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The Swing State of Business

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I know how Al Sharpton voted today.

So do you.

This is a problem for Mr. Sharpton, as it is for any party partisan. When people know whom you're voting for, they take you for granted.

When people don't know whom you're voting for, by contrast, you get courted. Political pros have code words to describe these people. Wal-Mart Moms were popular back in 2010. They voted Republican. The Facebook Generation got a lot of hype back in 2012. They wound up going Democratic.

Business has been reliably Republican, and conservative, for over 40 years now. But before that big business was generally progressive. Growth required change, to organize markets and enable mass production. Government investment created huge projects from which business could make money.

The rise of social issues in the 1960s changed this. Suddenly progressive came to mean undisciplined, and government investment came to mean taking from you and giving to someone else.

Many businessmen remain staunch Republicans, based on these assumptions. But the rise of the populist Tea Party has some scratching their heads.

Populism is as old as the Republic. The battles in George Washington's cabinet over the Bank of the United States, between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, were its first stirrings. Andrew Jackson's destruction of the Bank, 40 years later, was populism's greatest victory.

But populism has never been a friend to big business. Populists distrust Wall Street as much as they distrust government. This gained clear expression in the rhetoric of some Tea Party partisans over the recent government shutdown. It scared a lot of businesspeople, and rightly so.

There are some industries that trend Democratic, industries Democratic administrations tend to leave alone. Technology, telecommunications and the copyright industries all have executives in them who give to Democrats.

They tend to get what they want, regardless of how the Democratic base feels. The new head of the Federal Communications Commission was formerly the head of the wireless industry's trade group. I predict the wireless industry will do very, very well in Washington for the next few years.