Many business people are abandoning the GOP because most businesses, especially small and medium sized firms, historically have done better when the Democrats were in power, according to John Dean. He explains that many business people do not like Mr. Bush's War, deficit spending, focus on abortion and gay marriage, exclusion of immigrant labor, spiraling health care costs, and environmental deterioration. To this I would add that many business people hate incompetence and passivity; see for example this excerpt from Lee Iacocca's new book. Dean notes that the Wall Street Journal, in GOP Is Losing Grip On Core Business Vote, has described this as an "elephant stampede."
This does not necessarily mean Happy Days Are Here Again for the Democratic Party. More likely the opportunity presented by the Republican unraveling means intensified struggle for control of the Party's agenda, soul, and direction of growth. Democrats are conflicted about which of those fragments to court and what expanding its coalition might do to the Democratic agenda.
Although he updates the specifics to 2008, Dean's observation that Democrats can appeal to a significant part of the Republican coalition by having economic policies that work better is not new. A core idea of the 1980s Democratic Leadership Council was to enlarge the Democratic Party tent in that direction. President Clinton pushed through NAFTA, which had been negotiated by a Republican administration, embraced welfare reform, and declared that "the era of big government is over." Rounding up the stampeding elephants continues to be a goal of the Clinton wing or "business Democrat" wing of the Party. This may partly explain why House Democrats agreed this week on an economic stimulus package heavy with business subsidies that will enhance after-tax bottom lines but not stimulate domestic investment or consumption.
Other Democrats feel that the Party cannot deliver on the needs of its labor and economically disadvantaged constituents if it has to compromise much with a business constituency. This would be "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as Howard Dean described it in 2004. John Edwards makes the point more starkly when he refuses lobbyist and PAC money and says he will not negotiate America's new national health care plan with insurers and drug companies but will, instead, fight to overcome them on behalf of working people.
The "Democratic wing" would prefer to enlarge the Party tent in different directions. For example, they see that many religious conservatives share the Party's social and economic justice agenda and cannot abide the laissez faire capitalist ideologs who control the GOP's economic agenda. (Recall Mike Huckabee's recent criticism of the Club for Growth by name.) It seems the aging Moral Majority part of the GOP coalition does not speak for younger evangelicals, who have, instead, been receptive to the Democratic economic and environmental messages. Naturally, the pro-choice, gay-rights, and secularist groups in the Party are concerned that expansion in this direction will sacrifice their dearest issues to a broader social and economic justice agenda.
At least the Democrats have choices about which parts of the Republican Humpty Dumpty to try add to the Democratic Party omelet. The Republican challenge is to try to make up their losses by creating new fault lines among independents and Democrats. So far, they're trying fear of terrorism and nuclear-armed rogue nations, xenophobia, and some other wedges of dubious effectiveness. It's the Democrats' game to lose this year.