Should Retailers Try to Primary Tea Party Pols?

Discussion
Oct 16, 2013

Last year when Bruce Bartlett, a former senior adviser in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, wrote that Barack Obama, by relatively recent historical standards, was a center right politician, members of Mr. Bartlett’s party made it clear that he was not welcomed under the not-so-big tent that has become the modern day GOP.

Mr. Bartlett, it appears, is not the only one wondering what happened to the Republican Party they long supported. Two cases in point are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation. These groups have problems with Republicans on issues including the government shutdown, the debt limit and immigration reform.

In interviews in recent months, the groups have made clear they may need to throw support behind candidates who are to the left of the Tea Party, the driving force in current GOP political action.

In an interview on C-SPAN in August, Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "Some of the people on the far right in the Republican Party have created an agenda that is detrimental to Republicans who are trying to make this economy stronger."

Speaking more specifically, Mr. Donohue added, "It is insane not to raise the debt ceiling. … What that would do to the legitimacy of the American economic system and our global position financially and what it would do to the interest rates on the current debt that we have and the future debt that we will develop is just plain silly."

"We are looking at ways to counter the rise of an ideological brand of conservatism that, for lack of a better word, is more anti-establishment than it has been in the past," David French, the top lobbyist at the National Retail Federation, told The New York Times. "We have come to the conclusion that sitting on the sidelines is not good enough."

While traditional Republicans have lived in dread of being "primaried" by Tea Party candidates in districts gerrymandered to make it almost impossible for moderates to prevail, the question is whether voters disaffected by the events in Washington might be more inclined in the future to vote for candidates more interested in compromise than obstruction.

Are groups such as the National Retail Federations correct in believing they no longer have reliable allies among the more conservative elements of the Republican Party? Should they be actively supporting candidates that are more focused on building a consensus across the aisle on traditional pro-business issues?

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25 Comments on "Should Retailers Try to Primary Tea Party Pols?"


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Ed Dunn
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

I saw a viral video where some new commentator screamed the issue was not about political parties but about extraction from the US Economy by global factors.

I’m not saying the NRF should not engage in PACs, but I do take issue with focusing on politics when the 800lb gorillas of alternative payments, sourcing, omnichannel and mobile integration, as well as the biggest obsolescing wave of retail technology and retail processes are standing in the room right now.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Let’s call them what they are: terrorists. It doesn’t matter what party you align with, the far right is willing to take down the Republic and the Republican Party. That is not in keeping with the social contract of governing. I’m ashamed of what our system of government has been reduced to.

Imagine if the tables were turned and the democratic minority was saying we need to tax all retail businesses 25% or we don’t do this. Minority rule is a bad idea.

Dick Seesel
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

You reap what you sow: Court decisions like “Citizens United,” and the longstanding lobbying and financial support of the business community, have led to some unintended consequences. The faction of the House GOP driving the conversation does not seem to understand the economic consequences of its behavior. This isn’t specifically about the NRF but about the wide array of business interests and lobbying groups who are seeing a traditionally business-friendly party go off the rails.

The “Tea Party” House members live in very conservative districts where a primary challenge from a moderate is likely to fail. And primary challenges in swing districts are likely to push those districts back into the Democratic column. So it’s hard to see a short-term way out of the ideological box that the Republicans find themselves in today.

Lee Peterson
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

We were just talking about this – the Tea Party are the radicals of this generation, just like the Yippies and SDS were the radicals a generation ago. The difference is, someone voted for the Tea Party!

Would we have wanted the SDS dictating fiscal policy? Or Abbey Hoffman running Congress? Absolutely not. And in the same manner, why would a business entity of any stripe support radicals right or left? That’s not a mere mistake, that’s just plain stupid.

Lesson learned, hopefully.

Warren Thayer
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

I’m hoping there’s a huge pushback against the Tea Party in the next election, and anybody with any common sense should join in. Out of idle curiosity, I just re-read that chapter in “Alice in Wonderland” called “A Mad Tea Party.” It hit close to home….

Mel Kleiman
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

The question uses the term the more conservative elements of the Republican Party. If the question read the far right or term most, rather than more, it would be correct.

Extremes at any end of a group are not usually beneficial.

