Thursday, December 12, 2019

In the Shadow of Impeachment, Neoliberal Democrats Hand Trump a Victory


Donald Trump discussing the new NAFTA trade deal (source)

by Thomas Neuburger

If Trump gets re-elected, if Big Tech continues to evade accountability, if imperial adventures continue abroad, if migrant farmworkers cannot feed their families, you can trace it back to this Tuesday, and the actions a House Speaker took while nobody was paying attention.
—David Dayen, The American Prospect (emphasis added)

As the Impeachment Drama lumbers to a 2020 conclusion, morphing into its variant selves and sucking life from every other story the media most folks attend to are inclined to tell, unwatched things are happening in its shadow.

Nancy Pelosi has used end-of-year urgency and the impeachment distraction to pass four pieces of major legislation, three of which will become law, all on the same day.

NAFTA 2.0 is one of them. Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, agreed under pressure to approve Pelosi's House version of NAFTA 2.0, rebranded "USMCA," or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, for obvious reasons. This is a deal he should never have made, yet he made it.

Consider who Trumka is — a bridge between the neoliberal mainstream of the Democratic Party and the (presumably further left) labor movement that supports and sustains it. In other words, he's the person who blesses neoliberal policies as "progressive" (thus retaining mainstream Democratic Party approval) while modifying those policies in the margins to be less terrible (thus retaining the approval of progressives, who want to think of him as opposed to neoliberalist policies).

He's the person, in other words, who makes the labor movement look less like a puppy of the Democratic Party establishment to progressives, while keeping the labor movement (and himself) firmly in the Party establishment tent. The drama of "Will Trumka approve USMCA?" we recently witnessed exemplified this role.

To anyone with two cells in their brain, it was obvious as soon as the question was asked that he would approve USMCA. The stage was set; his arrival on it announced; the spotlight was ready and bright. Would he really walk onto this stage at this late date and say no to Party leaders? Of course not.

Would he have been able to stay in his lofty perch if he had? His job was to bless the cake after it had been baked, not to unbake it.

What pressure was Trumka under? First, obviously, from the Democratic Party and its billionaire donors, to give them what they and the Republicans — and Donald Trump — all wanted, a neoliberal-lite trade deal that could become in Nancy Pelosi's words "a template for future trade agreements ... a good template."

Second, Trumka was under pressure from his union base itself (so say some, including David Dayen in the piece linked below), many of whom are Trump supporters, to give President Trump a signature first-term victory, just in time for the start of his second-term campaign.

Do I believe this latter explanation? No, but I believe Trumka believes it. And if indeed it is true that Trumka has to serve Trump, at least in part, in order to serve his own base, it's further evidence of the careerism of his actions, in contrast to behavior from actual labor-movement principles.

Here's Dayen on this sordid tale (emphasis added):
Pelosi got AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka to sign off on the U.S.–Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), handing Trump a political victory on one of his signature issues. Predictably, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham immediately gushed, calling USMCA “the biggest and best trade agreement in the history of the world.”

It’s, um, not that. Economically, USMCA is a nothingburger; even the most rose-colored analysis with doubtful assumptions built in shows GDP growth of only 0.06 percent per year. There’s one good provision: the elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision that allowed corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals over trade violations. There’s one bad provision: the extension of legal immunity for tech platforms over user-generated content, put into a trade deal for the first time. This will make the immunity shield, codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, much harder to alter in the future. Pelosi has called this deal a “template” for future agreements, though trade reformers have called it a bare minimum floor.

Pelosi tried to remove the immunity shield, but abandoned the request. She did succeed in removing a provision for Big Pharma that extended exclusivity periods for biologics. The Sierra Club has termed the deal an “environmental failure” that will not have binding standards on clean air and water or climate goals. But the threshold question on the USMCA was always going to be labor enforcement: would the labor laws imposed on Mexico hold, improving their lot while giving U.S. manufacturing workers a chance to compete? There was also the open question of why the U.S. would reward Mexico with a trade deal update when trade unionists in the country continue to be kidnapped and killed.

In his statement, Trumka lauds the labor enforcement, noting provisions that make it easier to prove violations (including violence against workers), rules of evidence for disputes, and inspections of Mexican facilities, a key win. But I’ve been told that the AFL-CIO did not see the details of the text before signing off, which is unforgivable, especially on trade where details matter. There was no vote by union leaders, just a briefing from the AFL-CIO.

