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The Chamber of Commerce Goes Woke

The national Chamber seeks to curry favor with the left. Republicans have no choice but to oppose it.

Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) made headlines when he joined conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in savaging the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Yes, you read that right. While those still stuck in the Obama era or earlier might find this surprising, Cotton merely observes what conservatives have recognized for some time: “The Chamber of Commerce long ago purged most, if not all, of its real Republicans from its top ranks…They often serve…as just a front-service for woke corporations who are trying to peddle anti-American theories and demanding that their employees get re-educated and indoctrinated on anti-American ideas…”

Cotton is correct that such ideas have become a more conspicuous part of the Chamber’s activity in recent months. In February, for example, the organization came out strongly in support of the Equality Act, a radical bill which would imperil women’s rights and decimate religious liberty. And last fall, the group organized a coalition letter opposing President Trump’s executive order that sought to eliminate Critical Race Theory from federal government training.

Unfortunately, such leftism is not limited to the national Chamber either. Over the years, various state and local chambers have fought against numerous social conservative efforts, particularly on  LGBT  issues. And in the last year, they have become some of the most strident opponents of state legislation to protect women’s sports—most notably in Idaho and South Dakota.

At first glance, such issues seem totally disconnected from the Chamber of Commerce’s mission. They may claim passage of the Equality Act would have a “profoundly positive impact on business performance,” but is forcing religious hospitals to perform sex-change surgeries really that critical for America’s businesses? Would forcing schools to allow biological males to compete against girl athletes noticeably improve the country’s business climate?

The answer, of course, is no. But as Sen. Cotton noted in his interview with Hewitt, such justifications only serve as a barely believable cover for the real rationale. The Chamber’s increasing leftist activism, Cotton argued, primarily serves “to maintain what they think will be political respectability among the liberals in the media and the Democrats in Washington.”

However, while it may curry them favor among the elite, such activism does not seem to be making the Chamber any more effective in advocating on behalf of their constituent businesses. As Cotton went on to point out, every Chamber-endorsed Democrat in the House voted last week to pass the PRO Act, a bill which the Chamber actively opposed as a “litany of dangerous ideas” that would hurt workers and employers. And as for Republicans, Cotton said he’s not aware of any who “really listen to what the Chamber has to say anymore.”

Such is the confusing tradeoff much of corporate America has made in throwing in their lot with the woke. Although CEOs may earn light applause here and there for their statements in support of “LGBTQ+” diversity and donations to Black Lives Matter, such actions are inevitably never enough, as the leftist revolutionaries they pander to always demand more. Meanwhile, business leaders gain no meaningful political capital with Democrats, who move to spurn them at the first opportunity.

But as long as the Chamber, and the big business community they represent, continue to see leftist causes as their own, Republicans should learn to treat them not as tepid allies but as potentially hostile enemies. No conservative should be willing to work with a group that would support economically devastating a state whose lawmakers (and the voters they represent) wish to protect the integrity of women’s sports or defend religious freedom. Economic prosperity should never displace as a priority those goods it exists to serve: namely, strong families and communities.

One hopes the current Chamber of Wokeness will soon see the folly of its present course, or else collapse due to its failure to accomplish anything worthwhile beyond loud (and expensive) virtue signaling. Until then, Republicans have no choice but to stand up against their erstwhile partner. Otherwise, they will ultimately find themselves in the same position as the Chamber does now: an ineffective puppet of the Left.

Terry Schilling is the executive director of American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @Schilling1776.