It has come to this: On an increasing number of key national issues, American public opinion is better reflected by business leaders than by Congress and the Administration.
Case in point: The pending bipartisan “Dreamers” bill, the result of President Trump’s decision to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to expire in March. (69% of American adults support the DACA program “strongly” — Washington Post-ABC News poll.)
Here’s how Reuters reported the divide, citing companies both directly and indirectly affected “Tech companies to lobby for immigrant ‘Dreamers’ to remain in U.S.” :
“Nearly two dozen major companies in technology and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency …
“The Coalition for the American Dream intends to ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year that would allow these immigrants, often referred to as ‘Dreamers’, to continue working in the United States …”
Interestingly, some of these companies have gone well beyond the “ask”. A spokesman for Uber said it “joined the Coalition for the American Dream because we stand with the Dreamers. We’ve also held town halls, provided legal support and launched an online Dreamer Resource Center for any of our drivers.”
Other extremely important and broadly supported issues being delayed in Congress by the GOP’s needed political “win” via tax cuts, mostly for the rich, and tax reform: the vast uncertainties generated by Trump arbitrary actions on Affordable Care Act health insurance (this summer, 55% of Americans opposed “repeal/replace” — Washington Post); and on decertifying the six-party Iran nuclear agreement (recently 56% of those polled favored remaining in the agreement – YouGOV).
And, of even more immediate concern after the Las Vegas massacre: At long last, can legislation finally mirror American public opinion on the critical need for better gun regulation? (90% of Americans want universal background checks – CNN/Opinion Research Corp.)
On a parallel track, the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was met with vast business opposition — as well as by many thousands of municipal, county and state officials; community groups; non-profit organizations; scientific and academic institutions and individuals. In fact, Americans are working to meet our Paris environmental commitments in spite of the current Washington political philosophy. (70% of Americans polled earlier this year were in favor of U.S. remaining in this worldwide agreement – Yale Program on Climate Communication.)
To be clear, this increasing business-leader public immersion on social/economic issues isn’t universal. Many CEOs still prefer to “stay in the trenches”; and, of course, business is highly supportive of GOP proposed lower corporate taxes.
However, Axios AM has summed up the emerging “public CEO” in its report, “1 big thing … New CEO scare: culture wars“:
“The new, high-stakes collisions CEOs are getting pulled into include immigration, climate change, diversity and inclusiveness, and whether their ads run on controversial websites.
All this leads to fundamental questions for American democracy in 2017 and beyond:
Who now speaks for America? Where is the American “Vox Populi” to be found?
Certainly not in business alone. But not without it either.