Supporting NAFTA Was the Kiss of Death for Democrats –Why Dems Should Think Twice About Voting for TPP
By Sarah Anderson, AlterNet
June 8, 2015
(L)et’s take a look at what individual members got by helping to ram the pact through Congress. Did their support for the big business lobby’s dream deal ensure a glittering political career?
Starting at the top: Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley sided with the White House and against most of the House Democrats, including Majority Leader Richard Gephardt. In his 30-year political career, that controversial move stood out enough for the New York Times to mention it in Foley’s obituary. A year after the NAFTA vote, the obit noted, “Mr. Foley became the first speaker since the Civil War to be defeated for re-election in his own district.”
Foley was not the only Democrat to flame out within a year of casting a vote for NAFTA. In fact, of the 34 Democratic incumbents who were defeated in the Republican sweep of 1994, 16 had voted for NAFTA. Several of these losers had been among the fence-sitters who received goodies from the administration.
Public Citizen has meticulously documented many of these trade vote deals over the past two decades and is planning to release a new report this week on the lessons from all this horse-trading. (Look for the report soon here.) What it found over the years is that most of these promises were never fulfilled. In a detailed 2001 report following up on the NAFTA deals, Public Citizen concluded that “systematically, the White House promises of special safeguards for U.S. farm commodities, bridges and more remained unfulfilled. Exceptions were several meaningless promises, such as photographs with the president, and one campaign fund-raising event.”
Rep. Clete Donald Johnson, Jr. was one of the targets of that empty promise. After voting for NAFTA, the Georgia Democrat got demolished in 1994, losing by a margin of more than 30 percent. A few years later, Clinton offered Johnson a consolation prize: a post as chief U.S. trade negotiator for textiles, a sector in rapid decline due to low-wage foreign competition.
Rep. Bill Sarpalius, of Texas, was another NAFTA sellout whose political career was cut short. According to Public Citizen, he pocketed a bevy of promises, including a new federally funded nuclear research lab that was to be located in his district. After Sarpalius lost his seat in 1994, the lab deal fell through.
Rep. David Price also lost his re-election bid after casting his NAFTA vote. According to Multinational Monitor, the North Carolina Democrat came out in support of the deal after the Clinton administration conceded to his long-sought demands to award American Airlines two lucrative international air routes that would benefit his district. Price later regained a seat in Congress and is now once again sitting on the fence in the fast track debate.
Don’t be afraid, Carlo. Come on, you think I’d make my sister a widow? I’m Godfather to your son.