At least one union, the Machinists, remains opposed, and others were noncommittal until they see text. The Economic Policy Institute, which is strongly tied to labor, called the agreement “weak tea at best,” a tiny advance on the status quo that will not reverse decades of outsourcing of U.S. jobs.
Meanwhile, back at the Trump re-election ranch:
While the economics are negligible (and potentially harmful on tech policy), on the politics activists are losing their mind at the prospect of a Trump signing ceremony, with labor by his side, on a deal that he will construe as keeping promises to Midwest voters. “Any corporate Democrat who pushed to get this agreement passed that thinks Donald Trump is going to share the credit for those improvements is dangerously gullible,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, in a statement. Only a small handful of Democratic centrists were pushing for a USMCA vote, based mostly on the idea that they had to “do something” to show that they could get things done in Congress. Now they’ve got it, and they’ll have to live with the consequences.
I guess helping re-elect the "most dangerous president ever" pales in comparison to passing bipartisan-approved neoliberal trade deals.

One of Richard Trumka's jobs, if he wants to stay employed, is to make sure neoliberal Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi are happy and well served while simultaneously keeping progressives thinking that Big Labor is still in their corner even on issues the donor class most cares about.

At that he does very well, and did so here.

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At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just one more reason why the Democrats really don't deserve the support they demand from the voters. All the party will do in return is spit in our faces as they have just done - AGAIN!

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

Dear Anonymous:

There are more than two parties in America. Stop enabling the left wing of the duopoly. (Oh, to have multiparty parliamentary government in America. Or even the abolishment of the electoral college by constitutional amendment — the only way of getting rid of it.)

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Did you actually read his comment? It's pretty actively AGAINST the (sorta) left side of our duopoly.


I would disagree with "demand". Sure, they'll make the "Trump's the worst! You must vote for us! Your life depends on it!" argument in 2020, but I imagine 100 million folks (more or less) will take a pass on both parties, as usual. Unless a "demand" is backed up with a gun, it's not worth all that much.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never said the demand was met, 11:58, just that the Party makes lots of statements. All of these utterances assert that they deserve our votes because they are less bad than the Republicans, and remind us "where else are we going to go?".

Add in their active attacks on progressives (Sanders and Warren*) and anti-war advocates (Gabbard and Williamson) and their ridiculous and increasingly variable rules regarding eligibility for the debates and the primaries, and if ONLY 100 million decide to sit this one out, I will be amazed. The Democrats just can't win an election which Trump is doing his damndest to lose.

*Honorary on a temporary basis. She's doing her best to remove herself from that list.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the strange and self-defeating constraints on the articles, the comedy of which was played out today in committee, one might wonder if Pelosi only allowed this mini-charade in order to sneak in this and other (fake) efforts.

this nafta 2.0 is going to pass and be signed, thus giving trump the 2020 election by a landslide. The rest are meant only to pander to her base as she prays that they show up and waste another cycle of votes on a corrupt neoliberal fascist party.

2 more years of raking corporate donations and dark billions to their xPACs. Then Pelosi can retire and swim in all her money.

And I would point out to Gadfly that there are only 2 parties in power. The rest are irrelevant because all voters (that participate) only see those 2.
This fact and the fact that labor will likely just go along with trumka because it's easier than thinking, proves that American voters are just dumber than shit -- generally speaking.
I keep pointing out that if the non-participants all decided to vote and they generally supported, say, the greens and socialists, the democraps would soon join the irrelevant parties and die a death of consumption (an ironic reference to wasting away, but from lack of ongoing bribery) -- see: Whigs.
Also, not that you should worry, there is at least 1 reactionary here who will wish you to commit suicide and GFY for the heresy of suggesting anyone could support other parties. just an fyi. he's typical of americans.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


My two complaints about you:

[1] The generally obnoxious tone you take in ALL your writing undercuts the possibility you could actually convert someone to your side of any issue (I once said you couldn't convince a monkey to eat a banana, and I stick with that) along with (maybe it's really three things?) your weird tendency to conflate any disagreement with you and your style of writing as an attack on ALL your ideas (more like ONE idea, but anyway) which really strikes me as either a sort of intentional obstructionism to avoid facing up to anything you'd rather not acknowledge or an indication that you have some paranoia-related mental issues.

[2] The somewhat wistfully naive belief that the Greens or any other genuinely forward-thinking political party is going to amount to much of anything in this country BEFORE we hit the point where things are actively falling apart and there's a general acknowledgement among the populace (decisively cutting across social strata) that things are really fucking bad. Thanks to the Electoral College and Senate, no REAL Progressive party has a chance to gain serious ground nationally and then, you know, DO STUFF. There are too many whites in the US who get all itchy and bothered by the idea of expanding the safety net because of some weird ideas they hold about "colored people" being likely to somehow abuse any sort of general welfare programs (ok, it's not quite THAT simple but you understand what I mean). And those delightful folks have their fucked-up prejudices enforced by Senate and the Electoral College. Now, you say we need to get rid of those things? How do we do that? Elect the Green Party? Where are we electing them? Do they get a foothold in one or two states first and then we work on others? That's at least a plan, though my suspicion is it wouldn't go too far, as, again, any Progressive party is likely to be locked out of significant portions of the country until things get (sorry for the repetition) REALLY FUCKING BAD. It's possible you think NOT electing Dems now will immediately make things go REALLY FUCKING BAD FAST and THEN we'll be able to move forward with this new Progressive party? Hey, you're entitled to believe that (I heard it with Dubya Bush and then we ended up with Barack Obama, stealth Republican President). But I gotta tell ya, I have a thirty-year old son with brown skin and I'd prefer he not end up dead by lynching (or gas chamber) if the Republicans attain and maintain unfettered control over every aspect of government for the next 20 or 30 years while this big wonderful new progressive party that's gonna rescue us builds up steam.

