Free Trade and the Two Paries

It is so important for all of us to realize that two articles in the Albuquerque Sunday Journal, “Closed For Business” and Quigley’s “Centrists without a Voice” are talking about the same thing.  

The superbly written Quigley article was about the deep polarization of politics that precludes a dialogue to solve real problems because the loudest voices are at both extremes of political beliefs.  The Depillis article’s thesis is that the centrists who in both parties have historically supported free trade are drowned out in this election cycle.

How and why are we here?  It is not because Trump or Sanders suddenly arrived on the scene; it is because for at least 40 years we have put up with an election, campaign finance and districting system that created the monster we now call American politics.  Over succeeding decades, an ever-increasing number of incumbents who controlled re-districting created safe seats for themselves so that they could not be beaten. Safer seats with guaranteed re-election prospects made it a good investment for big corporate and union money to invest in their campaigns and to keep them in office.  Less competitive elections meant that soon candidates were more concerned about losing in a primary challenge than the general election, because, well, NO incumbent loses in the general election anymore short of malfeasance. That meant that both major parties started tacking further left (Democrats) and further right (Republicans) because the biggest risk became losing in the primary to someone more extreme.  Add unregulated dark money to the campaign finance equation and it is easy to see why so few elections are competitive any more. Non-incumbents can’t compete.

Trade is a great example of where the extreme left-right posturing has left the sensible center without representation.  This election cycle we have a billionaire who has built much of his fortune because of international business opportunities available only because of free trade agreements, but not admitting it.  We have the leading democratic nominee who led the effort within the Department of State to secure the TPP trade deal opposing it in order to pander to the political left. And we have a progressive democratic socialist sowing fear of globalization rather than highlighting the security that interconnection through trade creates.

Here is the truth that the sensible center of American politics understands:  First, globalization is a fact and it is here to stay. We can’t turn back the clock anymore than we can go back to the pre-industrial age.  Second, the world is safer when it is interdependent. Trading partners don’t blow each other up. Third, with free (and fair) trade comes thousands of new markets and nowadays nearly every business, no matter how small, should be exporting.  Why don’t we hear these rational, common sense justifications for trade agreements? Because in the current left-right, hyper-partisan political world, you can’t get elected. But you also can’t lead. And, more than any time in our history, we need real leadership, thoughtful solutions and politics representative of all of us, not just the fringes.

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