The New York Times has a very interesting article on the Democratic presidential candidates exchange of barbs on trade while campaigning in Ohio. The author likens the Democrats approach to the issue to the Republicans handling of abortion:
In campaign after campaign for more than 30 years now, Republicans have been denouncing Roe v. Wade. Yet even though they have held the White House for most of that time — and made 12 of the last 14 Supreme Court appointments — abortion remains legal.Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates denounce NAFTA in a way that would make Lou Dobbs proud, yet neither is prepared to change it, or the country's trade policies, drastically.
This straddling has served Republicans well. They have been able to win over voters who care about abortion above all else without alienating swing voters, most of whom, polls show, think it should be legal at least some of the time. Talking tough and governing gently helped the party build a majority.
Based on what they’re saying, you’d have to conclude that they believe that Nafta and other trade agreements have caused Ohio’s huge economic problems.
“She says speeches don’t put food on the table,” Mr. Obama said in Youngstown. “You know what? Nafta didn’t put food on the table, either.” Later, he went further, claiming that Ohio’s workers have “watched job after job after job disappear because of bad trade deals like Nafta.”
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers, meanwhile, have been putting out the word that she tried to persuade her husband not to support Nafta — which liberalized trade with Mexico and Canada — when he was running for president... “I’m not just going to talk about what’s wrong with Nafta [...]I’m going to fix it and I have a four-point plan to do exactly that.”
But when you read this plan, or Mr. Obama’s trade agenda, you discover none of it is particularly radical. Neither candidate calls for a repeal of Nafta, or anything close to it. Both instead want to tinker with the bureaucratic innards of the agreement.