I tried to stay emotionally distanced from this one. It didn’t work. When the White House and Republican leaders got the votes they needed in the Senate to advance “fast track” Trade Promotion Authority on Tuesday, June 23, it was crushing.
All observers agree that fast track will soon become law, making it easier for President Barack Obama to pass the controversial trade pacts in the works with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union. That will be a serious setback to the movements for the environment, labor rights, and affordable pharmaceuticals, among others.
But after observing painful trade votes for more than 20 years, this one left me feeling that opponents should be holding their heads higher than ever before as they regroup for the next phase of the fight. Here are a few reasons why:
1. A diverse progressive coalition showed that people power can put up a real fight against big money.
The votes on fast track could not have been closer. The House vote was a razor-thin 218 to 208, while the Senate’s vote to cutoff debate passed without a single vote to spare.
The opposition included all the regulars from labor, environmental, faith, immigrant, food safety, and consumer groups. But some newish players also stepped up, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Internet access, as well as global health, civil rights, and civil liberties groups.