Why Democrats Have Turned Against Obama On Trade Deal

| by Will Hagle

A defining characteristic of the Obama presidency has been the tension between the executive and legislative branches. Throughout most of Barack Obama’s time in office, that’s meant that he and the Republican-controlled Congress have been at odds with each other.

Now, seven years into his presidency, Obama’s own party is turning on him. Obama has been pushing for the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that’s supported by the majority of the Republican Party. Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Nancy Pelosi blocked the deal from going through last week.

Democrats have a variety of reasons for their opposition to the TPP.

There are concerns the legislation doesn’t include enough environmental protections. There’s the idea that multinational corporations, not American laborers, would ultimately be the ones that benefit. Sen. Bernie Sanders cited the TPP’s potential to outsource more jobs overseas as the number one reason to resist the deal.

There are also concerns about the secrecy behind the deal, as well as the lack of ability for Congress to amend the deal after the passage of the president’s “fast-track” authority.

Regardless of their individual reasons, the major narrative in Washington, D.C., right now is that Democrats have turned against their president. They’ve done so loudly and publicly, outspokenly criticizing the trade deal to the nation and the world.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, former Chief of Staff William Daley believes the backlash against Obama could have a negative effect on the Democratic Party moving forward.

“I feel strongly that it is very wrong for the Democrats to undercut the president at this stage,” Daley said. “If the Democrats continue to do this sort of thing, and especially on this issue and undercut the president, they’re only shooting themselves in the foot, because it’s only going to weaken the party and whoever the nominee is of the party next year.”

A potential reason behind the public resistance of TPP might stem from the fact that distancing themselves from Obama might be exactly what some Democrats want to do. Progressives like Warren and Sanders, who espouse an anti-Wall Street rhetoric that often clashes with Obama’s, don’t want to be seen as an extension of the Washington establishment.

Sanders, in fact, has repeatedly lambasted fellow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for not taking a stance on TPP, which he staunchly opposes.

Clinton today vaguely claimed that Obama “should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi.” By voting down TPP, Democrats in Congress have shown that they’re willing to work in the people’s interests even if it goes against their party’s leadership.

Despite last week’s embarrassing result for Obama, TPP is far from being defeated. As The Conversation reports, fast track authority actually passed by a vote of 219 to 211, with just 28 Democrats voting in its support.

The Obama administration will be working diligently to secure the votes it needs to pass the trade package, which will undergo a secondary vote this week. Yet the Democrats’ opposition to Obama’s trade deal represents a refusal to pass legislation simply due to political affiliation, as well as a general shift towards progressivism within the Democratic Party.

Sources: Bernie Sanders, The Chicago Sun-TimesThe Conversation

Image Source: White House/Pete Souza