What Elizabeth Warren’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Critique Means For The Democratic Party
Elizabeth Warren can change her party. And she knows it.
As the media speculates on the possibility of a Clinton-Warren ticket, the progressive Massachusetts senator is calling on the Democratic platform committee to take an explicit stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a move that puts Democrats at a crossroads ahead of Friday’s platform meeting in Orlando.
The controversial, Obama-backed trade deal, known as “TPP” for short, looks to open up trade among the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries, as close as Canada and as far as Vietnam.
And so far, the Democrats’ platform committee has tip toed carefully around the pact, which has proponents and opponents on both sides of the aisle. Current language in the platform says that “there are a diversity of views in the party.”
Warren is looking to change that. In a video released on Thursday for the progressive activist group CREDO, she slammed the TPP as a “lousy” deal that would let “giant corporations rig the rules.”
Warren is primarily opposed to a key provision in the agreement known as the investor state dispute settlement, or ISDS, which would allow foreign companies to contest American law through an independent arbitration system — and reap millions if they win. Congress cannot pass an amended version of TPP without ISDS.
Contrary to the purported goal of protecting American investment abroad, the TPP would create “open season on laws that make people safer but that cut into corporate profits,” Warren says in Thursday’s video.
Although Clinton, Sanders, and Trump (yes, that’s right — Trump) have all expressed their opposition to the trade deal, the platform committee rejected an amendment to explicitly oppose TPP in the party platform.
Robert Borosage, of the progressive Campaign for America’s Future, argued that the anti-TPP amendment failed to pass because it lacked support from committee delegates chosen by Clinton and the DNC. Indeed, Clinton supported TPP as secretary of state and only changed her position on the pact once she entered the presidential race, according to PolitiFact.
While Warren has made her objections to the deal well-known — she gave at least two speeches urging Congress to oppose the deal earlier this spring — her latest criticism comes at a complex moment in the 2016 race.
For some commentators, criticism coming from an increasingly well-known progressive stalwart means death in no uncertain terms for one of two things: either a Clinton-Warren ticket, or the TPP itself.
By picking Warren in the midst of her crusade against the trade pact, it would be difficult for Clinton — and her many Democratic supporters — to support the carefully measured criticism of TPP as expressed in the current platform. (Warren, a noted firebrand, does not seem likely to back down from her position anytime soon.)
Conversely, if Clinton wants the Democratic Party to maintain its middle-of-the-road stance on the pact, a Warren VP choice would be… complicated. A pro-TPP coalition made up of Obama and members of Congress will be more likely to weather the current swell in anti-trade sentiment without rebuke from the Democrats’ presidential ticket — or, for that matter, the party platform.
Many have already raised doubts about Warren, a vocal critic of Wall Street, as a VP pick for Clinton. Her video message may solidify the rationale for keeping the populist out of the presidential race, though it’s Clinton’s prerogative.
As for Obama and other TPP backers, meanwhile, the forecast is grim. Regardless of who Clinton chooses as her running mate, Warren’s strong words — and growing presence — can only hurt efforts to pass a trade effort years in the making.
Photo: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren advocates against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a video from progressive activist group CREDO. Screenshot via YouTube