Exxon’s Common Core Crack-Up

December 23, 2015, 12:19 PM UTC
Chairman and CEO of US oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, speaks during the 2015 Oil and Money conference in central London on October 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Ben Stansall—AFP/Getty Images

When the CEO of ExxonMobil (XOM) advocates what critics call a “socialist agenda,” you know something is seriously amiss in American politics.

In truth, Rex Tillerson is probably the most unreconstructed CEO in the Fortune 100. He is a staunch Republican, an unrelenting critic of government regulation, and hasn’t a politically correct bone in his proud Texan body. (He also dislikes journalists, and makes no secret of it.)

But give him credit for taking a strong lead in the Business Roundtable’s effort to enact Common Core education standards. He believes that fixing the nation’s education problem is a “business imperative,” and he was relentless in his pursuit of Common Core – irritating some of his CEO colleagues in the process.

What he didn’t see coming was the Tea Party. Opponents took his well-intentioned initiative and turned it into a conservative cause célèbre – “Obamacore” – stirring up a hornets’ nest of opposition and forcing GOP presidential candidates including Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, and Carly Fiorina, all to back off their earlier support.

Fortune’s Peter Elkind tells the amazing story of how Tillerson and big business got schooled by the Common Core conflict in the January issue of our magazine. You can read it online this morning, here. I highly recommend it as a case study in America’s broken political system, which has left big business out in the cold.

If reading Elkind’s story doesn’t convince you how far the Grand Old Party has wandered from its business roots, take a look at Donald Trump’s comments in Michigan earlier this week, where he threatened to slap a 35% punitive tax on “every car, bumper and part” produced by Ford at an expanded plant in Mexico.

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