The death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal may be the herald to some larger changes shaping up in Washington D.C., and if one author at The Nation is correct, it could spell good things for left-wing Democrats.
In an opinion piece at The Nation, columnist William Greider suggests that the Democrat-lead uprising that blocked the trade deal is the start of something far larger — in this case, the revival of the Democratic Party as a “born-again advocate for working people and economic justice.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been many decades in the making, and would knit the Untied States together with several other Pacific Rim countries like Chile, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, and others. It would lower tariffs, set rules for regulating IP and trade disputes, and create a free trade zone for about 40% of the world’s economy.
Why big business had their eyes on the deal is readily apparent.
The Republicans, President Obama, and various business groups argued that the bill would “unlock foreign markets to American goods,” and that it’d “level the playing field by forcing Asian competitors to improve labor and environmental standards.”
Not everyone agreed. The House Democrats, labor unions, and environmental groups in particular led the charge against the TPP, arguing that it’d suck American manufacturing jobs like a leech, fail to enforce workplace standards, and benefit the wealthy and big corporations.
Of course, House Democrats acknowledging this alone isn’t unusual. It was their uprising that killed the bill that shocked Washington.
TANSTAFT — There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Trade
Greider points out that, after nearly 25 years of losing to Wall Street interests, the death of the TPP is a milestone to something that is possibly much larger than it seems at first:
I suggest the fast-changing dynamics may be springtime for the New New Democrats on the party’s left. Led by organized labor and AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka, this informal coalition includes environmentalists, social-justice advocates, people of color, defenders of civil liberties, small businesses, and others who are also regularly ignored or injured by the party’s dominant power brokers.
The House-led uprising, as Greider observers, was helmed by “grassroots activists” and “left-liberal policy groups” that played chicken with the powerful elites — and it was the elites who blinked.
Greider notes that there’s a growing division between the monied interests in the Democratic Party and the grassroots, economic justice advocates. The division began with Bill Clinton when Wall Street replaced labor; two major bills passed during Clinton’s term, after all, were welfare reform and NAFTA..
People remembered NAFTA when they stood up against the TPP, and that remembrance created a “spirit of reform” in “Both politicians and freelance advocates [who] are advancing strong new ideas for confronting inequality and repairing the damage done to ordinary Americans.”
While this only means more struggle and more chaotic politics in the short-term, with “established powers” striking back, in the long-term, it may encourage “reforms that liberate the democratic order from backward influences and persuade angry, anxious people to seek political power and act again like citizens.”
This is the moment we’ve waited for. If he’s right, now is the time to kick out the monied oligarchs and plutocrats that run the show and return power to the citizenry.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons