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A warning to Democrats: Small business owners are getting angry — very angry

A warning to Democrats: Small business owners are getting angry — very angry
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Marc Vetri is a very popular restauranteur in my home city of Philadelphia. Earlier this week he posted a picture on Instagram of our Democratic mayor, Jim Kenney, eating inside a Maryland restaurant. The photo went viral.

"Hi @phillymayor !!!," he wrote. “Glad you’re enjoying indoor dining with no social distancing or mask wearing in Maryland tonight while restaurants here in Philly close, suffer and fight for every nickel just to survive. I guess all your press briefings and your narrative of unsafe indoor dining don’t apply to you. Thank you for clearing it all up for us tonight.”

The mayor had his explanations, but that didn’t seem to matter much. I don't know if Vetri is a Democrat or Republican. But one thing’s for sure: He's starting to get angry. Really angry. And can you blame him? His two restaurants in the city (which are excellent, by the way) have been shut to indoor diners since mid-March and, like many business owners, his frustration is boiling over.

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Sure, Philly restaurants will be allowed to open at 25 percent capacity next week. But many owners in the city think that's not enough. “Twenty-five percent, which is really 20 percent with the spacing, makes things less terrible, but it’s still not good,” one owner told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Others agreed. More than a few local restauranteurs said that “it’s not worth it.”

Watch out, Democrats. This is a warning to you.

It’s not just the small business owners in Philadelphia who are fed up. Gyms across the country are re-opening in defiance of state rules. Desperate bar owners down the Jersey shore, in Chicago and Hawaii are letting customers ignore social distancing and mask-wearing in the hopes of salvaging their ruined summers. Small business owners in North Carolina, Colorado and California are loudly complaining that the economic shutdowns and what they believe are excessive government restrictions are killing their livelihoods. 

And all of this comes amid a significant retreat of the virus.

“We hate to be the bearer of good news,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized on Tuesday, “but here goes: The so-called second virus wave is receding and has been far less deadly than the first in the spring thanks to better therapies and government preparation. Nobody is suggesting we should now let it rip, but the progress should give Americans more confidence that schools and businesses can reopen safely.”

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According to the Journal report, the seven-day rolling average of new cases “has fallen by about 40% from its peak on July 25.” Hospitalizations and deaths are significantly down, doctors have come up with better ways of treating patients, new and quicker tests are coming soon and “the best news is that the virus is killing fewer Americans than it did during the spring.”

Sounds like good news, right? Unfortunately, not for the Democrats, and I hope Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Brad Pitt narrates Biden ad airing during World Series MORE and his team are paying attention. 

That's because, of course, the pandemic, like all other things, has become politicized. The people on the left are demanding continuing restrictions to “save lives.” The people on the right want fewer restrictions to “save the economy.” If you disagree with one side, you're a Trump-supporting-ignorant-racist. If you support the other side, you're anti-American. But as the numbers continue to get better, the Democrats continue to look worse, especially in the eyes of the small business voter. And those voters are getting angry.

It's Biden who said that as president he'll “listen to the scientists” even if that means crushing the economy...again. It's the teacher unions that argue to keep their members at home while small businesses must pay the wages of their employees who can't come to work under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. It's the large corporations that are terrified of sending their employees back to the office or to travel because the Democrats are opposing the Senate Republicans’ proposals to limit business liabilities related to the pandemic and therefore killing all those retailers and conferences that rely on their employees’ foot traffic. There's House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (D-Calif.)  getting her hair cut allegedly in defiance of San Francisco's rules. And there’s the mayor of Philadelphia eating inside a Maryland restaurant when his city’s restaurants are not allowed to do so.

And then there's Trump, visiting Kenosha and promising support to the small business owners whose locations were destroyed in the riots there. While Biden and the Democrats of Portland, Seattle and Chicago take the side of the protestors – even if there's violence –  Trump talks about “law and order,” supporting the police and protecting property. Most small business owners are behind the Black Lives Matters movement. But none I know support vandalism, looting and destruction. Meanwhile, Joe Biden and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump knocks idea of a 'female socialist president' Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Watch live: Biden participates in HBCU homecoming MORE are either wearing giant masks when it’s not necessary or sitting down across from each other to pat themselves on the back about how they’re conducting a “socially distanced conversation” as if the rest of us are morons and should be congratulating them on how woke they are. 

Small business owners aren’t buying this. And unfortunately, their customers aren’t buying their products and services. They just want the economy to re-open.

They don’t want politicians lecturing them about wearing masks and being healthy. They know this. Most of them know how important it is to operate their business safely for both customers and employees. But now they’re beginning to believe that Biden and the Democrats actually want the virus to continue and the economy to sputter until the election, when he can ride in and save the day. I hear this from many of my clients, some of whom are not Trump supporters. Some of them even tell me that they may be willing to put up with all of Trump's ridiculousness if that's what it takes to get their businesses back in business.

I'm hoping that Biden and the Democrats understand this. Because while he's wearing a ridiculously oversized mask in his own basement like he’s judging us, while Democrats like Jim Kenney and Nancy Pelosi are ignoring the rules they've established, while restrictions continue even as the virus recedes, it's the small business owner like Marc Vetri who is caught in the middle. 

He’s getting angry. They’re getting angry. Very angry.

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.