“Business Leaders” Myth Back Again

As The Denver Post:

Colorado’s business leaders are pressing U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to oppose controversial legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Joe Blake and other Colorado business officials met with Bennet this week in Washington to discuss the Employee Free Choice Act.

“This proposal is of great concern to Colorado’s business community,” Blake wrote in a Monday letter to Bennet. “It is divisive and unnecessary and, most importantly, it is wrong for Colorado.”

The letter was signed by 25 other Colorado business leaders, including Chuck Berry, president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

We’ve said this before, and we’re going to just keep on saying it because it completely mystifies us that Democratic elected officials would be concerned about what this small minority of business “leaders” are demanding. When they say that “this is of great concern to Colorado’s business community,” they mean, “this is of great concern to Republicans in Colorado’s business community.”

We say this purely from a strategic political perspective: Why would a Democrat worry about what Joe Blake and Chuck Berry of CACI (which is almost entirely a Republican group) have to say?

This is the big “Business Community Myth,” that a) this small group really represents a significant number of business owners (they don’t), b) that they are going to support you anyway when you are running for election (they aren’t), and c) they don’t have the ability to defeat you at the polls anyway (they can’t).

Every politician wants to say that they have the support of “the business community,” but there is no such thing. The groups mentioned above, for example, are unabashedly part of the Republican “business community” and do not represent the majority of businesses. Remember the battle over “Right to Work” last fall? The South Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Golden Chamber of Commerce, among others, came out against the anti-union ballot measure. There was no business community unity there, so we’ll say it again:

There. Is. No. Unified. Business. Community. Period.

Now, back to the groups mentioned above. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), for example, is never going to support Bennet in 2010 no matter what he does. Of course they don’t want the Employee Free Choice Act to pass – they’re basically a wing of the Republican Party in Colorado, and everybody who has ever been involved in politics in Colorado knows this. If you’re Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, you had better listen to CACI. But if you are a Democrat, why would you give two shits about what they have to say? Joe Blake of The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce isn’t quite as partisan as CACI, but he’s not far behind – it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what Blake is going to oppose or support.

And finally, we keep coming back again and again to what happened last fall to Democrat Mark Udall when he was running for the U.S. Senate. “Business groups” spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Udall over the Employee Free Choice Act. And those ads proved to be about as effective as a Bob Beauprez strategy memo. Udall won by double-digits despite those attacks, and now some of those same groups are coming to him as a U.S. Senator and demanding he listen to them. Why the hell would he? If someone picks a fight with you and you beat them handily, it tells you two things: They aren’t your friends, and you don’t need to be afraid of them.

Bennet has a long way to go to prove his political chops, but this is one obvious way to do it. Being obsessed with placating the mythical “business community” has caused irreparable harm to Gov. Bill Ritter among his base, and in 2010 these same business groups are all going to support Republicans Josh Penry or Scott McInnis for Governor anyway. If Bennet starts making decisions based on the same logic, he’ll end up in the same place, with these “business leaders” laughing at him all the way.