The Dubai Ports Deal, Free Trade, and 2008
by Scott Shields, Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 06:04:23 AM EST
David Sirota uses a story in the Wall Street Journal as a jumping-off point for a really interesting look at the 2008 Democratic contenders and their positions on free trade, or as he puts it, "free" trade. Since the Journal article is subscription-only, he quotes from it liberally, and shows that it gives a mixed review at best to global trade policies of the last few years. The Journal also makes the case that the public outcry against the Dubai Ports World deal shows that the American people are also not quite sold on free trade ideology, and are increasingly willing to say so. It doesn't take a anti-capitalist radical to hold the opinion that maybe selling off all of our vital national infrastructure is not the best idea.
Sirota sees in this rejection of unfettered free trade ideology some serious implications for the 2008 Democratic primaries and I tend to agree with him. The relentless corporate sucking from Bush is one of the factors that people are likely to be fed up with by the closing months of his term in office. Economic populism has been growing in popularity in Democratic campaigns for some time now, and eight years of Bush's fealty to corporate power and wealth isn't going to have diminished it.
With this in mind, he sized up a handful of likely Democratic candidates, ranking them into four tiers on trade. He places New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Evan Bayh in the first category, calling them "ardent 'free' traders, many of them personally responsible for the trade policies that are destroying America's middle class." Into the second category go the softer free traders, who have supported quite a few trade agreements, but bucked the trend and rejected others. The candidates he lists are Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, along with Virginia Governor Mark Warner. He only lists one candidate in each of the next two categories, and if frustration with free trade agreements do indeed become a main issue in 2008, they have the most to gain from it.
The third category is candidates with mixed voting records on trade, but who have displayed a genuine interest in rejecting the free-trade-at-all-cost dogma. The only candidate in this category is John Edwards, who voted against some of the corporate-written trade deals that came down the pike during his Senate term, and who has made a class-based "Two America's" message his signature theme.
And the final category is candidates who have loudly opposed all of the sell-out trade deals, even when that opposition has been politically unpopular. Again, this is a one-candidate category right now, and that candidate is Russ Feingold - a guy who has not only voted against selling out America, but has made the issue central to his public image by airing campaign ads about his courageous stands on the issue.
Personally, I find a candidate who's experienced something a conversion on trade to be the most attractive and credible. That mirrors the experience of many people and shows that the candidate learns from experience. But that's realy just nitpicking. If there's one thing we'd definitely both agree on as it relates to this issue, it's that candidates like Richardson and Bayh will have real trouble explaining their unflinching support for "free" trade deals (now he's got me doing it) to Democratic primary voters who feel disenfranchised and disempowered by such policies.