Big Business and Null Sets in American Politics. It’s not often that polls of American public opinion turn up positions that command roughly zero percent support. They don’t ask about collective farms any more, and have dropped the minuet from their surveys of popular dances.
They do, however, ask questions about the preferred positions of big business, and it may be a sign of the times that these surveys reveal that some of the favored practices and beliefs of corporate America and the Enlightened Rich command virtually no popular support.
One such practice is forced arbitration—in which businesses require new employees and consumers to sign away their right to sue that business for any grievance, as a condition of being hired or purchasing that business’s services. Instead, those employees or consumers—if they wish to be employees or consumers—agree to submit all grievances to arbitration, a process that produces outcomes far friendlier and less costly to corporations and less remunerative and satisfying to the employees or consumers than having their day in court.
Recently, Hart Research Associates polled 1,200 of our fellow citizens and found that 84 percent supported legislation to end the practice of requiring arbitration as a condition of employment or purchasing services. Fully 83 percent of Democrats said they’d support such a bill, and so did 90 percent of the presumably more pro-business Republicans.
Pervasive though forced arbitration may be, then, the share of Americans supporting the practice is effectively zero. The practice survives only because Republicans, and some Democrats, are in the pocket of big business. Indeed, Republicans have demonized trial lawyers for decades, even through the GOP rank-and-file would prefer turning to a trial lawyer than having to sit down in an employer-dominated arbitration process.
A number close to zero also comes up when measuring the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as sharing the political orientation of much of the American establishment: social liberalism and fiscal conservatism. To all appearances, this set of beliefs thrives in corporate boardrooms and haunts of the Enlightened Rich; it defines the politics of Michael Bloomberg, Howard Schultz and the Third Way Democrats.
It doesn’t define the politics of many actual Americans, however. When Gallup surveyed the belief sets of our compatriots in 2017, it found that a bare 4 percent of Americans said they were both socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Amid all the talk of the Democrats’ presumed need to move to the center, then, two questions must be asked. First, which center is that? And second, what if there’s no one there?