Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A day after filibuster on TPP, Senate Dems fold like a cheap card table *Updated*

That post I wrote this morning?  Yeah, nemmind about that.

Less than a day after blocking the Obama administration's path to a secretive trade deal, Senate Democrats have accepted an offer put forth by Republicans. The Democrats, led by Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, came to accept the deal after personal lobbying from President Obama.

Some Democrats believed that a package of four trade bills would move along together, thus ensuring that Obama couldn't obtain fast-track authority without enforcement measures, but they ended up backing down on this as well. A Huffington Post story quotes Senator Sherrod Brown justifying the decision: "I understand that all four aren't going to be together exactly the way I want it, I understand that, but I can read votes. I also think that nobody saw us being successful yesterday three days out. And people have strong feelings about the customs enforcement and people have strong feelings about taking care of workers."

The new deal would allow the administration to begin negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal which has been criticized by labor unions and environmental activists. The economist Joseph Stiglitz recently wrote that, "These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions."

Gadfly also takes them apart over it.  Looks like we're back to being "sanctimonious purists".  I'm more convinced every day that we don't have the best government money can buy, we have the absolute worst.  And I would simply ask, since somebody else already mentioned that TPP is about the next president and not just this one: how is Hillary Clinton going to be any better on it for anybody on the left side of the Democratic party?

Update:  This.

The way Clinton and her advisers are thinking about this, apparently, is that there’s nothing forcing her to take a controversial stand, on trade or anything else. As long as no one who appears to be an overly serious threat is competing for support among the party’s various factions, then there’s no percentage in volunteering opinions that will inevitably create some ill will and give the media some conflict to write about. 

So instead, she goes around telling Democratic audiences that she’d do even more for immigrants than Obama has, or that she supports alternative sentencing for drug crimes. This is like telling Republicans you believe in God. 

But in fact, the Clinton people have the whole thing backward. This glide path toward the nomination that they assume they’re on isn’t an opportunity to hide from controversy; it’s an opportunity to show you can lead, clearly and thoughtfully. And that’s because, even if you get through the primaries unscathed, you’re going to have to confront your biggest vulnerability among general-election voters, which is this idea that Clinton does only what’s expedient.  


Clinton’s patronizing evasion on the trade deal, on the other hand, reinforces that impression. And if she waits until the summer of 2016 to actually choose sides on anything contentious, it may well be too late to turn that perception around. Remember that Clinton is trying to win a third term for her party, which is an exceptionally difficult task under any circumstances. 

There was an irony this week in watching Obama and Clinton, once again the two-headed hydra of Democratic politics, navigating their way through a decision point for their party. When it came to trade, he was direct, genuine and competitive. She was cautious, noncommittal, playing not to lose. 

That was precisely the contrast between them in 2008, and it didn’t work out for Clinton then. That Obama isn’t running against her doesn’t mean it will ultimately work out better this time.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is why I stopped calling myself a Democrat years ago: It seems like the parties will argue over abortion and guns, but when it counts - when it's something that involves corporate power - they are guaranteed to wind up siding with the transnationals every single time.

It's something Chomsky has noted time and time again: There can be lively debate along a fairly narrow spectrum in our system.

But you start talking about corporate personhood or about how these trade deals create an unelected and unaccountable private world government (and if you look at the trade courts, they DO) and you will be labeled a fringe nut.