Will Biden’s Trade Policy Record Come Back to Haunt Him in Midwest?

Jerri-Lynn here. With the coronavirus crisis and the markets in meltdown, it would be easy to forget that Tuesday is the Michigan primary. So this post examines Biden’s woeful trade policy record. Will Bernie be able to capitalize on this history?

Also, we shouldn’t forget: Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington will also hold primaries Tuesday.

Like everybody else, I am a bit unsettled by today’s news. So I thought readers might appreciate the chance to think about other systemic problems: such as trade and globalisation (which of course, are also relevant to the other two crises).

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Sen. Bernie Sanders and supporters of his presidential campaign took on 2020 Democratic primary foe former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on trade to sharpen the contrasts between the two candidates ahead of next week’s nominating contests in six states, including the Rust Belt state of Michigan.

Just before leaving Phoenix to attend a rally in Michigan on Friday, Sanders held a brief press conference in which he said Biden’s vote as a then-senator for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) showed a “fundamental difference” between the two candidates.

“In terms of the coming general election we don’t have to predict what [President Donald] Trump will be saying about Joe Biden, because he is already making those attacks. Trump—who won Michigan, who won Wisconsin, who won Pennsylvania—made one of his major campaign tenets his opposition to NAFTA and PNTR [Permanent Normal Trade Relations ] with China,” said Sanders.

“In 2016, he criticized those trade policies as being disastrous—and just yesterday, he made that claim,” Sanders continued. “The truth is, and we have to be honest about this, that NAFTA and PNTR cost this country well over 4 million good paying jobs. In Michigan alone, these disastrous trade agreements led to the loss of more than 150,000 good paying jobs. And not only job loss—when good paying jobs go, you are involved in a race to the bottom and employers can pay lower wages.”

“These trade agreements have been a disaster for the people of Michigan, the state of Vermont, and for the entire country. Joe Biden and I have very strong and different positions in terms of how we reacted to NAFTA and PNTR,” Sanders said.

Back when the votes were taken, he continued, “I can remember it like it was yesterday, I was on a picket line in Montpelier, Vermont with workers opposing these disastrous trade agreements. I vigorously opposed these agreements; I helped lead the opposition to these agreements. Joe Biden supported those agreements. And that is a fundamental difference about our approach toward the trade union movement and towards the needs of working people.”

Biden’s vote for the deal has been easy fodder for Trump attacks.

“Joe Biden made a deal, NAFTA,” the president said Thursday at an event in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “He approved it, he was pushing it. It’s the worst trade deal ever made.”

According to Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the president’s comments are simply more evidence Sanders would be a better candidate to go up against Trump in the general election.

The Sanders campaign appears to be making sure voters in communities harshly hit by so-called free trade deals won’t forget Biden’s record. The campaign rolled out this week three new televsion ads, including one focused on trade.

That ad features union autoworker Sean Crawford, who speaks about how his community has been “decimated by trade deals.”

“Only one candidate for president consistently opposed every disastrous trade deal,” says Crawford, “and that candidate is Bernie Sanders.”

In an article entitled “Biden’s Nafta Vote Is a Liability in the Rust Belt” and published last May at Bloomberg Businessweek, Joshua Green wrote that the trade deal

led to an exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico and hurt wages for U.S. workers who held on to their jobs. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump pilloried Nafta as a “disaster” and “the worst trade deal ever,” a message his top advisers believe was pivotal in helping him carry critical Rust Belt states once considered Democratic strongholds.

“Nafta still resonates in the industrial Midwest and Rust Belt,” says Stanley Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster who recently conducted focus groups on trade in Michigan and Wisconsin. “There’s still a lot of anger because it symbolizes, for many people, the indifference about the outsourcing of jobs and the favoring of elite economic interests in international trade agreements.”

The youth-led Sunrise Movement shared that article Friday morning with a tweet suggesting it provided evidence Sanders should get the Democratic ticket.

In addition to Michigan, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington will hold primaries Tuesday.

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  1. skippy

    The thing to remember is this was an external shock which is effecting VoM and trade flows globally – there is no safe haven.

    All made even more dynamic by the speed of infection in the markets whilst the actual speed of the viral infection will take a wee bit longer. Intransigence baked into political and power systems will be the big tell E.g. how to manage without giving up decades of effort in setting up things and still hold power at the end of it all.

