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Jonathan Tasini

Jonathan Tasini

Posted: May 1, 2008 09:21 AM

Super Delegates Might Tip Over Trade


I've said before that I believe that the Democratic nomination fight is over, though the hype may drag on for a bit. But, a nice chunk of super delegates--perhaps as many as a dozen or more--may make their choice based on where the candidates stand on trade. And that's a good sign for people who actually care about choices made on the basis of issues.

In early March, I pointed out that Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (both from Ohio) were remaining undecided because they wanted to actually get a very clear understanding of where the candidates stood on trade, particularly on the fate of the so-called "free trade" agreement with Colombia. Congressional Quarterly reported earlier this week that:

According to one list, there are 21 House Democrats in the group of lawmakers that wants to force the candidates to take detailed stands on a series of trade issues such as how they would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, whether they would address trade disparities the lawmakers attribute to the use of value-added taxes in foreign countries, how they would use the tax code to encourage American businesses to keep facilities in the United States, and what steps they would take to create jobs by investing in domestic infrastructure needs.

The group still includes at least 12 undecided lawmakers: Kaptur, Reps Michael H. Michaud of Maine, Bart Stupak of Michigan (who will only be a superdelegate if the Democratic Party seats a delegation from his home state), Joe Donnelly and Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, Jason Altmire and Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Ciro D. Rodriguez of Texas, Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

Of particular interest is Heath Shuler, not simply because of the upcoming primary in North Carolina. In the 2006 midterm elections, Shuler won in the 11th congressional district by beating incumbent Charles Taylor, in no small part because of Taylor's failure to vote against the so-called "free trade" Central American Free Trade Agreement. Shuler ran two television ads on trade policy during his campaign.

In Indiana, in 2006, Joe Donnelly defeated incumbent Chris Chocola, who supported so-called "free trade" deals like NAFTA, and Brad Ellsworth won his seat in the 8th Congressional district by campaigning against expansions of so-called "free trade".

All this is good news. One of the things that we can take from this election cycle is that we are winning the campaign to move to a much more saner discussion and policy on trade and globalization. It's clear that the Democratic Party candidates, from the outset, have understood that the voters are much more advanced in their grasp of the damage being done by so-called "free trade" (whether the candidates have truly changed their position or not is a different issue). If you want to judge by the results in 2006, expanding majorities in Congress, in the House and the Senate, will be easier if the Democratic Party's candidates reject so-called "free trade" and pledge to embrace a sane approach to globalization and trade--not just because of the moral imperative but as a matter of electoral realities since even Republicans are opposed to so-called "free trade".

So, while I find the machinations and hype over the the race-that-is-over pretty boring, there is a lot of hope to be found in the bubbling up of voter sentiment reflected in the dynamics of the political insider game.