Democratic Elites Don’t Want to Hear It, But "Hillary Clinton’s In Trouble"
The famous "Yes We Can" theme, just before its conversion to "No I Won't." Why is this painful to watch? Six years of broken promises and a party-wide TPP cave by its leaders have rebranded Democrats for a generation.
by Gaius Publius
TPP and Fast Track may be closing down the show and heading home. We may (or may not) know its fate very soon. Rather than make a prediction, though — I have one, in case you're wondering, and my Twitter followers have heard it — let's go broader this time.
Ever since Bill Clinton, Al From and the DLC remade the Democratic Party into the "other party of money," there's been a train wreck just waiting to happen. It's taken a long time for voters, the people who keep Democrats in elected office, to start to figure out the betrayal that always awaits them. I think the 2008 burst of "Yes We Can" enthusiasm — genuine, heartfelt, a true Children's Crusade of newfound innocence — was that last golden opportunity for the Party to rescue itself from the grip of leaders who only pretend to have its voters' interests at heart. Yes, they care about some issues, but even then, only when forced, and only when the polls are running in their favor.
That "Children's Crusade of newfound innocence" I mentioned was not the innocence of children who believe that impossible unicorns exist. It's the adult suspension of belief that all Democrats would ultimately sell them out; it's one last hope (to coin a phrase) that at least one Democratic leader would actually act in their interests, just this once.
But Nancy Pelosi's 2006 "impeachment is off the table" was a harbinger. Then came Candidate Obama's 2008 betrayal of his FISA promise; his appointment of Robert Rubin–Wall Street regulars to his cabinet; his calculated and deliberate sellout of the ACA public option, using his friends in the Senate to screw his enemies in the House, meaning progressives; his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's contempt for those same progressives — and we're not even out of year one.
And now, TPP, the largest "trade" deal in a generation, the "largest in the history of commerce" as one writer put it — and the leaders of the Democratic Party, even Nancy Pelosi, are dialing for donor dollars while dancing to fool the base.
So you see what I mean by "going broader." This moment connects not just to the Fast Track votes, the TPP votes (if they come), the TISA votes (which, if they come, will change labor and wages in this country forever). It connects to the Democratic Party "brand," to the 2016 races (all up and down the ticket) and ... Hillary Clinton.
There's no better person to help us along than Bill Curry, writing at Salon. Trade and TPP is not his starting point, but it can be ours. Curry writes (my emphasis throughout):
Politicians have always ducked tough issues, but today’s Democrats are the worst. When the TPP came before the House, enough Democrats played it cute to leave the outcome in doubt till the very end. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t tip her hand until just before the vote. Many who voted no never said exactly why. Some want to curb currency manipulation. Some oppose the fast track process, others the secret tribunals or the intellectual property rules that actually restrain competition. If the caucus as a whole has a bottom line, no one knows what it is.But the Senate passed a united bill that yoked Fast Track and Trade Assistance (TPA + TAA) as a single bill; the House split the bills and passed only half, resulting in temporary defeat for the pro-corporatists.
The TPP is a mystery because our leaders wish it so. We don’t know what’s in it because our president won’t let us read it, and not out of respect for precedent or protocol. George W. Bush showed us drafts of his trade agreements. We’re negotiating one right now with Europe, and Europeans get to read those drafts. If a comma gets cut from the TPP, hundreds of corporate lobbyists know in an instant. The only people who don’t know are the American people — and that’s only because our president thinks our knowing would ruin everything.
The process by which Congress considers the TPP is confusing in itself. The pact is still being negotiated by the 12 nations who’d be parties to it. The fight now is over legislation meant to grease the skids for it when it finally arrives. At issue are trade promotion authority or TPA — the ‘fast track’ by which Congress vows not to amend or filibuster a trade agreement it hasn’t even read – and trade adjustment assistance or TAA, which gives benefits (money, health insurance, job training) to workers who can prove to the federal government that they lost their jobs due to trade. Signed into law by John Kennedy, expanded by Bill Clinton and extended by George W. Bush, the half-century old program is set to expire in September. The bills now before Congress would keep it alive another six years.
The press called the June 12 votes a huge win for labor and a “humiliating defeat” (the Washington Post) for Obama. Reading such stories one might think fast track or even the TPP itself had suffered a crushing blow. Some on the left even called it historic. ...Democrats just "did what they always do" — they attempted the right thing, then surrendered to party leadership. Which brings us to the party split, a chasm really, and open rebellion, this time by the voters.
