Benny's World

Friday, February 04, 2005

Edwards' own trade spotlight

An opportunity for a contender to have a stage all to himself (story printed in the Charlotte Observer, Feb 4, 2005)

From David Sirota, fellow, Center for American Progress in Washington:

Shh! Do you hear that? It's the deafening silence from the Democratic Party on the issue of global trade. Even as speculation begins about which Democrat will run for president in 2008, almost none of the high-profile contenders has given voiceto the massive job loss brought on by a corporate-backed "free" trade policy.

For most of the potential contenders, talking about a U.S. trade policy that encourages corporations to troll the world for cheap labor is uncomfortable. Their votes for NAFTA and unfettered trade with China could come back to haunt them.

But for one contender, John Edwards, the issue presents a significant opportunity.
Edwards was the only major candidate in 2004 who had the guts to talk about the issue of class. Edwards realized that for too long Democratic politicians have cowered in the face of Republican charges of "class warfare." He understood that with inequality, poverty and joblessness growing, economic class is the issue confronting our country.

With his "Two Americas" platform, he took it a step further, bringing up the issue of trade. Showing that you can talk about the issue without being labeled a "protectionist," Edwards railed against a Washington establishment that has passed trade bill after trade bill with few -- if any -- labor, human rights or environmental standards. Without those standards, American companies are essentially encouraged to pack up shop for the world's most oppressive . That forces America to engage in an unending race to the bottom, both economically and environmentally.

Most pundits credited Edwards' success in the 2004 Democratic race to his sunny outlook and youthful looks. But in places such as Wisconsin, ravaged by trade-related job loss, Edwards' message on trade clearly resonated.

The U.S. trade deficit under this "free" trade policy has gotten so bad, the United Nations recently issued a plea for other industrialized countries to intervene for fear it might destabilize the world economy.

That means Edwards has a chance to propel his populist fight where a growing swath of the Democratic Party stays silent. In key red states such as Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina, for instance, hundreds of thousands of people saw their manufacturing and textile jobs sent overseas over the last four years. These folks are waiting for a politician to speak to them about the immorality of a trade policy that forces Americans to compete with workers who have no minimum wage protections and no human rights. They are waiting for a politician to start talking about renegotiating NAFTA and China PNTR, and reforming the secretive World Trade Organization so that corporate concerns are not the only factors dictating economic decisions.
The electoral impact of trade has mostly been nil. But trade and economic inequality can be major issues if a high-profile politician is willing to persist and make them major issues.

This is where Edwards' opportunity lies. Though he gave up his Senate platform, he has an economic one. And as long he has that important stage all to himself, there will be an audience outside the beltway eager to listen.

And the first one to hear it will be in NH tomorrow night. Hope C-SPAN tapes it!

Update: the speech will be live on C-SPAN 7:30 CT; 8:30ET. Also from MSNBC today:

"Speaking of the 2004 campaign, we'll be hearing what the other half of the 2004 Democratic ticket plans to do with his time. John Edwards will be announcing, via a press release today and a speech to New Hampshire Democrats' 100 Club tomorrow, that he’s going to focus on poverty. Per an Edwards source, Edwards will join forces with the University of North Carolina to highlight poverty as "one of the great moral issues of our time." Edwards' 100 Club speech tomorrow night -- his first public appearance since he and Kerry conceded the election -- will be "optimistic," though the aide says Edwards also will talk about the President and "will probably address the State of the Union."


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