    I don’t perceive a crash like the great depression due to changes since then, but, more focused on how this pans out politically with entrenched interests and the greater population. Regardless I don’t think capital destruction will be allowed past a certain point of correction, serves no purpose to anyone and only reduces the ability to recover.

    The face of whom administrates the recovery and its distributional effects is the only thing unknown at the moment.

    Heck of a time for an election …. poli sci fi

  2. jashley

    You can’t tie the “climate crisis” to the trade deals.
    Sanders HAS the climate already, you don’t want to throw that in the face of the rust voters as many of them don’t care or see it as a ploy to take away their old industrial job base.

    Hit on trade trade trade and bringing the jobs back here.
    You don’t have time to educate on climate.
    WIN first then maybe.

  3. Big River Bandido

    Jerri-Lynn: I am hopeful that your title is a clear violation of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines. This is the correct line of attack on Biden’s disgraceful record.

    Hope it hasn’t come too late.

  4. John A

    As Stalin once said, it is who counts the votes that matters. And the vote counters have their thumbs firmly on the Biden bandwagon.

    1. Adam Eran

      Well! That’s a horse of a different feather!

      Are you sure they don’t have their thumbs on Biden’s side of the scale?

      1. Oregoncharles

        You haven’t heard of horsefeathers? You probably have some under your bed, unless you’re a better housekeeper than I am. ((It’s an old name for dust bunnies.)

  5. NotTimothyGeithner

    It makes Biden unelectable. Much like HRC, the Team Blue strategery will be to put together a “coalition” which would represent something like 90% of what they need to win after months of “blaming voters for not recognizing how wonderful Biden is”. Then of course, they will blame anyone but themselves. My guess is on magic this time.

    Much like his foreign policy, anti-choice positions, etc, he will simply lose, and much like Hillary do worse than Kerry. At the same time, Team Blue invested heavily in “Trump is a traitor” which gives Trump ample rhetorical evidence to say he was beset by attackers, limiting his ability to get a good deal which will work with Republicans because Trump is at the end of the day fairly normative for the GOP. Yes, people who rose through connections to the Bush crime family hate him, but there are dozens of them.

    Biden can get endorsements to the cows home form union leaders, but at the end of the day, he will need over 100% of Hillary’s vote total in key states to actually win, and hers was buoyed by safe states novelty voting (she didn’t even push congressional races into the win column with her 2nd most votes EVAH!). 59 MILLION PEOPLE voted for McCain-Palin. Yes, that Palin, not the Python. Republicans will move to trash Biden just as they did Clinton, Obama, Kerry, Gore, Bill, etc.

    Kerry was my favorite. Not that I think it mattered so much as the people who repeated it were never going to vote for Kerry, but it moved resources away from organizing to countering ads. Republicans blissfully aware of the obvious hypocrisy painted Kerry as a coward while extolling the “service” of Shrub when he worked on his dad’s friends political campaign instead of being in the national guard. Then there is 7 deferment Cheney. Yep, but the GOP has just lost its way….they will be much nicer to Biden.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Team Blue’s one and only Prime Directive concern is to deny Sanders from getting the nomination. If they can achieve that, ” their work is done here”. They will just go through the motions of campaigning for President after that. Because after all, if they have achieved Job One and Only of assuring No Nominee Sanders, what do they care what happens next?

      If Trump wins again, as they hope and expect, they will continue running on “Next time for sure!”

  6. Hepativore

    The problem is that the people that need to examine Biden’s policies (and melting brain) the most are the people who are most likely getting their news and viewpoints shaped by major cable news networks. Since none of Biden’s voting record or other shortcomings are ever brought to light by these corporate media sources, most of this demographic is simply unwilling or unable to be reached by Sanders.

    I know that Biden’s flaws are blatantly obvious to those of us on Naked Capitalism and other non-corporate news and political analytic sources, but how many of the rank-and-file “Democratic” voters pay attention to places like us? I fear that Balloon Juice is more typical of the mindset that is going to turn out to vote the most in the up-and-coming primary elections than say, the viewership of the Rising or Secular Talk. The former would basically say “Shut-up, millennials and Bernie Bros!” and vote for Biden anyway.

