Something for Everyone
Posted by Heather Hurlburt
Wherein we join Derek in piling on the Europeans; blast trade orthodoxy of all kinds; show some love to our readers; and inaugurate the democracyarsenal politix reading list.
Re Derek's report from the junkets of Europe: shortly before the election last fall, a European diplomat, from a country that sent troops to Iraq, told me that his European colleagues were rooting for Kerry without considering how quickly we would come knocking if Kerry won.
I used to lie awake at night worrying -- and I assume folks with no nursing baby but lots of foreign policy responsibility did too -- about what Kerry's first six months would have looked like. He would have had to return troops to Iraq, as Bush did. He would have had to deal with the pre-vote uptick in insurgent attacks. He would have found some allies willing to make nice noises about more troops, but likely not in time to do much good.
So here's where I think there's no point in agonizing too much about Europeans' Bush obsession: for that subset of Europeans who define themselves as "not America," Bush is such a godsend that, if he didn't exist, they'd have to invent him. And they do, as anyone who has ever spent much time being subjected to European cliches about America knows. Freedom fries, schmeedom fries -- the Europeans give as good as they get when it comes to transatlantic stereotyping.
As a final bonbon for the Europe-watchers among us, I have been enjoying the delicious ridiculousness of the situation in which the other Perm Four favor a German seat on the Security Council and the sober, rational Americans are left looking at the EU, which says it coordinates foreign policy among the UK, France, Germany and the rest of them, and saying, "hey, this doesn't make any sense."
Suzanne's Top 10 mentioned trade policy the other day. I think the actual mythology problem is broader than she suggests: both pro-trade idealogues and protectionism purists are working from models that are outdated, don't reflect economic reality and don't represent actual swathes of voting Americans. Foreign policy progressives ought to get their minds opened on this one for two reasons. Overseas, trade has the potential to help or undnermine so much of what we are trying to do. Imagine, for example, if the end of clothing and fabric duties kills off what's left of Pakistan's fabric and garment industry, sending that many more young men to extremist madrasas for hope.
At home, anybody trying to put a progressive coalition together to govern, much less win elections, is going to have to grapple with the threatened textile, auto and agricultural industries on the one hand, and the copyright-protecting pharmaceutical and entertainment industries on the other. Not to mention their workers and voters in key swing states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
That same pre-election PIPA poll that I cited earlier this week found that 93 percent of Bush voters favored labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. So deviation from free trade orthodoxy is not a fringe point of view and not limited to union members. (It's still the case, by the way, that about one in four voters, not likely voters but people who really pull the levers, comes from a union household.)
None other than Bill Clinton said at Davos in 2000: "Those who heard a wake-up call on the streets of Seattle were right."
In some parts of the developing world, farmers and their families are literally dying for lack of open trade to sell their goods at decent prices; elsewhere, though, free trade is hurting coffee farmers, garment workers and even Chinese factory workers. Trade policy is no panacea -- economists will tell you that there are always sectoral winners and losers -- and while progressives shouldn't fear trade, we needn't fetishize it either.
Both parties are really stuck right now, to my mind, between ideological free-traders and old-style protectionists. Meanwhile, we don't have free trade, never have, and never will, given what it would do to Florida sugar and orange growers, just to name two commodities of many.And the 1990s "Washington consensus" of expert advice for emerging economies, including extreme free-trade prescriptions, has quietly been walked back by the World Bank and IMF, and more loudly abandoned by countries in Latin America and elsewhere.
Somebody is going to figure out a smart new middle ground on this issue. It will include real supports for workers who lose their jobs, not tiny hikes in assistance to community colleges. It will reverse US intellectual property policies that block life-saving medicines from the people who need them, and may eventually even restrict how we get healthcare here at home. It will include some global re-thinking about where freer trade is working in favor of stability and freedom and where it is not.
It should be progressives who figure this out. But the more we cling to old orthodoxy and tell ourselves not even to talk about trade, the more likely it is that smart conservatives will beat us to the punch.
They could do worse than go back and look at Clinton as a place to start. And one thing Clinton was too smart ever to do was stick outdated labels on his progressive allies.
I'm looking forward to hearing what Derek, whose former employer represented a whole lot of un-and under-employed former millworkers, has to say on this one. I for one thought Edwards did a nice job of connecting with real folks' concerns on this without grossly pandering.
I'm guessing I speak for all five weapons in democracyarsenal when I say that the response has been just amazing... and gratifying. I want to make a habit of responding to at least some of the comments and emails we get.
So, Ezra asked me for five books that every aspiring political writer should read. I'll offer one, to get us started, and then invite fellow bloggers and readers to jump in with suggestions for the democracyarsenal reading list.
What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era by Peggy Noonan.
Her politics are not mine. But this book is beautifully-written, vivid and real -- about how young people get their politics, and their jobs; how movements, specifically Ronald Reagan's, form; and how lofty and petty the world of White House politics can simultaneously be. I don't believe it's been equalled.