Bookman: Ga. Chamber signs on to GOP’s new love of tariffs, free money

Jon Ossoff needed 50% of the vote in a seven-way race to avoid a runoff and win the right to face Republican Senator David Perdue in the fall – something even he said earlier would be “a historic, herculean and unprecedented achievement.” Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When Democrat Jon Ossoff announced this week that he will run against incumbent David Perdue for the U.S. Senate next year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Chamber of Commerce were ready to pounce.

Citing a poll they commissioned earlier this year in Georgia, the two groups pointed out that Ossoff’s name recognition remains low statewide even after the millions of dollars in advertising spent in his narrow congressional loss in 2017. It then concluded dismissively that “Ossoff is just another second-tier Democratic candidate who would be a clear underdog to Sen. David Perdue.”

Maybe, but that’s a lot of attention they’re paying to that second-stringer.

The chambers also touted Perdue’s standing in that poll, claiming that 48% of Georgia voters approve of the job he’s doing while just 39% disapprove. Furthermore, it pointed out, “The senator has a 49% approval rating among white women with college degrees, a crucial swing vote in Georgia.”

White women with college degrees are indeed a crucial swing vote, not just in Georgia but nationwide. And if the chamber poll is accurate about Perdue’s current standing with that group, it will be interesting to see what happens in a campaign that becomes a referendum on President Donald Trump, whom Perdue lavishes with endless praise. In the most recent Fox News poll, 54% of white women with college degrees now say they strongly disapprove of the president; just 33% say they strongly approve.

For now, though, the topic that interests me isn’t Perdue’s polling numbers or Ossoff’s credentials as a candidate. Instead, I’m curious about the wisdom and long-term stability of the business community’s decision to throw itself so head-long and early into the Republican column.

The Republican Party has long been the party of business, of course, but a few things have changed. Country-club Republicans were once a party mainstay – now the term is considered an insult. Republicans once defended certainty and moderation, which business is said to treasure. Whatever else today’s GOP may represent, certainty and moderation ain’t it.

The new GOP is now the party of tariffs, not free trade, and the Federal Reserve that the business community has long defended as a bulwark against inflation is now under attack by a president who is literally demanding free money. Corporate America knows that climate change is real, and in many cases poses a threat to their business unless addressed. And of course, the values of diversity and tolerance that corporations strive to project to their customers and to their own workforce are directly contradicted by their support for a party that treats those values with such scorn.

There are signs that the strain is being recognized. Look at Walmart, curtailing ammunition sales and leading a corporate movement to bar open carry of firearms in its stores. Look at the major corporate advertisers that no longer do business with Fox News because they don’t want to be associated with the themes preached on that network. Overall, as the Republican Party evolves toward a largely rural and exurban party that is increasingly unpopular among younger Americans, it’s hard to see where the interests of the GOP’s Trumpian base line up with those of modern business.

(Yes, they’ll always have tax cuts. But with the economy slowing and showing no sign of the promised 4-5% annual growth, I doubt that will be a popular message.)

Remember, American politics is a pendulum, and the harder you yank it in one direction, the harder it will swing back the opposite way. At the moment, it has swung very hard to the right, but a reaction is coming as it always does. And when it turns, when that swing comes, it might be smart to have a few friends on the other side.


  1. Each time I write to Perdue I get the same canned email response. He’s never had a town hall not even a phone in one. I participated in several Isakson had. While I may not have agreed 100% it was wonderful to participate & listen to his thoughts and reasons and to feel he was listening to us. I believe Isakson cares. I believe Perdue cares only for cold, calculating self interest.

    I can’t think of any positive legislation brought forth by Perdue that has improved the lives of GA citizens. I’m a white college educated woman. I think Perdue has been a lousy Senator. So do all the women I know. Don’t know where 49% approval comes from.

    • I also get the same thing. No matter what the subject. While I don’t have a college degree I figure in 67 yrs I have picked up a few things. I don’t know any women who actually read and follow what is going on that support Perdue.

    • Nanette Vaughn, you are exactly correct. David Perdue has put no effort in troubling himself to appear before, much less listen to, average Georgians. Apart from licking the President’s boots, which pleases many Georgians, what’s he done for rural Georgia?

  2. Another excellent column, Jay Bookman. So glad you have a proper forum for your thoughts through the Georgia Recorder.

    I have only one point of contention to make. Your last paragraph ends with the idea that political ideas will swing back and forth, forever. That may be true as a temporary pragmatic observation, but political results reflect, also, an ongoing thirst for higher ideals in which human enlightenment grows over the decades and centuries. We are still in the process of creating that more perfection union in these United States (and throughout the world). Not only is Ossoff the candidate to bring back balance in Georgia, but he is, also, the candidate to lead this state and nation to the future’s more perfect enlightenment of the possibilities of humanity expanded.

    Your columns are invariably intellectually stimulating. Thank you for that.


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