For years, Hillary Clinton has championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as one of her signal achievements in her time as secretary of state.
She called it the “gold standard in trade agreements” in 2012. She listed it in her book as one of her key accomplishments. But now, four weeks before the final TPP text is released, she has announced a change of heart. “As of today,” she told Judy Woodruff, “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.”
Clinton’s flip-flop would be laughable if it weren’t exactly what the American people expect of her—and a trap for Republicans blind to her game.
From the perspective that assumes Clinton operates according to principles and ideology, the shift is potentially damaging. Vox, for example, headlines its coverage: “Hillary Clinton’s flip-flop on the TPP makes no sense.”
And it doesn’t, for someone who is a consistent, principled, ideologically driven politician.
But this move makes total sense if you understand that Clinton is none of these things. She is changing her mind on this, as she has on so many other things, based on nothing more than political pressure from her left and analysis of political trend lines. The media loves to talk about how GOP primaries pull Republicans so far to the right they can’t win a general election, but that’s what’s happening in real time to Clinton, who is locked in a bidding war with a Vermont socialist over the progressive base.
Clinton has always been a perfect barometer of where her party is. She is a follower, not a leader. She has correctly perceived that the Democratic base is now a dominated by a coalition of economic know-nothings and culture-war leftists who are less interested in “progressive” policy than in freezing the status quo in place.
As an expression of throwback reflexes on trade and growth, it amounts to Trumpism in a pantsuit. And it’s something more: It’s evidence that a second Clinton presidency can only be won on the ashes of the legacy and vision of the first—a triangulating presidency during which entitlements were reformed significantly and free trade expanded.
Yet I wonder if all the campaign operatives right and left now saying, “Oh, Hillary’s flip-flopping, she’s contradicting what’s in her book—this could damage her,” have been paying attention to anything the voters have learned about Hillary Clinton in the intervening years. Of course it won’t damage her to flip-flop. She has been for all the things before she was against them.
I really can't find fault in Domenech's logic here. Clinton has been a finger-in-the-wind triangulator like her husband for decades now, and it hasn't hurt her so far. This demure "As of today" move leaves the door wide open for her to change her position again as she "learns more about" the TPP and everyone knows it.
Of course, the problem is the alternative to Clinton right now is Bernie Sanders, and both of them are more than happy to run away from President Obama and his policies. Right now I'm wishing Joe Biden would get into the race if only to have at least one Democrat actually run on the fact that President Obama did a pretty damned good job considering the hand he was dealt by both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress.
That would be nice.