Breaking Up is Hard to Do: New Insight into the Republican/Corporate Plutocracy’s Ongoing Divorce

It’s the Divisiveness, Stupid

Politico, The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think: It’s not just about voting rights; it’s that businesses and the Republican Party increasingly care about incompatible things, says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is, among other things,

  • Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies & Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management,
  • the person who organized the big Zoom conference of corporate honchos last Sunday, that resulted in the Washington Post ad opposing voter suppression, and
  • Mitch McConnell’s good bud, and a speaker at the McConnell-Chao wedding.

The Politico piece explores at length Dean Sonnenfeld’s views on the headline topic—“the GOP-Big Business Divorce.” If you want to know what’s really happening in this country, you will benefit from reading the article in its entirety. Key passages:

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a legendary business professor and associate dean at the Yale School of Management, has watched this split grow in recent years, and has heard it from CEOs he knows and works with. What the GOP cares about and what major businesses care about are, increasingly incompatible, he says.

“The political desire to use wedge issues to divide—which used to be fringe in the GOP—has become mainstream,” Sonnenfeld says. “That is 100 percent at variance with what the business community wants. And that is a million times more important to them than how many dollars of taxes are paid here or there.” …

As the GOP tries to position itself as the home of “working-class values,” capturing loyalty with a steady campaign against the perceived excesses of progressive culture, it’s running afoul of a business community that can’t simply silo off “culture war” topics. In the eyes of major corporations, issues like voting rights, immigration and transgender-inclusive restrooms have economic impact, too. The millions of people alienated by those fights aren’t just their future customers, many of whom expect to support brands they believe in, they’re the companies’ employees. 

“The bad news for Republicans is that they seem to have a 1920s view of who Big Business’ workforce is,” says Sonnenfeld. “That workforce is, at a minimum, highly diverse—and they get along. Trying to stir that up is misguided.”

The new Republican penchant for mocking corporations for being too socially aware—for instance, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter threat to use the power of the state to harm Major League Baseball’s business, signing the message off with “go woke, go broke”—fundamentally misunderstands what matters to business in the 21st century, says Sonnenfeld. “Basically, business leaders believe that it’s in the interest of society to have social harmony. … Divisiveness in society is not in their interest, short term or long term.”