So much for bipartisanship. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have approved the one part of President Obama's jobs agenda voters hate the most. The overwhelming majority of Americans oppose so-called "free trade" agreements like the trifecta with Korea, Colombia and Panama Congress just passed.
A poll by my organization, the American Jobs Alliance, found 4 out of 5 voters of all political stripes -- and a stunning 90% of Tea Party supporters -- believe trade with China and deals like NAFTA cost the U.S. jobs. It's the latest in a series of surveys showing super majorities blame our economic woes on Washington's welcome mat to outsourcing and uncontrolled imports.
President Obama and Congressional incumbents sold these deals as a salve for sorely needed jobs. But when the economy fails to improve next year, the politicians will inherit the wind.
Blue-collar whites make up about 40 percent of the electorate and are the traditional swing voters. Many have no college degree. Factory jobs were their ticket to the middle class, a ticket that's expired as more and more industry moves offshore. To say they don't buy the free trade dogma pushed by the post-industrial elitists, who say we will all be Steve Jobs and Warren Buffetts inventing iPods and selling fancy mortgage-backed securities, is an understatement - they view it as treason. They distrust business and government, and believe both political parties don't represent their interests. These are the "Independents" pundits talk about as having a decisive role in elections.
White blue-collar ethnics determined the special Congressional election in western New York in May. Conventional wisdom attributed the surprise outcome to Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare phase-out plan, but that doesn't fully explain what happened. In September, Democrats tried to use Medicare as a silver bullet to ward off an angry electorate in the Democratic downstate district Anthony Weiner used to represent -- and it didn't work.
What we saw upstate in the spring was reliably Republican voters going for a third party businessman who hammered trade and outsourcing relentlessly. The GOP candidate refused to renounce the free trade religion -- and was defeated by Democrat Kathy Hochul who did (and who kept her campaign promise to vote against these latest deals).
Anti-incumbent sentiment festers across the country. Like the Anti-Masonic Party of the 1820s that believed Freemasons controlled both parties, today's voters believe both parties have been bought by moneyed special interests and do their bidding. Foreshadowing the shape of things to come, Congress' disapproval rating eerily almost matches the number of voters who believe corporate trade deals are bad for the country -- 80 percent. These voters are reminded of what galls them every time they go to the store and see Made in China on a package with an American brand name on it. Politicians ignore the trade issue at their own peril.
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