Saturday, June 13, 2015

House Democrats Coming Apart At the Seams


While everyone in the media is fixated on the growing clown car of GOP presidential candidates, across the aisle, the Democrats are in the middle of an all-out civil war that would make the Hatfield-McCoy feud look like a misunderstanding over dinner reservations.

With his Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal all but reduced to a pile of ashes, President Obama has two major problems on his hands. 1. The bulk of his party has abandoned him; and 2. His party is for all intents and purposes leaderless. The first problem is nothing new. For most of his six and a half years in office, he's been a president without a party anyway. The Right despised him because he was a socialist overlord bent on the destruction of mankind, and the Left was disillusioned with him because he was a corporatist sellout. Spoiler alert: it's the latter. Talk about the ultimate paradox.

It's the second problem, though, that both he and every single Democrat should be deeply concerned about. With a presidential election less than 17 months away, this is not the time for infighting. This isn't just some fissure forming, it's the fucking Grand Canyon and unless cooler heads prevail soon, the odds of a Republican calling 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home in 2017 will rise dramatically.

The crux of this latest crisis is the TPP. Unlike other progressive causes like gay marriage, voting rights and income inequality, the TPP deal is not as simple as some would make it out to be. The sentiment against it has its roots in the now infamous NAFTA deal, which we now know was a disaster for American workers. It was rightly assailed by the Left. And one can certainly understand the urgency by progressives not to repeat history.

But this is not 1994 and, no matter how much progressives insist, the TPP isn't NAFTA. The agreement, first signed by five countries in 2005, would reduce tariffs and remove barriers to international trade between member countries. While liberals are naturally concerned that joining the TPP could imperil American jobs, there's no evidence that those jobs would miraculously reappear if the U.S. stayed out of the pact. The sad and painful truth is that with or without joining the TPP, certain sectors hit hardest by global competition will never fully recover. The longer the Left holds onto the fantasy that it can roll back the clock 50 years, the more it deludes itself and needlessly prolongs the hope of those who cling to a promise no politician can deliver on.

Nancy Pelosi and the progressive caucus badly misplayed their hand here. So determined were they to deny Obama his trade deal, they succeeded is killing the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, which would've helped those workers negatively impacted by free trade. How's that for irony? Adding insult to injury, Republicans later passed the TPP WITHOUT the trade assistance bill. Fortunately for Democrats, the House bill won't become law because the Senate package has both bills in it.

Funny, usually it's House Republicans who screw the pooch. This time, all the credit goes to the Democrats. Anyway you slice it, this was a clusterfuck for them. New York representative Steve Israel put it best: "The past two hours hasn't been our finest two hours."

Ya think, Steve?

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