This is what being conflicted looks like
by Steve Timmer
Oct 3, 2016, 9:00 AM

Here a VAT, etc., part three

See the update at the foot of the story.

In the first and second stories in this series, I described how the international trading system is stacked against US manufacturing workers, and that much of it is our own fault. Or more accurately, it is because we want it that way. The neo-liberal elites who run things these days certainly do.

Many people, and I include myself, are embittered that Donald Trump is the face of reform of some of the excesses of international trade; he’s a clumsy, odious, and disagreeable champion. But as Thomas Frank lays out in exquisite detail in his new book Listen, Liberal, my party, the Democratic Party, has abandoned working people and much of the middle class to its fate:

It is a widespread belief among liberals that if only Democrats can continue to dominate national elections, if only those awful Republicans are beaten into submission, the country will be on the right course.

But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the modern Democratic Party. Drawing on years of research and first-hand reporting, Frank points out that the Democrats have done little to advance traditional liberal goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. Indeed, they have scarcely dented the free-market consensus at all. This is not for lack of opportunity: Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years, and yet the decline of the middle class has only accelerated. Wall Street gets its bailouts, wages keep falling [the trend has apparently reversed, but only recently, and until the next economic downturn], and the free-trade deals keep coming.

I don’t know about you, my friends, but I find this dispiriting. The Democrats decided they wanted to move up the food chain, preferring to be the party of the purring professional and entertainment classes, so that Jimmy Buffett, Paul McCartney, and Jon Bon Jovi can throw a fundraiser for you where guests paid at least $10,000 a head to see the show. And that was apparently the cheap one in Clinton’s three-day blitz through the Hamptons.

This is much easier, frankly, than getting contributions at $27 a pop. But like the Biblical widow who gave everything, I suspect they are more heartfelt.

Continuing in a Biblical vein, Hillary Clinton claims to have had a Road to Damascus experience on the issue of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. Perhaps her conversion is real. If it is, she is abandoning all of her prior advocacy for the NAFTA and the TPP itself, until recently. Quite an act of apostasy.

I tend to like the first draft of things, though, because they are usually less polished; they’re more raw and honest.

The president of and a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, said several months ago — at the neo-liberal conclave at Davos, of course — that we shouldn’t worry, that Hillary Clinton will support the TPP after we get this little unpleasantness, called the “election,” out of the way, in spite of her then current stated opposition.

You know, Tom, I think so, too.

There is also the fact that Hillary Clinton has touted her husband as her economy czar. This would be a good time, I think, to republish the link to then President Clinton’s speech before signing the NAFTA enabling legislation. This is the world that both of the Clintons really live in.

To be honest, I am trying to figure out how to end this story. I hope that it is obvious that the trade issue is one with which I have some familiarity. I went from an early supporter of the NAFTA to a fierce critic. It became obvious to me that it really hurt my peeps, the people that I come from: working people. As Thomas Frank observes, we’ve abandoned them. Economic inequality and the trade issue are the most important ones to me in this election. The trend line has to be bent, and Hillary Clinton won’t do it; she helped draw the trend line.

So there are two endings: One, surrender to political tribalism, shut the blank up as some DFL activists have told me to do (advice I have obviously ignored), and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. Or two — it’s hard for me to even say what two is, but you all know — and make a stand for working people and hope that the Democratic Party begins to remember its roots.

I have never been conflicted like this in an election before.

Tell me what you think in a comment. I won’t print your name; I am not a doxer. I can’t promise to follow your advice, but I am interested in what it is. If I get some interesting responses, I’ll collect them and put them in a comment story.

Update: Well, no comments so far. But Michael Brodkorb did write a column at MinnPost.

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