In American politics, there are certain powerhouse institutions that are not formally connected to the major political parties, but their partnerships are strong and have been cultivated over many decades.
When executives at the National Rifle Association, for example, call Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, GOP officials pick up the phone. When AFL-CIO leaders want to talk to Democratic officials, everyone is on a first-name basis.
And then there's the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been closely aligned with Republican politics for generations, though the ties are starting to show signs of strain.
In recent years, the Chamber -- the nation's largest advocacy organization in support of Big Business -- has tried to steer GOP officials on everything from immigration to trade to infrastructure, with little success. Last year, for the first time in recent memory, the frustrated Chamber even started donating to some Democratic candidates. In January, two days before the attack on the Capitol, the business lobby also urged Republicans to stop screwing around with democracy.
As The Hill noted yesterday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is denouncing the Chamber in ways that would've been unthinkable in the not-too-distant past.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday slammed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, saying the powerful business lobbying organization has lost its way and is siding more often with Democrats and progressive causes. During an interview with radio show host Hugh Hewitt, the Arkansas Republican said the Chamber cited the Chamber's decision in 2020 to back numerous Democrats and then endorse Neera Tanden, President Biden's initial nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
Cotton went on to accuse the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of often serving as a front "for woke corporations who are trying to peddle anti-American theories and demanding that their employees get re-educated and indoctrinated on anti-American ideas, like the fact that somehow we're all terribly racist, or every one of our institutions is racist, and we all need to go to re-education camps."
He added that he believes the Chamber "purged" most of the "real Republicans" in its top ranks.
Evidently, there are still Republicans helping lead the Chamber, though they don't meet the Arkansan's standards for "real" Republicans.
Cotton's on-air comments come just a week after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote an op-ed complaining, "The days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over."
Though most of the Florida Republican's message was targeted at Amazon.com, Rubio also took aim at "wealthy woke CEOs" and "companies like Amazon" that "have been allies of the left in the culture war."
Note the parallels: Rubio condemned "woke CEOs" last week, while Cotton condemned "woke corporations" this week. Rubio sees some business leaders as enemies in a "culture war," while Cotton believes too many American companies are "trying to peddle anti-American theories."
The subtext is hardly subtle: Republican expectations toward Corporate America are changing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will almost certainly continue to side with GOP officials on issues such as taxes, regulations, and the minimum wage, but Cotton and Rubio are making the case that these positions simply aren't good enough.
The conservative senators want private-sector leaders to toe the Republican line on matters related to culture and race, too. And if businesses fall short, they should apparently expect to face a backlash from the lines of Rubio and Cotton.