In the grand kickball game of American two-party politics, it’s widely understood that Republicans picked big business as part of their team. However, the last several years have increasingly seen conservatives turn their backs on big business in favor of populist culture wars.
Nationally, the big news is that Republican opposition to one of the massive infrastructure bills being pushed by the Biden Administration is angering the many business leaders who support its passage. Every single major business group in Washington D.C. urged House Republicans to pass the bill, but only a few Republicans have said they will vote for the bill when it finally comes to a vote. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, normally a Republican-aligned stalwart, hasn’t been able to make a dent when it comes to conservatives determined to deny the Biden Administration a win. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield, CA) even went so far as to quip that he didn’t know the Chamber was around anymore.
In Texas, the rift between business and Republicans appears to be growing. Calls from major employers like Dell and American Airlines to stop or at least weaken the draconian voter rights and access restriction bill passed earlier this year fell mostly on deaf ears. The activism from companies based on Texas was dismissed as “woke” and “pearl-clutching” from the Republican Party of Texas.
Nor does the prospect of losing the next generation of business leaders seem to bother Texas Republicans. The abortion ban that went into effect in September is extremely unpopular with the segment of the population known as “knowledge workers.” These are highly educated employees of tech firms that have been moving to Texas in droves as more companies relocate here. The prospect that pregnant employees might not be able to exercise economic freedom has given some companies pause. Electric car manufacturer Tesla will still move to Austin, but there’s a possibility that they’ll have trouble filling important roles.
“Knowledge workers are overwhelmingly opposed to this sort of thing, and they are the single biggest resource for high growth companies,” Ray Perryman, a former economist at Baylor University in Waco who has been tracking the Texas economy for 40 years, told Fortune.
In fact, the only business that Texas Republicans seem to really be listening to anymore is the electric generators. Three special sessions of the legislature have begun and not a single one has included any reform of the electric grid, which spectacularly failed in February and left millions of Texans without power in freezing weather. Texas lawmakers, dominated by Republicans, failed to enact more regulation on power generators, and Governor Greg Abbott declined to make doing so a priority for the special sessions.
That lack of action means that companies like Energy Transfer Partners will continue to rake in billions even when the grid falls, and the company’s CEO, in turn, donated a $1 million to Abbott’s re-election campaign. Clearly, the only way that big business will once again force Republicans to pass needed legislation is to use their pocketbooks.