“No TPP!” has been a popular slogan, in chants and printed signs, at the Democratic National Convention because of broad opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that is heavily favored by President Barack Obama — and also heavily opposed by primary loser Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The opposition to the TPP is a “reminder of how difficult it will be for Obama to win congressional ratification of the trade deal before he leaves office in January 2017,” says Bloomberg News.
Some speakers, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), had difficulty speaking over the “No TPP!” chanting from the crowd:
In theory, Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine, both changed their minds on TPP, which Clinton once hailed as the “gold standard” of trade deals, and pushed as hard as she’s ever pushed anything.
Bernie Sanders forced her to change her position, and his voters are most likely correct to be concerned she might change her mind again, if she prevails against Donald Trump, who also strongly opposes the deal.
Trump, in fact, has explicitly accused Clinton of offering sham opposition to the TPP, which she intends to abandon, at her earliest convenience. “Hillary Clinton was totally for the TPP just a short while ago, but when she saw my stance, which is totally against, she was shamed into saying she would be against it too. But have no doubt, she will immediately approve it if it is put before her, guaranteed. She will do this just as she has betrayed American workers for Wall Street throughout her career,” he said in June.
Sanders tried to write opposition to the TPP into the Democratic platform, but was unsuccessful, which his supporters take as evidence Clinton’s opposition to TPP is a scam, given her control over the platform.
Trump, on the other hand, got TPP out of the Republican platform altogether, even though most of the party supported it. Fervent opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership should have no illusions about which of the two major-party candidates seriously opposes the deal.
The question of the hour, for political strategists, is just how serious the anti-TPP elements at the Democratic National Convention are. If it really is a major issue for them, Trump has a shot at winning them away; if it’s just a convenient means of expressing general support for Sanders or disdain for Clinton, not so much.
CNN observed the “No TPP!” chant emerging from some fired-up attendees at the convention, where Sanders voters yelled “NO!” in response to appeals for party unity and promises they would “always have a voice in the Clinton Administration.”
However, these folks seemed primarily animated by their anger at Sanders being mistreated by the DNC – “the lying, the sabotage of Sanders’ campaign, and questions about the integrity of the voting,” as one of them put it, after removing the strip of tape over her mouth. The acid test of their opposition to TPP will come when Sanders tells them to vote for Clinton, even though he knows she isn’t really opposed to the deal.
Will they take Sanders effectively caving on TPP as a betrayal that makes them angry enough at him to think about voting Trump? It seems noteworthy that left-wing darling Senator Elizabeth Warren, who opposes TPP, and even Sanders himself, have been subjected to TPP chants by their audiences. Sanders responded by ad-libbing a promise to “make sure that TPP does not get to the floor of the Congress in the lame-duck session,” which says absolutely nothing about what happens once President Hillary Clinton no longer feels obliged to pretend she opposes it.
TheStreet finds opposition to TPP is a “rallying point for many at the DNC,” festooning the convention area with “No TPP” and “Stop TPP” signs and pins.
“TPP gives away too much. The free trade agreements that America has negotiated have given away too much – labor unions across the board are generally against TPP, it’s bad for labor,” declared one of the fabled Democrat super-delegates, Chad Nodland of North Dakota, described by TheStreet as one of the few super-delegates to support Sanders.
An even more interesting comment comes from Sanders-supporting delegate Mark Lasser of Denver, who proclaims support for “actual free-market economics in that Adam Smith kind of way,” which means he would be very shocked and dismayed to find himself living under the system Bernie Sanders prefers.
In any event, Lasser opposed TPP because “everybody has to have the same information going to the market and be operating on a level playing field,” which doesn’t happen when some governments disrupt the “supply and demand equilibrium” with subsidized industries and other scale-tilting trade practices.
Other delegates interviewed by TheStreet declared opposition to TPP on environmentalist grounds – i.e. “it’s very friendly to the fossil fuel industry,” or would empower corporate interests to “remove environmental achievements and force democratic governments to pay for the insistence or for the profits lost as a result of environmental regulation.” The latter complaint came from a guy in a Robin Hood hat, who really ought to have a long chat with the Adam Smith-loving Sanders delegate, and upload the video to YouTube.
There’s an obvious class conflict at work here, as blue collar workers realize the elitist, redistributionist Democrat Party has little to offer them beyond a bit of lip service, and maybe some food stamps, when hyper-regulation chokes out the industry they work for. Internationalism of the rotten-trade-deal variety is a leading indicator of that discontent, because it involves heated opposition to faceless multi-national corporate interests, without risking the charges of xenophobia that await critics of open-borders immigration policy.
There’s also a deeper conflict between old-fashioned “tax and spend” liberals, and the model of punitive liberalism favored by leaders like Barack Obama, who once declared he supported higher capital gains tax rates even though he knew they brought in less government revenue, because he thought it was important to punish the rich in the name of “fairness.”
The tax-and-spend liberal has some interest in keeping the economy humming at a brisk clip, so there will be more commerce for him to tax for social purposes. Some liberals think it’s important not to kill the goose who lays the golden eggs, while others think that goose needs a good, hard whipping for her sins, no matter what that does to the quality of her eggs.
Is there room in 2016 for a realignment of traditionally Left-leaning voters who are concerned about elitism, globalism, economic stagnation, national security, and the all-encompassing corruption represented by Hillary Clinton? TPP may well be the doorway through which such a movement occurs, if its opponents at the Democratic National Convention are ready to do more than chant slogans and wave signs.