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CAFTA: "New" Democrats No Longer.

In a recent guest post on Wizbang (I am guest blogging there for another few days or so), I noted the American political shift on free trade over the past decade. Republicans have remained more or less in favor of free trade at the same level over the past dozen years. Democrats, meanwhile, have abandoned the global economy, preferring the comfortable retreat of protectionism.

The Wall Street Journal has more:

The Central American Free Trade Agreement passed the Senate last week, as everyone expected, but the more interesting news is who voted against it. Hint: This isn't Bill Clinton's Democratic Party anymore.

Nafta was one of the former President's signature achievements, and free trade one of the issues he used to define himself as a New Democrat. But last week only 10 Senate Democrats found the nerve to support Cafta, as opposed to 27 who voted for Nafta in 1993. Support among House Democrats looks even worse, with 10 or fewer expected to support Cafta when it comes up for a vote this summer, compared with 102 who backed Nafta.

Just as startling is which Senators voted against free trade with our southern neighbors. They include Joe Biden, who is often lauded as a statesman-internationalist; Chris Dodd, the self-avowed friend of Latin American democracy; Evan Bayh, the alleged heir to the New Democrat mantle; Jon Corzine, who made a fortune from free global capital markets at Goldman Sachs; and John Kerry, who lost last year's election in part because voters suspected he wasn't what he claimed to be (e.g., a free trader).

The biggest surprise, at least to us, is the no cast by New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. We'd have thought that a modest trade-opening deal with a few poor countries was an ideal chance to continue her march to moderation and demonstrate to business that she'd follow in the path of her husband as she seeks the White House in 2008. Apparently not.

The WSJ contends, and I concur, that there are a variety of potential reasons for the Democrats' newfound opposition to free trade. One reason: Democrats planning on running for President in 2008 are beholden to the Kos/MoveOn.org crowd who vow to block Democrat who supports the President on anything.

The internet left is far removed from the mainstream of American politics and has little in common with the electoral base of the Democratic Party. A Kos denizen is wealthier, more "degreed" (hyper-educated), and otherwise more elitist than the typical Democrat. But he who controls the purse, controls the agenda. And the Kos/MoveOn.org types (along with unions and trial lawyers) have the cash on the left.

Whatever the reason, Democrats have clearly jumped ship on free trade for short-term political gain. This is bad policy, and typically bad politics from a party the American people are beginning to view as a permanent minority party.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 July 2005 01:36 PM


There is nothing new about Democrat opposition to CAFTA. They opposed NAFTA too.

The difference? Clinton was in office when NAFTA came up. He needed only a few more votes from Democrats because the GOP was for NAFTA.

Clinton gave massive favors to a few Democrats. And enough switched pro-NAFTA to pass it.

On CAFTA a Republican (Bush) has no reason to hand out favors to Democrats.

Posted by: KenS at July 9, 2005 07:35 PM


A good future post at WIllisms would be to show the amounts of money controlled by "Kos/MoveOn.org types (along with unions and trial lawyers".

Posted by: Dan Morgan at July 10, 2005 11:46 PM