(1 of 2)

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(2 of 2)

I sometimes feel that online extremists such as yourself tend to advocate unworkable and/or simplistic solutions to problems because they don't bother with externalizing the immediate likelihood of damage being inflicted on others. It's like someone presents you with a choice between getting punched in the face (BAD!) or getting a bucket of flesh-eating acid poured on your head (VERY BAD!) and you say "Sorry, that's no choice - PASS!" without taking a second or two to wonder about who exactly is going to end up on the receiving end of either that punch in the face or headful of flesh-eating acid. If Trump gets re-elected next year, there's a part of you that's going to be absolutely DELIGHTED (c'mon, we both know this is true) - because it'll prove that you're right, which seems to be the most important thing in the world to you anyway. You lack genuine empathy for others despite all the personal outrage you're able to summon if anyone dares to criticize your obnoxiously stated belief system. When you write off anyone who disagrees with you in such strident and dismissive terms you pretty much invite ad hominem attacks. Hell, when people POLITELY disagree with you, you're smarmy and dismissive to them too. Then there's the crazy self-importance. You think you're ENTITLED to talk down to people because of the gravity of the situation? You're posting comments on someone else's blog! Anonymously! Jeez! If you at least had a sense of humor ("Welp, the world's still going to hell in a handcart but here I am posting comments on this goddamned blog again! Am I an idiot, or what?") you wouldn't be asked to go fuck yourself and/or commit suicide. At the very least, you wouldn't get all butthurt (I know I'm too old to use that word, but it just cracks me up) about it. Jeez again. Get over yourself. You're posting comments on a blog, that's all. You're not going to get a Nobel Prize (Obama has one, so they've been permanently devalued anyway) or start a revolution because you contributed your 14,000th anonymous comment excoriating Chuck Schumer for being such a great big douchebag.

I've spent most of my life in bordering-on-poor neighborhoods. I've never seen or heard a mumblin' word from any Socialists or Greens on the streets. Can't remember the last time I heard or saw anything from Republicans, for that matter. Democrats don't spend much time here either - but they do pop by around election time to remind folks to vote for 'em. That may be contemptible, but it works out reasonably well for the Dems. Is anybody forcing the other parties out there to stay away from these neighborhoods? Nope. But don't let that interfere with your little narrative about how stupid everyone is for not doing what you think they should do. Nobody's stopping YOU from getting out there and doing something. You'd reach more people open to new ideas chatting up random strangers in the street than you will here on a relatively obscure blog devoted to the idea that the Democratic Party is a salvageable entity. And guess what else: face-to-face, people are considerably less likely to tell you to go kill/fuck yourself as long as you don't call 'em stupid for not agreeing with you. I know! It's crazy!

You started out as someone I found equally funny and irritating but now you're just boring and I'm sure you feel the same way about me (certainly the "boring" part), so I plan to steer well clear of you from here on in. Please feel free to continue your important mission posting comments here with all the seriousness it deserves (which is NONE, but god forbid you actually figure that out). Good luck.

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: There's a pretty good chance that a nightmarish national race-based war is what will constitute a big part of the "REALLY FUCKING BAD" stuff. So, uh, that's not good either.

At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would ask 8:11 what your lesser evil democraps would ever do about that race war or any other evolution from "REALLY FUCKING BAD", which is where we are now, to whatever is a lot worse?

My belief, supported by 40 years of history, is that nothing will ever improve in any way by electing democraps. If you disagree, please elaborate. Tell me how your brown son will fare in his 60s after 30 more years of trying to fix "REALLY FUCKING BAD" by electing corrupt pussies with a 'D' who exist to suborn bribery, but mostly just to 'exist'.

If I am wrong about this belief, how did we end up with obamanation and now trump?

You seem a thoughtful person, though driven more by fear than your thoughtfulness. I get that, truly. Unfortunately, I predict that after another few cycles of democrap refusals, betrayals, corruption and false flags (like this impeachment charade), you will come to realize that this shithole is beyond "REALLY FUCKING BAD". But, like the legendary Reverend Niemoller, by then it really WILL be too late.

That said, you are almost surely correct about the Greens. And the Socialists are encumbered by a name that americans have been trained to hate. But what we've been doing for 40 years simply won't ever work. So, if we want better, we'll have to try SOMETHING different.

I'm open to another idea, if you have one.


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