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Blame the Chamber, Not Republican Leadership, for Woke Turn

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Ever since Congress came back into session, much of the focus in Republican circles has centered on whether Kevin McCarthy and other top party officials should remain in their leadership positions this year. 


The conservative grassroots have a right to be angry. They have a right to feel that their voice and concerns haven’t been met or heard, and no one can fault them for demanding change. However, the root of the Republican Party’s problems is not in the halls of Congress; it is on the frontlines of the advocacy campaigns and lobbying fights that have caused Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell’s members to fall out of line.

At the end of the day, McCarthy and McConnell are just two men. They need consensus to move bills. That was far easier to find years ago before wokeness infiltrated the American economy, but it’s much harder to find now when this radically extreme worldview has destroyed the very institutions that Congress once relied on to understand the day’s top impediments to free enterprise and free markets.

Take, for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, despite endorsing Biden appointees, has yet to even congratulate McCarthy on his speakership. This group, which was once Congress’s most allied and trusted group when it came to crafting pro-growth policies, is holding a State of American Business forum this Thursday, but I’m willing to bet that its top-down, disconnected stands for ESG policies and massive spending increases that have helped topple the American economy won’t be a topic of discussion. As a result, conservative members feel they can no longer trust the Chamber, and Republicans lost a significant difference-maker in the public policy arena. 


Recognizing how negatively the Chamber’s woke turn has affected his ability to gain consensus on critical issues (and his members’ ability to understand the concerns of American businesses), McCarthy announced that he will no longer accept meetings from the group, which he called on to make leadership changes. 

McCarthy is right — America needs the Chamber to return to its influential mover-and-shaker past. But that raises the question: how did the Chamber reach this rock bottom point, and who brought it here?

The group’s problems began with Tom Donohue, its chief executive officer from 1997 to 2019. For years, Donohue’s tenure was strong, but it ended with a pro-ESG, pro-big spending bill whimper. In Donohue’s final years, the Chamber refused to support the repeal of Obamacare, fought conservatives over their efforts to reform the corporate welfare Export-Import Bank, and even pushed the inane Common Core education scheme advanced by Bill Gates. It even endorsed 23 freshmen Democrats, all of whom endorsed Big Labor efforts to repeal state Right to Work laws and eliminate independent contracting nationwide. This unprecedented move helped secure Nancy Pelosi’s role as Speaker and saddled the business community with more regulations and more taxes. 

Many believe Donohue aged out and hung on past his effective date; nevertheless, the reality is that he is still effectively pulling the Chamber’s strings as the group’s new leader — Suzanne Clark, his former executive assistant — is still carrying on his woke legacy.


Clark has not only continued the Chamber’s downward spiral; she’s accelerated it. Clark’s Chamber has held hands with the AFL-CIO by endorsing a big spending transportation bill chock-full of costly giveaways to Big Labor and which promoted the Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) standards that have dried out investments in the American economy’s key driver — the energy industry. Clark doubling down on the Donohue agenda cemented the Chamber’s transformation from a leading difference maker in free-market politics to an ignored group that advocates for new, woke policies that are counterproductive to the average business’ interests.

The lengths that the Chamber has gone to go woke has destroyed the group’s relationship with its local business partners. It caused a huge rift, with some local chambers leaving the national Chamber altogether. And over the years, this rift has gotten worse, not better. Members of Congress have taken note, which is why this group no longer has any political influence. 

But we need it to have influence. Without one strong, central, reliable voice to relay the pain points of consumers and businesses on Main Street — members have struggled to introduce the right bills and take the right votes, and the American people have suffered as a result.

This needs to change, and soon. The Republican Party — the party of free enterprise — now controls the House of Representatives, and the time for genuine market reforms has never looked riper. 


Dear sane Chamber leaders that are reading this column, let’s give Kevin McCarthy what he wants. Let’s do what’s needed to oust the Chamber’s current problem executives and restore this group to its former glory so that, over the next 12 months, the economy can get bigger, better, and more prosperous under this new Congress. It’s what the American people need and deserve.

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.


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