As a caustic Clinton critic and tenacious tart-tongued TPP traducer, my reaction to Hillary’s announcement that she opposes the multi-nation “free trade” deal should be obvious. I would openly question her commitment to the working Americans she says the partnership will hurt. I would doubt that she really cares that giveaways in the deal to pharmaceutical companies will hurt consumers.
I would note that she has spoken in support of the deal on a number of occasions. I would attribute her apparent change-of-heart to a desire to stymie support building within labor unions for Bernie Sanders and to render still-born a potential Joe Biden candidacy. I might go so far as to worry that Clinton is not likely to veto the TPP if she’s elected President next year and it is presented to her in the early days of 2017. Justifying this concern, I would remark on the wiggle room in her announcement that based on “what [she] know[s] now” she is “now not in favor of it”.
But my initial reaction was not cynicism. In fact, Hillary’s decision to forsake her corporate backers and speak out against the TPP delights me. Likewise, I applaud Clinton for opposing the Obama administration’s decision to permit Shell to drill in the Arctic and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Her call Thursday to break up the big banks and for taxing computerized securities trading is also most welcome.
Clinton and her political team may believe they need to take these positions to guarantee victory in the Democratic primaries. They may have even explained to well-heeled funders that it’s in the latter’s interest to prevent Sanders from gaining more traction and to try to keep Biden out of the race – especially since a Biden candidacy would boost the Democratic socialist. Ultimately, Sanders in the White House could prove very costly to billionaire Democratic donors if he can enact his proposed tax hikes on the rich. So the Spielbergs, Pritzkers, and Katzenbergs who back Clinton have good reason to grin and bear her swerve towards allocative equity.
But customary Clinton carpers needn’t look too closely in the mouth of this gift horse. Her volte-face against the financial elites demonstrates real political bravery as expected assaults from the likes of the Washington Post’s editorial page and columnist Ruth Marcus have materialized. It may even have real world implications if Clinton’s announcement sways moderate Democrats to deny President Obama a TPP victory. Moreover, fairness requires progressives who have taken issue with her for “being kind of moderate and center” to praise her when she says the right things.
None of this means I am reconsidering my support for Bernie Sanders. His progressive record is decades – not weeks – long and nearly unblemished. But Clinton has certainly strengthened the case that she is an ally in the fight for economic and environmental justice.