The twilight of the globalist, crony capitalist Republican establishment has been marked by important mileposts along the way. The most prominent, of course, was the election of President Trump and his America First agenda in 2016. A big question after Trump’s victory was whether he could permanently reshape the GOP away from its pro-unbridled free trade, pro-massive immigration machinations of the past 30-odd years. Or would he merely represent a temporary blip in an entrenched political order that would be shaken off as soon as he left office?
We may be seeing the answer in the news that the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which used its substantial financial heft to back the globalist GOP agenda to the hilt for decades, is now seeking to disassociate itself from the Republican Party of 2019. “We cannot just single-source our politics through one party,” Tom Wilson, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, told The Washington Post. “We need to be more accessible and more bipartisan than we were. You can decide how much we were, and everyone’s got their own views on that, but we just need to reach across the aisle to more Democrats.”
The words sound very much like a begrudging acceptance that a comfortable way of conducting business as usual in the swamp has come to an end.
Turn Out the Lights
The most crucial sign that a true grassroots revolution against a Republican Party that had stopped representing the American people at some point in the late 1980s was underway was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s pledge to dedicate $50 million to destroy the Tea Party in the 2014 midterm elections. The high-priced move by the well-heeled organization reeked of panic. One could smell the palpable fear that the group’s cozy days of controlling GOP leadership in Washington had become seriously threatened.
“That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket,” the chamber’s top political strategist Scott Reed said at the time. “Fools,” according to the chamber, were any GOP politician not cut of the same cloth as the Eric Cantors, John Boehners, and Paul Ryans who were running the Republican show on Capitol Hill. Neil Bradley, current vice president and chief policy officer for the chamber, served as deputy chief of staff for Cantor while he was House Majority Leader. The chamber on its official website brags that Bradley “developed the legislative agenda for House Republicans, oversaw policy formulation in the leader’s office, and coordinated committee activity in the House” while serving in the position, which he kept under Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after Cantor’s shocking 2014 primary defeat to unheralded challenger Dave Brat.
Chamber President Tom Donohue mourned the loss of Cantor, saying “we’ll miss him” but noting that “we have lots of allies.” The chamber thought it could ride out the storm. Then came Trump. As The Washington Post observes with its usual loaded language, “[t]he GOP’s drift toward protectionism, nativism and isolationism since Donald Trump took over the party in 2016 is … at odds with the Chamber’s longtime support for expanding free trade, growing legal immigration and investing in infrastructure.” Translation: Republicans, to the chamber’s dismay, elected a leader who vowed to put the American worker first for a change.
Redeploying for a Fight
One of Donohue’s favorite talking points, which he states repeatedly, is that “the United States is fundamentally out of people” and needs a steady flow of foreigners into the United States to fill jobs. In October he promised the Trump administration and Congress that they would face a “big-time brawl … you can write that down” if they did not provide a pathway to citizenship for legal foreigners and illegal aliens working in the United States. “[S]ome 1 million immigrants working legally under the DACA and TPS programs will be removed from the workforce over the next year unless Congress acts. Nobody wants to see that happen,” Donohue said at a U.S. Chamber Foundation national workforce conference.
The chamber’s move to disentangle itself from the GOP represents the first step in preparing for a big business “brawl” against a new Trump Republican Party that values American workers over foreign labor. Despite what the name implies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is far from being a coalition of tens of thousands of businesses from towns and cities across the nation. Rather, it is a concentrated lobbying powerhouse funded by a small cadre of very wealthy donors.
Author Alyssa Katz in her book “The Influence Machine” writes that the organization tightly guards its donor information, as David Brodwin noted in an op-ed for U.S. News & World Report. However, 2012 IRS data showed that of $164 million in contributions made to the chamber for that financial year, more than half came from only 64 donors. Katz also stated that the top 1,500 donors to the group account for 94% of total contributions. The “entire business model of the U.S. Chamber is premised on providing secret support for lobbying and campaigns,” Katz concluded.
And now the moneyed corporate donors fueling the chamber’s lobbying machine apparently have decided that they have squeezed the Republican lemon dry. “Everybody changes over time, and we just want people to see it, that we’re not who they thought we were … and to see us for who we are in toto,” chairman of the board Wilson told The Washington Post.
Having been run out of the GOP by the Trump Tsunami, the chamber is hoping it can repackage its love for cheap foreign labor and globalist trade deals to fit into a Democratic Party that is turning more stridently progressive by the day. Regardless of how that turns out, the move to distance itself from the Republican Party is a formal acknowledgment by swamp royalty that the policies being championed by Donald Trump are not going away any time soon.
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