Opinion: Columnists

Conn Carroll: Can Republicans win big by going small?

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Opinion,Conn Carroll,Columnists,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

President Obama's second term isn't even a week old, and already Washington is eagerly analyzing the fight to find his successor.

Politico's Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman recently handicapped the Democratic field, writing: "Almost as soon as the echo of Obama's inaugural address fades and he instantly becomes a lame duck, Democrats are going to have to face a central and unresolved question about their political identity: Will they become a center-left, DLC-by-a-different-name party or return to a populist, left-leaning approach? ... Democrats must decide whether they want to be principally known as the party of Rahm Emanuel or the party of Elizabeth Warren."

Can't they be both? The New Republic's William Galston thinks Democrats can. First, he accurately describes a very real "civil war" occurring in the business community between big corporations and small businesses: "Corporations have sizeable cash flows and access to credit markets, which gives them a cushion against adversity and added costs; small businesses often operate much closer to the margin and are acutely sensitive to policies that threaten to drive up costs. Corporate CEOs can hire experts to help them cope with added regulatory burdens and can spread the costs over a large workforce; small business owners must deal with these burdens by themselves and have few ways [to] dilute their impact."

Galston then suggests Democrats side with big business: "CEOs are closer to being politically homeless than they have been since the waning decades of the nineteenth century. ... The right kind of Democratic agenda might cement a new alliance with at least a portion of corporate America. ... Our country would be stronger if the Democratic Party could find a way of linking the long-term self-interest of corporate America to a progressive pro-growth agenda."

The only problem with Galston's analysis is that the Democratic Party already cast its lot with corporate America long ago. This summer, Bill Scher, the online campaign manager for the Campaign for America's Future, detailed the Democratic Party's decades-old partnership with big business heading all the way back to the New Deal.

"Early on, Roosevelt was quite adept at bargaining with corporations. In his first 100 days, to attract corporate support for the National Industrial Recovery Act, he won collective bargaining, minimum wages and maximum hours in exchange for a temporary suspension of antitrust law, so businesses could fix prices."

Of course, the only businesses capable of fixing prices and managing collectively bargained contracts are large corporations. The New Deal was basically an all-out war on small business, conducted by the liberal Iron Triangle of Big Business, Big Government and Big Labor.

Obama has revived that alliance and continued that war today. Every part of his first-term agenda: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, EPA regulations, NLRB appointments, higher tax rates on individuals, etc., increases the government-imposed costs on small businesses and gives a competitive advantage to big businesses.

No wonder the Obama recovery is also the weakest recovery since the New Deal. New business creation has been the main driver of job creation in every U.S. economic recovery since World War II, and new business creation has never been weaker than it is today under Obama.

If they are going to win national elections again, Republicans must develop a message and an agenda that will level the playing field between big corporations and small businesses. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sounded such a note last Thursday at the Republican National Committee meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

"We believe in planting the seeds of growth in the fertile soil of your economy, where you live, where you work, invest and dream, not in the barren concrete of Washington," he said. "If it's worth doing, block grant it to the states. If it's something you don't trust the states to do, then maybe Washington shouldn't do it at all. We believe solving problems closer to home should always be our first, not last, option."

More like that please.

Conn Carroll (ccarroll@washingtonexaminer.com) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.

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