David Livingston
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Your friend in government is the one who will take your money and do what you ask them to do, regardless of their party affiliation.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
8 years 7 months ago
In the first place, America’s traditional political parties are way past their “sell by” date. In a perfect world we would dissolve them and replace them with a Conservative Party, a Moderate Party and/or a Liberal Party. But that isn’t going to happen. In the second place, what we are seeing being played out in Washington — albeit in a twisted and perverse manner — is what “balance of power” looks like when people take off the gloves. And this just isn’t the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches, but the balance of power in the Congress, where one house is elected by (and theoretically must be responsive to) a state as a whole and the other is elected by the aforementioned surrealistically constructed Congressional Districts. And yes, the far right of the Republican Party is populated by ideologues who believe the federal government governs best when it’s not governing at all. On the other side of the aisle, it should be that Bruce Bartlett was right. In the wake of Bill Clinton,… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Why does a group like the NRF have to always support a candidate from a specific party? If the group is true to its constituents, it will work to educate candidates from both parties and work for the candidate who could best serve the interests of the group. If that means a Democrat, so be it.

It’s about time that groups like the Chamber and NRF stand up to the Tea Party and support moderate candidates who will work to forge compromise. The Tea Party represents a small portion of the electorate. Enough of this tyranny by this minority.

Liz Crawford
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

If it comes down to a show-down between business and the Tea Party, the Tea Party will lose.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

My overall position is simple. Ban lobbyists and group political contributions. These actions and contributions are bribes by another name.

That being said, the support of the business groups initially gave the the Tea Party the impetus to establish their current position. If business groups want to save the economy, they should put their full force behind taking these guys out.

But, what disturbs me the most is as we face this crisis that no politician, Democrat or Republican is truly trying to educate the people. I am not talking about the yelling and screaming of dire consequences, but the whys of those dire consequence. It’s as if politicians want a dumb electorate. Am I stating the obvious?

Cathy Hotka
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

There’s nothing pro-business about the Tea Party wing of the GOP. It’s unthinkable that the full faith and credit of the United States would be breached…but that’s what they insist upon. What’s really baffling about this is the whistling-past-the-graveyard attitude of Wall Street.

Greg Callahan
Guest
Greg Callahan
8 years 7 months ago

If our elected officials were not getting their pay checks, this government shutdown mess would be over. They do not play by the same rules we do. I’m sick and tired of both parties and it is time someone stood up for Americans, not an agenda. The Tea Party is not the answer, but the way we are doing it now is not working either.

Phil Rubin
Guest
Phil Rubin
8 years 7 months ago

It’s great to see the comments here – well done RetailWire! Given the apparent (I don’t want to jinx it) deal that is hopefully forthcoming, and the reaction of the stock market, it’s pretty clear that what is a political loss for the Tea Party is good for business. And ultimately, for the country. And perhaps, for the GOP.

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
8 years 7 months ago
It’s obvious from the overwhelming endorsement of Bruce Bartlett here, where the majority of RetailWire commenters stand. Obama is a center right Democrat???? This is insane, and it is a sad day when Republicanism is defined as crony capitalism. It’s amazing how all these major quasi-governmental groups like the AMA, NRF, the Chamber, AARP are screwing their own constituencies in favor of big, BIG socialist government. So where is the proper place for a small government advocate? I have long asserted that the salvation of the human race lies in pluralism – vigorous competition. Over the past eighty years, the competition of the two major parties has been over political power, not political ideas, as both parties have increasingly endorsed swelling government. If we don’t have competition within, maybe we will have it without. It isn’t that there are no conservatives left, but the Democrats virtually purged any vestige by throwing out the blue dogs, and RINOs like Bartlett favor doing the same in the Republican party. No need to argue, the 2014 elections will… Read more »
David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
8 years 7 months ago

As long as the debate focuses one one small faction of the party that controls one house of Congress, but does not include the party that controls the upper house and the White House, it will be a meaningless discussion.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Argh. Please subtract my vote from the “actively support”…I meant to say actively oppose.

It’s really ironic – the Republican party used to be “the party of business” – now, it has become the party of “no.” The Tea Party is holding the entire world (it goes beyond the country now) hostage. As someone wrote above, they are terrorists, pure and simple. Disgraceful and embarrassing.

Kenneth Allan
Guest
Kenneth Allan
8 years 7 months ago

Let’s get real here, the retail industry has a proud tradition of offering real opportunity to groups that too many in the Tea Party view as beneath them.

Look at the lead the industry has had in promoting women, members of the gay and lesbian community, people of color, the list goes on. While some states still fight over included “sexual orientation” as a protected class, many retail companies had this language in place by the late 1970s.

