Terry H. Schwadron
May 4, 2021
Untangling recent baffling comments by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and some of his Republican Senate friends, about his party as representing working people against a Democratic-Big Business alliance is turning out to be pretty politically twisted.
Let’s assert from the start that Cruz is not the most trusted societal analyst of our times, to say nothing of his time in the Senate, and that in reaching out to smack Big Business, he is looking for some partisan foothold to repel the spreading antipathy for Republican voter suppression laws among the states. He wants to run for president, and we can expect him to grab anything he thinks will cement his chance to appeal to Donald Trump’s base.
Still, I want to understand what he and his friends are saying in throwing jabs at the very people with whom Republicans have sought to curry favor for years.
In recent op-eds, public remarks and in an interview with columnist Niall Stanage of The Hill.com, Cruz is going way beyond the recent attempts by businesses to oppose (late) the surge of anti-voting bills in the name of “election integrity.”
Cruz sees as a leftward drift in executive suites, telling The Hill that “If you look at the CEOs of the Fortune 100, there are very, very few who you could even plausibly characterize as right of center. They are almost uniformly Democrat. And they have made the decision to enlist their companies in the political agenda of today’s Democratic Party, which is controlled right now by the radical left.”
I don’t know who he is counting, or how he thinks he knows, but it is for sure that “right of center” now means embracing the Stop the Steal movement, along with all of its conspiracies, alliances with kooks and made-up belief systems.
Cruz contended that Democrats exhibit a “wealthy, arrogant condescension to working men and women [that] is palpable,” and that Republicans represent working class Americans. Even Trump’s at-times overheated rhetoric is a direct manifestation of just how fed up so many Americans are with Washington trying to destroy their livelihoods.”
Where the GOP Stands
Wait. This is the same Republican Party that opposes minimum wage increases, voted against coronavirus aid that included help for both small business and extensions of unemployment benefits and rent eviction moratoriums, and now actively opposes viewing expansion of health, environment, climate and job programs aimed at the middle class.
And the reason cited most often is to keep the tax cuts that the Republicans passed under Trump that demonstrably benefited corporations and a tiny slice of the wealthiest people in the country.
Under Trump, Republicans routinely dismembered labor protections, environmental regulations, undercut programs for health access, Medicare, Medicaid, public health and family leave. They have opposed equal pay for women.
Nevertheless, yes, Big Business is aligning with political goals of fairness shared by customers over the outlook on boards of directors.
Which working class is Cruz talking about? The prime concern for Republicans these days seems to be about culture wars and lining up publicly to say Joe Biden stole the election.
Cruz is not alone in this effort. Here’s Sen. Mario Rubio, R-Fla., who also ran for president: “For the past several years, I have been making the case that far too many American companies were prioritizing short-term financial windfalls at the expense of America’s families, communities and national security.” Rubio wants to “rebuild — and rebalance” the relationship between corporations and the national interest. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is the force behind efforts to break up Big Tech companies.
Cruz now says he will refuse PAC money from corporations, which comes as corporations say they don’t want to give him money. Corporations have gotten vocal about the passage of voter bills in Georgia, Texas and other states that will make voting more difficult in areas with large Black populations.
As columnist Stanage noted, “Conservatives bridle about the fierce corporate backlash, which they see as symptomatic of a larger problem. To their eyes, corporate America is submitting to the same liberal mores that they believe dominate popular culture, Hollywood and much of the media.”
So, what were left with is a sense that conservative Republicans are looking to redefine themselves with White, working-class Americans who became Trump supporters out of a sense of being left out, out of anger over changing American demographics, over race and perceived elitism.
They turned to Trump, a would-be billionaire, to speak for the little guy, as if he did. And now, that mantle is falling to his wannabes.
It is a bet not on optimism for a rebound from the pandemic, even if that optimism is being fueled now by economic performance numbers, but out of a deep distrust for Them, whether in corporate boardrooms or of a political persuasion that values equality over Law and Order.
It is just a bit mind-bending to immediately reflect that Cruz — a proponent of trade protectionism, tariffs, tax cuts for the wealthy and a guy who flew off to Cancun as actual working people were left without power in Texas by wicked cold — tries to present himself as a spokesman for you and me.
Rubio says there is intensifying friction between conservatives and big business, because “these corporations, their CEOs and their boards seem eager to weigh in on behalf of every woke, left-wing social priority. . . people understand that many of these companies are more interested in gaining access to China’s consumers than being part of thriving American communities.”
Cruz says, “Democrats today are the party of rich coastal elites and Republicans are the party of blue-collar workers.” On election night last year, Hawley tweeted: “We are a working-class party now. That’s the future.” Rubio has told Axios that “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working-class coalition.”
You wouldn’t know it from how Senate Republicans vote.