Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GOP is losing core business vote

I found this Wall Street Journal story through The Carpetbagger Report, and I'll say that I'm rather intrigued by it. Let's go into The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON -- The Republican Party, known since the late 19th century as the party of business, is losing its lock on that title.

New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party's identity -- what strategists call its "brand." The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond.

Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries.

Already, economic conservatives who favor balanced federal budgets have become a much smaller part of the party's base. That's partly because other groups, especially social conservatives, have grown more dominant. But it's also the result of defections by other fiscal conservatives angered by the growth of government spending during the six years that Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.

Now Steve Benen over at Carpetbagger reports that the Republican Party was made up of two broad coalitions--the "business interests (tax cuts, minimal regulation, free trade) and social/religious conservatives (anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-church-state separation, pro-gun)." While these groups didn't have much in common, "They were under the same GOP tent, and they tried not to step on each other’s toes." During the Bush administration, the business interests felt that they were losing as the Republican Party under George W. Bush spent freely, turned Clinton budget surpluses into Bush deficits, and ignored fiscal restraint. In addition, the Republican Party shifted its emphasis towards winning elections on social issues of abortion and gay marriage. But the interesting irony the Benen reports is this:

Calmes’ analysis is very good, and definitely worth reading, but I’d add just one thing — the irony is, if you asked the Dobson/Robertson crowd, they’d say the exact the same thing.

Go into any meeting of a prominent religious right group today and ask about the Republican Party. You’ll see a lot of people rolling their eyes. The religious right provides the party with foot-soldiers on Election Day, but once GOP officials return to work, the movement’s agenda is at the bottom of the priority list. What do social conservatives have to show for the last several years of Republican dominance? On their top issues — abortion, gays, and state-sponsored religion — very few items have been checked off the to-do list.

There is more here than just two groups that are blaming each other. Yes, through the Reagan and Bush Senior years, the business interests held far more sway over policy decisions than the social conservatives did. And yes, the social conservatives provided the foot soldiers on Election Day, but afterwards, their agenda was dropped to the bottom of the list. But what I think that Benen doesn't realize is that this Bush Republican Party is actually made up of three coalitions--the business interests, the social conservatives, and the PNAC neocons! The PNAC neocons under Vice President Dick Cheney persuaded President Bush to shift U.S. military attention away from the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, in the aftermath of 9/11, and towards the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq for control of Iraq's oil resources and for the projection of American military power throughout the Middle East. Even now, Cheney is pushing Bush to approve a U.S. military strike against nuclear facilities in Iran. It is the war in Iraq, and the funding of this war through emergency supplemental spending rather than raising taxes to fund the war, that has caused the U.S. deficits to explode. It is the war in Iraq that is now taking center stage as the defining issue in the upcoming 2008 elections, pushing away the social conservative issues of abortion or gay marriage. It is the PNAC neocons that are in power of the Bush White House, and that are still controlling every facet of the Bush administration's policymaking through the powerful influence of Vice President Cheney. It is all about continuing the war in Iraq, and continuing American military and imperial power throughout the Middle East--that is what the PNAC neocons want. I don't think that either the business interests or the social conservatives even realize the damages that the PNAC neocons have wreaked upon this country, or even upon the Republican Party, as both the business interests and social conservatives continue to blame each other for the Bush administration's disasters and the GOP's electoral woes.

Now let's go back to the Wall Street Journal story. There are some more interesting details here:

The most prominent sign of dissatisfaction has come from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, long a pillar of Republican Party economic thinking. He blasted the party's fiscal record in a new book. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said: "The Republican Party, which ruled the House, the Senate and the presidency, I no longer recognize."

Some well-known business leaders have openly changed allegiances. Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive John Mack, formerly a big Bush backer, now supports Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. John Canning Jr., chairman and chief executive of Madison Dearborn Partners, a large private-equity firm, now donates to Democrats after a lifetime as a Republican. Recently, he told one Democratic Party leader: "The Republican Party left me" -- a twist on a line Ronald Reagan and his followers used when they abandoned the Democratic Party decades ago to protest its '60s and '70s-era liberalism.


For all the disillusionment among Republicans, the party retains strong support in many parts of the business community, in part because of fears about the taxing and regulating tendencies of Democrats. Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, says, "Americans of every political persuasion that value hard work, keeping more hard-earned dollars, and economic independence and entrepreneurship will continue to stand behind the Republican Party."

But polling data confirm business support for Republicans is eroding. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in September, 37% of professionals and managers identify themselves as Republican or leaning Republican, down from 44% three years ago.


Federal campaign-finance reports document shifting support in some quarters of the business community. Hedge funds last year gave 77% of their contributions in congressional races to Democrats, up from 71% during the 2004 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan analyst of campaign finances. Last year the securities industry gave 45% of its money to Republicans, down from 58% in 1996, the center said.

I think what we're seeing here with the business interests is that they felt that Bush Junior would be similar to his father Bush Senior. They may have chosen Bush Junior because he was the perfect Woody doll--pull his string, and he'd say the same four conservative talking points again and again. Perhaps the business interest felt they could control Bush. I don't think the business interest realized the dangers that the PNAC neocons would wreak with the U.S. deficits due to their endless war in Iraq. The business interest realize that the American public are opposed to this war, disapprove of President Bush's job performance, and that the Democrats have a good chance at taking the White House in 2008. They made their own bed with this corrupt Bush administration. And now the business interest have decided to shift their political allegiances to the Democrats in the hopes that they could have a spot on the table, where policy and economic decisions will be made for their best interests.

Talk about hypocrisy here.

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