If the Tea Party would stay out of social conservatism, they could be a force to bring about positive change to the business community. As they stand now, you have to be kidding.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
8 years 7 months ago
If there’s one thing that people should already know, it’s that candidates of both parties say whatever they think will get them elected, including outright falsehoods. Often, and again this is painfully obvious of pols of both parties, they do not necessarily follow through on the “focus” or with the promises they made when running and were eagerly collecting contributions. I may stand alone here today but it is my strong belief that retailers, industries (such as retail), and industry organizations need be very, very careful and stand as far away from blatant activities with respect to retail politics and elections as is possible. Their customers, employees, and stockholders as individuals run the gamut of the political spectrum. Everybody’s money is green whether we like their political positions or not. Lobbying is one thing and is necessary to get industry issues to the fore. But actively trying to influence the outcome of an election is a different matter entirely, is very risky, and has the potential for very uncomfortable consequences for said industry if they… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
8 years 7 months ago
There’s nothing wrong with a government that maintains a dynamic tension between social justice and fiscal conservatism. This has been the genius of our system for generations, and the world’s envy. But something has been changing in America that is troubling to many citizens. It’s not the dust-up over health care reform per se. Many of us perceive an underlying desperation among certain groups who want to cling to power based on a status quo that is fast becoming obsolete. Some arguments about limiting government seem calculated to mask an agenda to distort the electoral will of many Americans, and persuade working people to vote against their own best interests. The worst extremists on both edges of the political spectrum are not above spreading fear as a substitute for reasoned persuasion. Fortunately, most Americans have enough horse sense to sniff out the horse s*** that is proliferating inside the beltway. We are collectively a live-and-let-live country, where most folks care sincerely about their neighbors’ freedom, well-being and security. When radical politicians try to put abstract… Read more »
Doug Siemens
Guest
Doug Siemens
8 years 7 months ago
Folks, this has become a very emotional issue. I had to take a step back before submitting my response. First, Mel Kleiman is correct by saying “most” instead of “more” would be accurate. In Thomas Donohue’s quoted comments, he said, “Some of the people on the far right…have created an agenda detrimental…” SOME doesn’t mean ALL, but what I’m seeing in a lot of these responses is many are acting like the United States has entered a Civil Cold War. Bob Phibbs and others have called the Far Right “terrorists” and adds “minority rule is a bad thing.” While I agree any bigotry towards the minority should never be accepted, our founding fathers set up our federal government to avoid a true majority ruling system. In history class, we learned this as “checks-and-balances” between the branches of government. It was established so Congress and the President could learn to compromise. Is that happening now? No. Both sides are stuck in their ruts, but terrorists? I think not. Back to the Cold War reference. Because of… Read more »
Tony Orlando
Guest
8 years 7 months ago
My two cents here, and I’m going on record saying that politics on this forum can and will get ugly, as many philosophies will reverberate back and forth. I own and operate a small supermarket, and I am proud to provide jobs, enjoy the American Dream, and support my community in many different ways. BUT things have gone horribly wrong from what our nation’s greatness was founded on, which was a limited role for government, and creative, hard working citizens making something great out of inspirational ideas, and making a profit to boot. If half the population is on some entitlement program, what is going to happen? Yeah I know, I’m crazy, but unless we reform government from the top down, the stock market and other entities will begin to fail as we can not sustain this borrowing and printing of money. Who in their right mind that has any business sense can not see this happening? The waste and corruption in government is staggering, and right down to the local level I see boneheaded… Read more »
W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

NRF should be supporting candidates that have a pro-business perspective. The Democratic Party is controlled by the very far left. The Republican Party has a mix of moderates and right leaning members. The far right or ultra conservatives are a small group. The gap between parties looks large due to the left extreme of the Democrats. Throughout history, the country swings to the left and to the right. At this time we are swinging far left, but this will change. NRF and other trade associations must look at the candidates, not the labels for who they support.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
8 years 7 months ago

Consensus is needed. The Tea Party has their own agenda and it is not about making America better for all. I also like what the President of J.W. Marriott said on CNN, “Support candidates, not political parties!”

Greg Mueth
Guest
Greg Mueth
8 years 7 months ago

When it comes to retail issues, I’d like to see a lot more “pro-consumer” action and a lot less “pro-buisiness” pandering. A thriving retail industry absolutely depends on a thriving middle class.

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