Yesterday Hillary Clinton embodied one of the top words being used to describe her on the campaign trail by voters: fake. It isn’t a good situation regarding word association, but her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite being for it during her tenure as Secretary of State, only screams political opportunism–and shows that her campaign is wary of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ challenge on her left. To make things more embarrassing, Clinton’s statement on why she opposes the agreement is almost funny, blaming Republican obstruction for weakening U.S. competitiveness, thus creating an environment that isn’t safe for our workers if TPP passes Congress, which is another battle in itself. She also listed the failure to address currency manipulation as another reason. This comes after she called TPP the “gold standard in trade agreements.”
Australia is also a growing market for growing exports even as we welcome more trade from you. In fact, our exports to Australia jumped more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2011 raising from under 20 billion to more than 27 billion, and in the first nine months of this year, they're up another 20 percent. President Obama set a goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years, and we've seen extraordinary progress in our relationship with Australia.
So it's fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world's total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.
That's key, because we know from experience, and of course research proves it, that respecting workers' rights leads to positive long-term economic outcomes, better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions. And including everybody in that, those who have been previously left out of the formal economy will help build a strong middle class, not only here in Australia or in our country, but across Asia. And that will be good for us.
Hillary's statement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership: pic.twitter.com/dL3f5cCvFP— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 7, 2015
CNN’s Jake Tapper has a deep list citing the 45 times Clinton said she was for TPP. Yet, as with her decision with the Keystone Pipeline*, Clinton is trying to make sure Sanders’ challenge on her left doesn’t overwhelm her. The self-described democratic socialist has been surging in the polls, has solid favorability numbers, has top-notch fundraising skills, and has Hillary beat in Iowa and New Hampshire by double-digits. All of this while Hillary’s favorability has plummeted; she’s losing in the two key primary contests while pegged as the prohibitive favorite–and she’s lost major support between black and women democratic voters; two groups that she’ll need to beat Sanders after New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, overall, Hillary is still the favorite, but let’s just say the possibility that she could still lose the nomination is closer to entering the realm of possibility, given that the Democratic base wasn’t really enamored with her anyway. Millennial feminists don’t really like her, women are fleeing her because they think she’s lying about the server, New Hampshire voters find her condescending, and now her electability is being questioned since she’s either trailing or running neck-and-neck with the top of the heap in the GOP field.
On the flip side, given what seems to be an endless cycle of bad news for the Clinton campaign, die-hard Clintonites aren’t leaving her, and Democrats still have a favorable view of the former first lady, despite the “meh” attitudes displayed at her events compared to that of Sanders. Still, there could be a case made that Clinton didn’t have to flip-flop on trade, though it was worth taking the risk if it meant possibly losing labor unions:
In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton led Sanders 42 percent to 24 percent among all Democrats. Among self-described liberals, the race was closer, but Clinton still led Sanders by 10 points. In an August WaPo-ABC survey, 80 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of Clinton while 18 percent had an unfavorable one. Among liberals, 66 percent had a favorable view as compared to 33 percent who saw her in an unfavorable light. There's plenty more evidence out there that liberals like -- if not love -- Clinton, and would be fine voting for her.
And yet, Clinton decided to reverse herself on TPP -- no matter what her campaign says, she was a supporter of the deal -- and take the flip-flopper flak rather than risk putting distance between herself and the party base. Worth noting: Vice President Biden, a longtime friend of organized labor, continues to mull a run for the Democratic nomination. So it's possible Clinton was trying to box Biden as well as Sanders out with this decision
Clinton's announcement against TPP (nod to labor) lands minutes before Biden takes stage to talk to labor leaders at White House summit.— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) October 7, 2015
Team Clinton needs organized labor’s political infrastructures that will be critical next year. And Clinton had ample warning from these groups on TPP. In an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made it clear that his organization might not endorse anyone for president next year, and that Clinton’s support for the trade deal could be a deal-breaker (via RCP):
RICHARD TRUMKA: I don't know [where Hillary Clinton stands on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement]. She is going to have to answer that. She won't be able to go through a campaign without answering that. And people take it seriously and it will affect whether they vote for her or do not vote for her.
She may not know whether it is a good deal or not, but she'll get a chance to read it, and when she does she will have to declare one way or the other. Support it or she won't support it, she either believes in fast track or she doesn't.
What if Hillary supports the TPP?
TRUMKA: It would be tougher to mobilize working people. It will be tougher to get them excited and working, out there door-knocking and leafleting. And phone banking and all the things that are going to be necessary for her if she is the candidate.
And we would endorse her, this would make it far more difficult.
Well you aren't going to support Republicans?
TRUMKA: Well, there is another alternative as well, we could not endorse for president. That is conceivable. If both candidates weren't interested in raising wages and creating jobs. If neither one had a program that we were convinced they would fight for, not just a poll-tested slogan, but an actual agenda they will fight for.
If we are convinced that neither candidate has that, I think we would spend our money elsewhere. Probably on Senate and Congressional candidates and governors and statehouses where we would have a much greater effect.
As for the Sanders factor, there's a growing number of AFL-CIO members that are getting behind Bernie. Trumka had to remind them of their organization's bylaws over the summer, along with a stern warning not to endorse anyone under the AFL-CIO banner. Still, it's another reason to give the Clinton campaign some pause.
Sanders from the beginning has been against TPP, saying it’s a “disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”
*Clinton also could be trying to avoid a situation where environmentalists could sink her campaign in a key state, like Florida.