[But] I wouldn’t pop any corks quite yet. For the first time ever Congress hit the pause button on globalization, but that’s all it did. House Dems didn’t suddenly lurch left; they just did what they always do. In 1993 they voted no on NAFTA. In 2002 they voted against the Iraq War. In 2010 they passed an Obamacare bill with a public option. But they can’t ignore their president or their donors forever. In 2008 they resisted Bush’s bailout but finally gave in to Obama and Wall Street. Republicans held firm, thus setting in motion the Tea Party and the sad, sorry debacle of 2010.
On Thursday the Republicans did what any fool could have predicted: they passed a new rule and sent the TPA to the Senate sans worker assistance. We don’t know what will happen next, but we do know fast track has already passed both houses of Congress once. In the end, Obama, Boehner, McConnell and their global capital partners will likely get their way, but June 12 may yet prove historic.
The Peasants Are Rebelling and the Leaders Aren't Listening
Curry on how all this plays with the base:
Krugman’s right: there’s a rumbling out there, but most Democrats are a long way from hearing it, let alone joining in. If House Dems stand firm, they too may plant the seeds of a grass-roots movement. Much of their party will resist. Every political party is really many parties. The Democrats’ presidential, Senate, governors’ and donors’ parties all line up with global capital. Even in the House, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is a staunch ‘free trader’ and Pelosi herself spent the week before the vote quietly imploring her caucus to swallow the poison pill.As a party, the Democrats are obviously lost, and their leaders are swimming in donor-funded obfuscation:
No one knows where scores of Democrats really stand. Both parties are caught in a crossfire between their donors and their base. Republican voters are suspicious of the TPP and hate fast track, mostly because they hate Obama. Democratic voters hate fast track but accept the TPP, mostly because they love Obama. Republicans in Congress are civil because they can’t bash Democrats for doing what their base wishes they would do. Democrats in Congress are quiet because they don’t want their donors to think they mean what they say — and don’t know when someone may offer them something to take one for the team by switching sides.
This week I told two liberal friends that Pelosi is trying to find “a path to yes on fast track.” (Her words) Both said Pelosi and Clinton had broken with Obama, are moving left and now oppose the deal. In terms of strategy and message it was true — all except the part about Clinton and Pelosi opposing the deal.There's much about Clinton and Pelosi pretending to care about workers, when all they want is for the deal to be done without their fingerprints on it. That obviously applies to Pelosi. Curry says that's equally true of Clinton.
Clinton Is Trying to Run Obama-2008
In a fine catch, Curry says this:
Clinton’s trade talk is of a piece with her entire 2016 campaign. It’s also of a piece with Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Clinton insiders make no secret of her desire to emulate him. Obama’s 2008 campaign had three hallmarks. One was its fundraising. Obama was the first Democratic presidential campaign to outraise a Republican on Wall Street and the first of either party to crack the code of Internet fundraising. The second was its massive, web-driven, volunteer effort, probably the biggest of any presidential campaign in history.For Curry, that won't work twice. He makes a fine case, but the reasoning is obvious as well. Can she make a Larry Summers, say, her Secretary of Treasury and claim the Piketty mantle of "Yes I Care" about wealth and inequality? Obviously not.
The third was its message, at once fiercely populist and reassuringly centrist — and vague. Much of it came from chief strategist David Axelrod who opined that for too long Democrats had been mired down in issues. His campaigns were famous for selling personalities rather than platforms, for finding ways to reconcile our conflicts in the biographies of his candidates. It worked for Obama. “Yes we can,” audiences called out. “Do what?” few bothered to ask, or thought they had to.
Hillary Clinton "Is in Trouble"
Which brings us to 2016 and the Democratic candidate for president:
Democratic elites don’t want to hear it but Hillary Clinton’s in trouble. It isn’t in all the data yet though you can find it if you look. In a straw poll taken in early June at a Wisconsin Democratic convention she edged out Bernie Sanders by just 8 points, 49% to 41%. In a poll of N.H. primary voters this week she beat Sanders by 41% to 31%. An Ohio poll had her in a dead heat with the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. If Sanders can poll 40% in a Wisconsin straw poll in June he can do it [in] an Iowa caucus in January. Imagine a Hillary Clinton who just lost Iowa and New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. It’s still hard to picture but it gets easier every day.Which brings me back to my point — this is the most important election in a generation, 1968-important in its possibilities. One battle at a time, starting with the Democratic primary. Yes We Can put a real progressive in the White House, if one will run. Sanders is running. And if he gets the big chair, he won't be Mr. "No I Won't" but Mr. "You Bet I Will."