What Happened to Free-Trade Democrats?

Michael C. Moynihan wonders why the party of NAFTA became so protectionist

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Obama's decision to raise a tariff against China drew calls of "trade war," but libertarian Michael C. Moynihan wondered if there weren't deeper political implications as well. "What ever happened to the free trade Democrat?" he asked. A steadfast free-trader who opposes all tariffs and trade restrictions, Moynihan clearly believes that Obama should feel the same way, and made a passionate case against the Chinese tariffs. But why have Democrats, who in the 1990s so supported free trade they pushed through NAFTA, changed priorities? Moynihan wrote:

As Reason contributing editor David Weigel wrote in 2008, NAFTA was "a New Democratic victory over the old union elements of the party." But free-market Clintonism is dead, and the old union elements have returned to their traditional place in the party.

Moynihan suggested the recession may be to blame. "His rush to protect "American jobs" in an economy where so few jobs are currently available, Obama can claim that bone-headed protectionism has a positive effect on American industry," he wrote, but seemed uncertain. Where have all the free-trade Democrats gone?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.