    Sigh. I am being a doomer today. I apologize, but I still cannot believe that somebody with a blatantly anti-senior voting record and obvious rapidly advancing dementia is this close to securing the nomination of the Democratic Party.

    1. Mike

      I feel your pain, but we must get used to it, unless some real opposition, i.e. revolutionary, can coalesce around the political movement Sanders has helped build. This country is too mired in thorough corruption, top to bottom, to be fixed by palliative care, and weak New Deal demands will not turn the tide against an already well-funded, well entrenched conservative/reactionary elite hell-bent on destroying what was once American liberalism and shutting down working-class organizing. They will not have their “right to own everything” taken away unless chaos with a winnable momentum occurs.

      “Don’t vote, don’t buy” was once a budding movement, of course doomed to failure in an uneven economy where rewarded factions of the populace can ignore and crush those without. As the incompetence of the elites pulls the society down, soon even their dominance will become a joke/yoke without relief. We’re not there yet, and all the exposés and documentaries will not have the needed effect until that moment.

  7. antidlc

    No. I doubt it.

    Too many people will see him as the frontrunner and they hope to be on the “winning” side.

    1. Massinissa

      The ‘frontrunner’ who has less chance of beating Trump than Dukakis had of beating Bush… Sigh…

      The ONLY thing that could help Joe win is public anger over the coronavirus, but that’s assuming that there is neither A. a mass die off of Bidens base or B. Biden’s base of older folks simply staying home out of fear of the virus, or some combination thereof. I hope for the love of god the first one won’t happen.

  8. Brian (another one they call)

    Mr. Biden is no longer functioning. He isn’t sure who he is, where he is, how he is, what he is, when he is or why he is. Why would any story not include that he is from all outward indicators, missing. Even the least accomplished english speakers in the US, upon listening to him speak would not be able to understand it any more than Joe would.
    My father has dementia and he can’t connect sentences any longer. But he can speak single sentences. Joe can’t.
    We need to have an honest discussion about the requirements for a public official. Many suggest he is electable, and these people would say he could beat Trump in a debate. They would’t care if Biden drooled and fondled himself but said nothing. Joe would still win.
    What kind of people would prop the poor old man up to take the kind of abuse he is going to receive without even knowing it?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      One can only hope that if Biden is even permitted to debate Sanders on TV, that Sanders will find a way to lead Biden into revealing his own dementia.

      One can only hope that Sanders will make some very highly detailed and footnoted policy criticism of one of Biden’s past set of Senatorial Actions and then ask Biden if he remembers certain detailed parts of it in detail. ” You remember that, don’t you Senator? Don’t you remember? Can you refresh my memory on that particular time when you voted “A-I mean-B on the XYZ Ammendment to the Bill in Question? What do you remember about that in detail . . . Senator?”

      I really hope Sanders does that.

      And maybe Sanders can find a way to smuggle a tiny sound-playing device into the debate and then play audio-clips of Biden promising to cut Social Security and Medicare. And then ask Biden some detailed memory questions about that.

    2. Massinissa

      Biden: “Wait… What was I talking about again?”

      Trump: “I believe you were talking about Corn Pop.”

      Biden: “Oh yeah! Corn Pop was a bad dude, and he ran a crew of bad boys…”

  9. Billy

    Short version:

    Biden: Your job taken away with NAFTA,
    Your freedom taken away with The Patriot Act,
    Your son taken away in the Middle East wars he supported,
    Your financial freedom taken away by his student loan bill and credit card debt slavery,
    Your social security and Medicare almost slashed by his votes.

    Sanders: Voted against ALL THOSE in the senate.
    He will return to you the money you’d have to pay for insurance and medical care in the next four years if Biden wins the nomination, or Trump triumphs.

  10. Louis Fyne

    Will Biden’s Trade Policy Record Come Back to Haunt Him in Midwest (primaries)?

    No. Most (All??) of those people hurt by Biden’s votes have left the Democratic Party—though they aren’t necessarily Republicans/pro-Trump.

    (imo) The Democratic Party primary voter cohorts has a massive case of survivorship bias (ie, not directly hurt by neoliberal Democrat-ism) and does not include the swing voters that Democrats need to reach in November. ymmv.

  11. ewmayer

    “will Bernie be able to capitalize on this history?” — Wrong word choice, the correct question is “will Bernie be *willing* to capitalize on this history?”

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