Bernie’s Near-Upset in WI Straw Poll May Indicate Big Labor Souring on Hillary Because of Obamatrade Waffling

Bernie Sanders
AP Photos

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) nearly defeated Hillary Clinton in a straw poll at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention this weekend, and it could be a sign that Big Labor is still not ready for Hillary because of her waffling on Obamatrade.

Clinton failed to get a majority of the vote, reportedly garnering 49 percent of the vote while Sanders receiving 41 percent. According to Politico, Sanders received the support of 208 of 511 delegates; 252 delegates voted for Clinton.

Vice President Joe Biden and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who announced his candidacy last month, received three percent each. Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb reportedly received two percent of the vote while former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee got one percent.

Democrats have flocked to Sanders’s campaign events in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent weeks, and this weekend’s results may be a sign that Sanders is getting momentum with organized labor, which dominates such straw polls and has spent millions in recent years trying to defeat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his reforms.

Sanders, who has said the United States should be more like socialist European nations, is trying to win the support of left-wing Democrats who are yearning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to run against Clinton. Warren, who finished second at last year’s straw poll, has repeatedly said she will not run. Sanders has railed against income inequality, billionaires, and the political establishment, which Clinton personifies, during his campaign. But he has specifically called out Clinton for not taking a stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which Warren and Big Labor have fiercely opposed.

“Hillary Clinton can be for the trade agreement — the president is. She can be against the trade agreement — I am, Elizabeth Warren is, many of us are. I just don’t know how you don’t have an opinion on this enormously important issue, which is her view,” Sanders said in New Hampshire after his campaign’s kickoff event late last month.

Though Clinton campaign officials have said she is still deciding whether to support Obamatrade, Clinton, whose husband ushered in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) once called the TPP the “gold standard in trade agreements.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who once said that Warren is the “prototype” of the type of candidate that Big Labor would want, recently said that Clinton will have to take a position on Obamatrade and predicted that “she won’t be able to go through a campaign without answering that and people will take it seriously and it will affect whether they vote for her or don’t vote for her.” Trumka also added last month that it was “conceivable” that Big Labor would not endorse a candidate and, in a reference to Clinton, blasted candidates who are too eager to hedge their bets.

“We call on all of America’s working men and women—Democrat and Republican, white collar, blue collar and no collar—to join us in supporting the candidate who can and will deliver on the American Promise. That is the standard. We will not settle for less,” Trumka recently said. “That also means no candidate can be all things to all people and still meet this standard. Standing with working people once in a while won’t work. Candidates can’t hedge bets any longer. “

Clinton, whom the left has never trusted because of her ties to Wall Street and cronyism, vote for the Iraq War, and husband’s politics of triangulation, has swerved to the left on a host of issues like income inequality, gay marriage, and amnesty to win the support of left-wing activists who shunned her in 2008 when then-Sen. Barack Obama defeated her for the party’s presidential nomination. This weekend, Clinton again courted Big Labor, calling for a $15 minimum wage, supporting the “Fight for 15 movement,” which is also seeking to unionize fast food companies like McDonald’s, and demanding more collective bargaining rights for workers.

But her trying to have it both ways on Obamatrade may be reminding Big Labor and left-wing activists why they never were enthusiastic about her candidacy in the first place and whether she actually stands for anything besides doing and saying whatever it takes to get elected.