Jonathan Chait wrote a very thorough and important article today, Why Democrats Can’t Be the Party of Business. It is about how Democrats, like “little brain” Steve Israel, are reaching out to the business community because the fact of the matter is that the Republicans are doing everything they can to destroy the economy. According to such Democrats, the business community ought to embrace the party. Chait’s response is basically: grow up!
He makes it more complicated than it really is, however. It is as simple as this: it isn’t about the business community. This is about rich people who own one or more businesses. The United States Chamber of Commerce is a ridiculously conservative group. But local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce are generally pretty middle of the road. That’s because most businesses are small and their owners aren’t rich. So the US Chamber of Commerce will always be for the Republican Party alone for one simple reason: it will cut their taxes.
So Democrats mope around complaining that they are pro-business and yet they don’t get nearly as much of what Gil Fulbright calls, “Those sweet, sweet campaign donations.” And that’s what was so crazy about the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and it’s creation of the New Democratic movement. Being more anti-poor and more pro-business didn’t gain the Democrats anything. I’m working on a longer piece regarding this, but what I am able to show is that Clinton didn’t win because he was a “new kind of Democrat.” Given the economy, Dennis Kucinich would have beat Bush the Elder in 1992. The same is true of Obama in 2008. It is just a myth that Democratic elites have convinced themselves that “moderating” the party is what got them into the White House.
But just look at how much smarter the Republicans have been. Bush the Younger didn’t “moderate” his policies; he just claimed that he was a “compassionate conservative.” As far as I could tell, that just meant someone who claimed to feel bad about all the ways that he was hurting the poorer classes. But it was Clinton and not Reagan or either of the Bushes who did the most harm to welfare in this country. What?! Did Clinton think we would always have as good an economy as we had in the late 1990s? The Republicans have learned who their allies are and that eventually, they get into power by hook (a bad economy) or crook (the Supreme Court).
But even after all of this? After 25 years of DLC lunacy, Democrats like Steve Israel think that, surely now the US Chamber of Commerce will start giving the Democrats those sweet, sweet campaign donations?! I have made peace with supporting a tactically stupid and ideologically spineless Democratic Party. But don’t push it! If the Democratic Party continues its march to the right, I’m not the only one who will abandon it.
The only way that the rich are going to start supporting the Democratic Party is if the Democrats start a bidding war. Here’s an idea I haven’t heard that I’m sure they’d like: a reverse estate tax. Instead of paying a tax when you pass on your money to your kids, the government pays you. Let’s make it 25%! So if your estate is $100 million, the government gives your kids an extra $25 million. How about that? The only problem is, I assure you, the Republicans would offer 50%.
So can we please cut the crap? Can we please stop pretending that our enemies—the people who think that no level of inequality is bad—are going to support us? Because when you have a single party that is supported by both the Koch brothers and me, what you really have is a country with only one political party. If Steve Israel wants to reach out to those people, then get the hell out of my party!