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“Sanders Still Threatening A Floor Fight”: An Honest Discussion About Free Trade Is Not Likely In This Election

The DNC’s Platform Committee completed work last weekend on a draft document that will be discussed at a meeting in Orlando prior to being taken up at the Convention. According to reports, they reached a lot of important compromises, especially on the issue of Wall Street reforms.

But Nicole Gaudiano writes that Bernie Sanders is still threatening a floor fight over the platform if he doesn’t get further concessions. His primary target is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Most important to Sanders, he said, is that the platform opposes a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact he says would have “disastrous” consequences for U.S. workers and the environment. Clinton’s supporters on the drafting committee rejected such an amendment by one of Sanders supporters last weekend.

…Sanders said “we want to see the TPP killed” and the amendment should have won overwhelmingly, but he said Clinton’s representatives worried they would “embarrass” President Obama, who has pushed for the TPP.

“Well, I don’t want to embarrass the president either. He’s a friend,” Sanders said. “But in a Democratic society, people can have disagreements.”

While it’s true that President Obama isn’t wavering in his support of TPP and a plank opposing it in his own party’s platform would be unprecedented, to hear Sanders talk, you would assume that all Democrats except the President oppose the deal. That is not true. As I wrote over a year ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which is dominated by Democratic mayors) endorsed TPP. Ron Brownstein more recently reported on why that support from our major metropolitan areas is unwavering. Moreover, a few months ago, Max Ehrenfreund summarized polls showing that the American public in general has mixed feelings about free trade.

To the extent that Sanders wants to make this all about “Clinton’s representatives” or protecting President Obama from embarrassment, he is simply ignoring the position of Democrats from all over the country. Contrary to what many would have us believe, there is not a consensus position on free trade within the Democratic Party. That probably explains why the platform committee settled on language “that said ‘there are a diversity of views in the party’ on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal ‘must protect workers and the environment.’”

In this election, the American public is not getting an honest discussion about free trade. We all know that Donald Trump is demagoguing the issue, Bernie Sanders is simply saying “no” while exploiting the fears that were stirred up by NAFTA and Hillary Clinton is dodging the issue. In other words, the opponents are yelling so loud that no one else is even trying to speak up.

As someone who recognizes that trade is necessary and that agreements are a way to protect not only our economy/environment but have played a vital role in lifting people out of extreme poverty around the globe, this is an unacceptable situation. Discussing trade agreements raises hard issues that are likely to lead to both payoffs and sacrifices. One has to wonder if the American public is capable of having a discussion like that right now. In an election year, I guess not.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 - Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , ,

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