lockean understanding of private property, property rights, and the government’s role in protecting both. Necessary to that is recognizing the artificial person of corporations, so groups of individuals can pass property from one generation to the next. If you like the Alamo Drafthouse or BookPeople, then you are in favor of corporate personhood. This has been the position of the Republican party from its conception. In a system where one of two parties will win almost every election, it is necessary for the continuation of the free market that one of the parties be an open friend to business.
That party will not and cannot be the Democratic Party. Any party home to a contingent of self-described “Democratic Socialists” will of course have some trouble making peace with Wall Street, but Democrat’s quarrels with big business come from leadership as well. President Biden’s tax plan bumps corporate taxes significantly, a move which the business world does not find amusing. This should come as no surprise. From Woodrow Wilson defining himself against the very idea of large corporations to compete with Teddy Roosevelt, to Barack Obama lambasting Citizens United, the Democratic party has a history of suspicion toward corporations almost as long as the Republican history of support for the same. So, while the big money interests might keep picking the left’s side in the culture war, the Democrats are never going to start defending Wall Street.Republicans stand to reclaim the title of the “party of business,” a title which would do them immense good at the ballot box. In a time when more Americans work for large companies than don’t, there’s plenty of room to argue that lighter corporate taxation and less burdensome regulation helps average Americans by directly benefiting their employers. What’s more, the party of Mitt Romney, the Bushes, and Nelson Rockefeller is never going to outbid the party of Elizabeth Warren, Howard Dean, and Walter Mondale on populist ire at big business. So why not bet on the fact that a majority of the country still has a favorable view of capitalism writ large? Instead of fiddling about with too-clever-by-half “common good capitalism,” let’s go back to the traditional case for free markets, limited government, and encouraging the growth and success of corporations.