Small Business Owners are Part of a Broad, Collective Struggle

Date: 17 Feb 2022 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail
We felt compelled to respond to Melinda Cooper’s arguments in Dissent Magazine linking Trumpism with small business owners. Here is what we wrote.

“Dear Dissent Editor,

In the Winter 2022 issue of Dissent, Melinda Cooper argued that Trumpism, which cut its teeth in Tea Party politics, is primarily a movement of small business owners — not the blue-collar working class, and not the CEOs and board members of large, publicly traded companies. 

It’s deeply unsettling to contend with the breadth of support that Trump enjoys across the spectrum, including among many wage earners and even, in 2020, a growing number of Black and Latino voters. So we understand the impulse to blame the fascist elements arising in our body politic on a target that has long been associated with the right. But the politics of small business and small business owners are deeply misunderstood on the left. Despite what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have us believe, the GOP is not the party of small business. And the perpetuation of this myth means that the left has been leaving a substantial amount of power on the table. 

One of the seeds of this misconception was planted by scholars who argued that small business owners were the primary supporters of the Nazi party in Germany. But this argument was long ago debunked by historians who combed through voting records and found that Nazis drew their biggest base of support from wage earners — and were popular across classes. Meanwhile, in the U.S., small business interests were central to New Deal politics, forming a coalition with labor that won major victories against concentrated corporate power. 

That’s what makes Cooper’s defense of massive, publicly traded corporations — from a left perspective — so strange. The shareholder revolution of the last four decades transformed public corporations into factories of financialization and inequality. Behemoths like Amazon and JP Morgan Chase have flaunted their power, laid waste to countless American dreams, and made a mockery of the very ideas of justice and equality. If racist backlash is the pathogen behind Trumpian fascism, it is the weakening of our democratic defenses that has given this virus its terrifying strength. 

Rather than maligning small businesses and erecting political divides that only hurt the left’s interests, we should be looking to build a collective struggle that unites people who have little individual power — many small business owners would naturally fit under this tent, and gladly stand there.”


Stacy Mitchell and Susan Holmberg

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Follow Susan Holmberg:
Susan Holmberg

Susan Holmberg is Senior Editor and Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Independent Business Initiative. She writes on corporate power and inequality and has been published in the New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, The Nation, and Democracy Journal.

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Follow Stacy Mitchell:
Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.