The Republican Party has a brand problem it hopes will simply go away: 147 House members and eight GOP senators branded themselves with a scarlet 'S' for sedition when they cast votes on Jan. 6 objecting to congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory. In other words, even after murderous insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, those Republicans chose to vote against democracy itself.
That could prove to be an electoral disaster for Republicans since district-level data have already revealed a legitimate suburban surge for Biden while Donald Trump has proven unable to turn out his most fervent supporters when he isn’t on the ticket in multiple elections. That's a double-jeopardy proposition for the Republican Party at the ballot box as the Trump coalition splinters.
Making matters worse, the GOP's fundraising prospects have taken a distinct hit from the business community as some of its most ardent financial backers are either faltering or fleeing. For starters, the National Rifle Association just filed for bankruptcy, GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson just died, the Koch fundraising behemoth appears to be reevaluating its giving, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has drawn a line at sedition.
“There are some members who by their actions will have forfeited the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Neil Bradley, the chamber’s chief policy officer, said this week. “Our PAC will continue to support those candidates who demonstrate that type of commitment to governing and democratic norms and our priorities.”
When you've lost the U.S. Chamber as a Republican, you’re pretty much lost. And two GOP lawmakers who now fall into that category by having placed their personal political ambitions over the health of the republic are the chief fundraisers for Republican efforts to retake majorities in 2022: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Scott is using his NRSC position to build fundraising ties to donors he likely hopes will fuel his 2024 presidential bid.
To be clear, corporate donations aren't everything considering how much dark money pours into GOP coffers every cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, company PACs accounted for 8% of total fundraising for House races last cycle, while they accounted for just 3% of giving to Senate contests.
But as David Gelles points out at The New York Times, CEOs and other business leaders are actually viewed by many in the public as trusted barometers of right and wrong in our hyper-capitalist society. "A recent study by Edelman found that the public trusts business more than nonprofit organizations, the government or the media," writes Gelles.
Often times, that admiration hasn't particularly helped Democrats and in fact has stymied many progressive priorities since Corporate America has so closely tied its business interests to the Republican Party. But when business leaders do decide to get behind an issue on a matter of principle, it can definitely pay off. The quashing of many anti-trans bathroom bills the GOP started pushing forward several years ago is a good example. After GOP Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina effectively cost the state hundred of millions in revenues by backing a so-called bathroom bill, he went on to lose his reelection bid in 2016, a year when Republicans mostly ran the board nationwide. McCrory's defeat was one of the very few Democratic bright spots that year. And in Texas, where GOP lawmakers had been pushing the hateful bathroom issue for several years, they finally just declared victory on it in 2019 and walked away, declining to continue pressing for a statewide bill. If GOP efforts to target trans Americans hadn't cost both states lots of money as multiple corporations canceled events, bathroom bills would have swept the nation by now just like anti-LGBTQ marriage bans swept the country in the mid-aughts.
So when it develops religion on a matter, the business community can in some instances provide a moral compass the Republican Party has dearly lacked in basically every instance over the past several decades. And the GOP's fundamental betrayal of democracy appears to have focused the minds of many powerful business leaders. After all, most of them do seem to want to live in a democracy and, besides, fascism is bad for business. Thus execs at AT&T, Nike, Comcast, Dow, Marriott, Walmart and Verizon have all pledged to withhold donations from Republican lawmakers who voted to reject the election results.
“This thing was a little different. I mean, we had sedition and insurrection in D.C.,” Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, told the Times. “No one thought they were giving money to people who supported sedition,” he said.
Even some avowed supporters of Trump have recoiled. Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, renounced his support for Trump. “I feel betrayed,” he told CNBC.
Many Republicans remain defiant, insisting that this political moment will pass. “A lot of this talk is premature and shortsighted,” Scott Reed, a longtime Republican strategist, told the AP. “A re-regulation crowd is taking over Congress and the White House. This is a decision many will regret by midsummer.”
But democratic regulation of capitalist markets is still a far more appealing option than fascism, which is the side of history Republicans placed themselves on in the weeks following the election, culminating in their pro-sedition votes on Jan. 6. The shocking images of the Capitol being lit on fire with rage by a riotous pro-Trump mob and the knowledge that a massive contingent of Republican lawmakers still returned to their defiled chambers to reaffirm their support for it won't fade from memory anytime soon.
And while Corporate America will continue to act in totally self-interested ways, squeezing the GOP until its most seditious members are neutralized would still be a worthy contribution to the continuation of American democracy. Let’s hope it lasts long enough to do some good.