Monday, June 1, 2015

Democrats in Trouble: If TPP Passes, Expect a GOP Landslide in 2016

Things are bad and people know it. If they are not always able to articulate why things are bad -- whether it is savage war in the Middle East, environmental planetary crisis, or the persistent lack of remunerative employment -- most will say it has something do with the growing gap between the rich and everyone else.

Obama was elected in two separate landslides to restore decency and fairness to a system out of whack. It is his profound failure, with 18 months left in office, to deliver anything substantial (besides the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid and some EPA rule making) to the vast majority of voters who supported him that creates a pervasive sense that the United States is at a dead end.

Hillary is not the answer. There are indications that this is not merely a fringe belief. The Clinton Foundation continues to make the front page. The latest example, a kick-back scheme involving model Petra Nemcova's Happy Hearts Fund, was featured in Saturday's Gray Lady, "An Award for Bill Clinton Came With $500,000 for His Foundation." The story, by Deborah Sontag, provides the reader an education on how philanthropy of the 1% dovetails with big business and government. It is not a pretty picture, not one that will motivate working-class voters to get to the polls for Hillary.

No, the Democrats are in trouble. A report yesterday by Eric Lichtblau and Nicholas Confessore, "Democrats Seek a Richer Roster to Match G.O.P.," details the difficulties the Clintons are having in raising Super PAC funds:
WASHINGTON — Over the last few months, Harold M. Ickes, a longtime ally of Hillary Rodham Clinton, has helped organize private meetings around the country with union leaders, Clinton backers and Democratic strategists. The pressing topic: Who will step up to be the Democrats’ megadonors in the 2016 presidential race?
Republican contenders have already secured hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments from a stable of billionaires, including a Wall Street hedge fund executive, a Las Vegas casino magnate, a Florida auto dealer, a Wyoming investor and, of course, the Kansas-born billionaires David H. and Charles G. Koch. But none of the biggest Democratic donors from past elections — for example, the Chicago investor Fred Eychaner, the climate-change activist Tom Steyer and the entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg — have committed to supporting Mrs. Clinton on nearly the same scale.
“No one has stepped forward as the savior,” said Matt Bennett, a longtime Democratic consultant in Washington.
The leading super PAC backing Mrs. Clinton, Priorities USA Action, has won commitments of only about $15 million so far, Democrats involved with the group’s fund-raising said. And while the absence of a competitive race for the Democratic nomination gives Mrs. Clinton more time to catch up with Republican rivals, her allies are planning to push the party’s wealthiest donors for more money than most of them have ever given.
In planning sessions and one-on-one meetings with donors, Mr. Ickes, who is a Priorities USA board member, and other Clinton supporters are discussing how to raise as much as $300 million for Democratic outside groups. That is almost twice as much as Democratic super PACs and other outside groups spent to help re-elect President Obama in 2012, when conservative super PACs far outspent liberal ones.
This ambitious goal will require the emergence of a new class of at least 20 Democratic donors who can give $5 million or even $10 million each. Mr. Ickes said recruiting them would not be easy.
“Our side isn’t used to being asked for that kind of money,” Mr. Ickes said. “If you asked them to put up $100 million for a hospital wing, they’d be the first in line.”
The hurdles begin with the candidate. While Mrs. Clinton has committed to meeting personally with potential super PAC donors, people close to her say she has not yet grappled with the kind of big-donor courting that has framed the early months of the Republican race.
The rich don't put up a lot of money unless they get something in return. For the billionaire Republican donors like the Kochs and Adelson, it is not hard to imagine what kind of return they are expecting on their investment. For starters, the obligatory tax overhaul favorable to the 1% and possibly turning Medicaid over to the states in the form of block grants and then the voucherizing of Medicare; for the Kochs, a gutting of the EPA; for Adelson, war on Iran.

For big Democrat donors what would be the point in gifting tens of millions to a Hillary Super PAC? Marriage equality? It is already here for the most part. Renewable energy? Tom Steyer donated a whopping $74 million in the 2014 election cycle, and what did he get? A Republican landslide. I doorbelled for one of his candidates, a bloodless corporate Dem running for a Seattle suburb statehouse seat. He lost. I'm sure a shrewd hedge-fund investor like Steyer is not going to make the same mistake twice.

Democrats will be in even more trouble if Obama manages to push a fast-tracked Trans-Pacific Partnership through the House of Representatives. Jonathan Weisman has a helpful story, "Obama’s Trade Deal Faces Bipartisan Peril in the House," which summarizes the issues at stake as well as the math in the House. Pelosi has promised only 17 Democrat votes, which means that Boehner will have to deliver 200 from his caucus:
Only 17 Democrats out of 188 have come out in favor of so-called fast-track authority — and many of them are being hounded by labor and environmental groups to change their minds. Opponents of the trade deal say just seven Democrats remain truly undecided.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, who has yet to declare her position, has told House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio that he will have to produce 200 Republican votes to win the 217 he needs. In other words, she is not promising a single new convert.
“We’re not quite there, but we’re getting close,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and co-author of the trade legislation. But Mr. Obama, he added, “needs to deliver some votes. It’s just that clear.”
The president needs the authority to finish up the Pacific accord, the largest trade deal in a generation, linking 12 nations — including Canada and Chile in the Americas, and Japan and Australia across the Pacific — in a pact that would not just further cut generally low tariffs on goods but also put in place investment rules for roughly 40 percent of the global economy. The White House says, moreover, that the deal is an essential element in America’s strategic posture in Asia vis-à-vis the rising power of China.
Most congressional Democrats are skeptical. They argue that since the North American Free Trade Agreement was approved in 1993, such accords have only hastened the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas and pressured wages downward through international competition. Corporations, their executives and shareholders have prospered, but globalization has helped hollow out the middle class, many Democrats say.
For a helpful, easy-to-digest synopsis of just how bad the TPP is, check out Amy Goodman's recent interview of Julian Assange. TPP is not a trade agreement so much as it is a financial treaty binding the signatory nations together in fealty to neoliberalism.

Democrats who support Obama on TPP are looking at a primary challenge in 2016. Competition is something politicians loath.

If TPP passes the damage will be immense. Groups that represent mass constituencies essential to electing Democrats will not be able to mobilize their members. The GOP will win in a landslide.

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