Finally, Hillary Clinton has taken a stand on the Trans Pacific Partnership, and she’s against it. This is a flip-flop, given her past promotion of the TPP, and it sure looks like an act of crass political opportunism. Still, it is probably good politics. TPP-type agreements aren’t popular, either among Democrats or among the electorate at large. So, Hillary’s late-coming opposition will not only help her fend off Bernie Sanders in the primaries; it might, conceivably, help deter Joe Biden, who as VP must support his president’s agreement. In the general election, her stance would help her differentiate herself from Obama, whose popularity remains underwhelming.
Whatever her motives, TPP opponents should welcome their new ally. The position of the party’s presumptive presidential nominee may give some cover to wavering Congressional Democrats who might be inclined to vote against the agreement but reluctant to oppose their president. Now, both front-runners for their parties’ respective presidential nominations oppose the TPP. In addition, some tobacco state Republicans are now unhappy with the final agreement because it excludes tobacco from the business-friendly operation of the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. So, the chances of TPP passage have changed significantly since fast-track was approved this spring. A couple of months ago, I believed that the Congress was very likely to approve the TPP. Now, I’m not at all sure.
One TPP opponent who can take particular satisfaction from HRC’s change of course is Bernie Sanders. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but it’s a safe bet that the Sanders challenge was a major factor, if not a decisive one, in Clinton’s calculations. Kevin Drum sees a “Bernie effect”:
I don’t think he entered the race because he truly believed he had a chance to become president. He just wanted to move the conversation to the left, and he’s succeeded at that.”