How Corporate America became a political orphan
American business leaders have increasingly been drawn into – or, in some cases, willingly – immersed in the hot cauldron of today’s political system. How does it work? Consider events that have occurred recently in a matter of days.
Toyota Motor Corp. publicly defended her decision to continue giving money to Republicans who refused to confirm the 2020 election results, only to reverse course a few days later under public pressure. Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against large tech companies for banning him from their social media platforms, while a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference railed against “bright companies” and spoke of a “patriotism index”, to help conservatives decide which companies to buy and boycott products.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, President Joe Biden issued an executive order ordering government agencies to take 72 different measures to contain large corporations and followed up on Facebook for its role in spreading vaccine disinformation. His administration also drafted an international treaty setting a minimum global corporate income tax and made Lina Khan, a well-known cartel crusader, head of the Federal Trade Commission, much to the delight of progressives.
Like other institutions, the US business community is plagued by the raging partisan winds that blow through the country. But this fast-paced hit series illustrates an even deeper problem for corporate leaders: Both the Republican and Democratic parties are undergoing historic change that is increasingly turning the business world into a political orphan without a comfortable home in either party. While there are still corporate admirers in Washington, getting an appointment for a prom is not as easy as it used to be. A prominent businessman privately describes his community’s place in the current political landscape as a “small and shrinking island”.
Corporate America needs a new political strategy, but is struggling to develop one. Should it still view its traditional allies in the Republican Party as the safest choice or move to promoting more Democrats and Centrists in both parties? Does she listen to calls from customers and employees to take a stand on burning social issues, even though she sometimes receives limited credit on the left for this? Could the economy simply withdraw completely from politics?