Partisanship has also taken over business associations that, by definition, claim to represent all their members, regardless of party affiliation. The National Federation of Independent Business was founded as a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in 1943. Before the 2008 election, the group was urging reform of the health care system, since health care costs were one of its members' chief concerns.
But the group and many of the businesses it represents did not agree with the way the Obama administration tackled the problem, and the NFIB became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. The NFIB's official response to the Supreme Court's upholding of the law didn't exactly come across as nonpartisan:
"This case was about something bigger than health care policy, it was about preserving American liberty from the increasingly powerful hand of the federal government. Today marks a sad day in the history of America. With this decision, Americans have lost the right to be left alone, which Justice William O. Douglas once called 'the beginning of all freedom.'"
The struggle over health care policy was so divisive among the small-business ranks that a new association sprang up in 2008, The Main Street Alliance, to speak for small-business owners who supported the health care overhaul.Similarly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents American business interests, has alienated some members with its positions on taxation, health care and environmental regulation (all of which align much more closely with Republican than Democratic positions). Some local chambers have even broken with the national group over policy differences. While the U.S. Chamber promotes opening up more federal land to oil and natural gas exploration, the offshoot Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy promotes the business opportunities in the clean energy sector -- and now includes more than 200 chambers from 47 states. What all these developments prove is that there is no such thing as a monolithic "business" vote. Any political party that claims to stand up for small businesses will have to make their case to each individual owner, taking no vote for granted.