The Trade Gambit and Why It Could Cost Us the Election

I have been insisting for a year Hillary Clinton will be easier to beat in November than Bernie Sanders would have been, for several reasons. No matter how many times investigations successfully discredit right-wing hit jobs against the Clintons, like the latest from the indefatigable Benghazi select committee, Republicans just won’t stop trotting out the same fictional talking points.

This poisoning of the well has permeated into Progressive circles, however. It’s no surprise Bernie Sanders supporters don’t support Clinton, but the level of “hatred” for Clinton is significant, justified or not. This disdain lingers, and since it is affecting Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike, Hillary Clinton’s reputation as a “liar” will be one of her most onerous obstacles come fall when she steps on stage to debate Donald Trump and his incalculable prevarications.

In addition, people admire Bernie, his policies, and his ability to challenge the political status quo Clinton represents. This is true even among Republicans who have worked with Bernie in the House and Senate, and who have stated they would vote for him if he secured the nomination. I’m not a Vermonter, but I know some, and having followed Bernie the past several years, I know even the most conservative of the Green Mountain State’s voters “feel the Bern”.

That being said, primary season is over, and Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. It’s been a long fight, and Bernie refuses to concede until the convention to keep pressure on Clinton and the DNC machine to do right by the throngs of Progressives who finally have a voice. One of the most significant issues Sanders raises, and one ironically where he and Trump intersect, concerns our disastrous trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.

I’m not alone in believing Trump is completely disingenuous on this; Bernie, however, has been consistent on it for the past twenty-five years. It’s one of the qualities that has made the Sanders campaign so successful. It was able to pivot Secretary Clinton from a supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Keystone XL pipeline to a vocal opponent of them. And it is because of this the Hillary Clinton campaign hangs in the balance if it does not maintain that opposition.

The majority of Trump voters are angry, disaffected, blue-collar workers whom our trade policies have hit the hardest. Bernie supporters, although far more affable, definitely fit the same demographic. Trade is a big deal because we can’t start getting significant numbers of the workforce back in factories that shipped operations overseas until we stop giving those factories incentives for doing so. This is a major reason Bernie swept the “rust belt” this spring. If Clinton wants to beat Trump, she needs to eschew these trade deals.

So, one would reasonably believe the issue of trade, specifically the Trans-Pacific Partnership, would be included in DNC platform negotiations, right? Well…not exactly. According to the Daily Kos, “Members of the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Committee voted against an amendment that would have unequivocally stated the Democratic Party’s opposition to the TPP,” arguing it would be “disloyal” to President Obama.

Okay, wait a minute. They voted against one of the most consequential issues this primary season, one on which voters both on the right and left agree, because it would be disloyal to a President not running for re-election. Hillary Clinton has defended inquiries about her presidency being just a continuation of Obama’s with a resounding “no.”

Granted, Obama’s presidency has been a success, and if given the option to vote for him again, many say they would. However, Obama’s dithering on trade has been a disappointing quality of his overall accomplished tenure. Perhaps if he were permitted a third term he would be amenable, as he has been on other concerns, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, gay marriage, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. This is impossible though.

If there is one issue the Sanders campaign raised the Democratic Party should accept, it is this. Even though Clinton stated during a PBS Newshour interview, “TPP could end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years”, the very fact that the democratic party establishment isn’t taking that stance is another reason to question Clinton’s sincerity, and she’s already got that problem. This election is not in the bag for Hillary Clinton. Not even remotely. Standing in favor of trade policies that have obviously decimated the middle class is myopic. If we’re to win this, we need to listen to the people.

Democracy for America has started a petition to urge the Democratic Party Platform Committee to adopt an anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership amendment on July 8, this Friday, in Orlando. I urge all to sign it.

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