The largest corporations in America donate more to Democrats than Republicans. This holds doubly true of the most vocal billionaires—guys like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg—who send an overwhelming proportion of their political donations to the Democratic side of the aisle. Democratic politicians typically favor progressive tax structures which force the rich to pay more, and also put regulations on their businesses. So, why do billionaires give the Democratic Party such strong support?
A typical explanation of this phenomenon, on the Right, goes like this: onerous regulation and heavy taxes are a heavier burden on small businesses and startups than on large, established corporations, therefore, the rich see the additional tax and regulatory burden as a premium for keeping competitors down and ensuring that they remain at the top of the corporate ladder. This explanation is both too cynical and too simple.
The real reason that the richest Americans support Democrat politicians is because they are human. Humans tend to care about the opinions of those who run in their same social circles—and, in the elite social circles frequented by the rich, the prevailing opinions are overwhelmingly liberal. In this milieu, donations to Democrat politicians solicit applause; donations to Republican politicians raise eyebrows; and donations to causes like California’s “proposition 8” risk total ostracism.
In other words, the rich care about social capital almost as much as they care about financial capital. And, as wise investors, they tend to quickly figure out how to get the most bang for their buck. Why waste money creating a new wing for a Catholic hospital when the same amount of social capital can be generated by complaining in public about your secretary’s tax rate? Why give money to AIDS relief in Africa when you can take potshots at President Trump?
However, the calculus of America’s richest billionaires could soon change. The days of accruing social capital by virtue-signalling on Culture War issues may be coming to an end. As identity politics and intersectionality fail to win elections, the Democratic Party will be forced to re-prioritize away from social issues and toward a new message centered around the economics of democratic-socialism. The next generation of socialist Democrats might not settle for mere words, but instead require material concessions from any billionaires who wish to associate with the Democratic cause. Those who refuse could find themselves left out in the cold.
Just how high a price will the richest Americans pay for social acceptance among metropolitan cultural elites? America may soon find out.