The Sooner Democrats Disassociate Themselves
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Democrats must get on the right side of the globalization issue
On a Sunday CNN talk show (Feb. 1), a panel of conservatives claimed that Bush couldn’t be blamed for today’s outsourcing of jobs because it was Clinton who gave us NAFTA, the WTO and Fast Track legislation. They did a good job of inoculating Republicans from the horrendous hemorrhaging of jobs out of this country.
If leading Democrats don’t defend themselves against this semi-legitimate charge, it’s going to increasingly become a staple in the Republican arsenal—and could potentially turn what should be a Democratic landslide to a narrow defeat.
Which brings us to the question: who caused this debacle and how do we correct it? The majority of our political leaders—including most Democrats—have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that there are ephemeral solutions out there somewhere that will get us out of this mess—other than reversing the globalization trends of the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, both Republicans and conservative Democrats have a stake in denying that NAFTA, WTO, and various Fast Track legislations were mistakes. After all, Democrats Clinton and Gore, along with the Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress, pushed these monstrosities into law. The major opponents were pro-labor Democrats and a few Republicans, like Strom Thurman and Jesse Helms—who correctly predicted the destruction of the textile industries in their home states.
Of course, investors, the stock markets and top corporate executives loved the new economy, because working-class Americans made all the sacrifices—at least at first. Now, of course, we’re seeing high-skill jobs leave the country.
As a Democrat, I’m reluctant to admit that President Bush is merely continuing the trend that favors investors and the established wealthy at the expense of workers. He didn’t start the trend, but he’s certainly accentuating it. And I must also admit that Clinton/Gore contributed greatly to the problem when they stole this part of the Republican agenda and claimed it as their own.
President Bush showed a glimmer of understanding when he protected the steel industry and its jobs—and was successful in doing it—but he’s been severely criticized by most members of his own party and the conservative financial press.
In the recent MSNBC debate in Greenville, SC, the only Democrats who specifically renounced NAFTA, WTO and Fast Track legislation were Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton.
All the front-running Democrats seem terrified of being labeled as isolationists, and choose to ignore the essence of our looming economic disaster. Instead, they just proclaim their commitment to create more jobs—but are incredibly vague on the details about how they’re going to do it.
It’ll take courage—and they’ll lose some of their financial supporters and make enemies in their own party—but it’s time for Democrats to say it out loud, and admit that this part of the Clinton presidency was a disaster for those who actually work for a living.
In pushing globalization—to satisfy investors and Wall Street—Clinton/Gore effectively abandoned the voters who supported Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. All of whom predicted exactly what we are seeing happen today—the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving this country.
Only by separating themselves from the globalization insanity—in its present form—will Democrats truly demonstrate that they have the interests of working-class Americans at heart.
The first step is to clearly describe exactly what happened in the early ’90s. For a short-term jolt for the economy, a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats (Clinton/Gore in the lead) decided to cut labor costs and increase corporate profits through globalization. This sad part of the story must not be glossed over.
The second step: admit that it was a mistake, and that it was consistent with traditional Republican philosophy—and definitely not consistent with traditional Democrat philosophy.
Third: Democrats must pledge themselves to rescinding NAFTA, WTO and present Fast Track agreements, and make bilateral agreements with other nations that are clearly in the interests of American workers and the long-term interests of our country.
The longer Democrats try to pretend that it never happened, the worse off they’ll be. And by clarifying the new Democratic position, they would force Republicans to expose to public scrutiny their true positions about globalization.