Robert Borosage, president of the liberal Campaign for America's Future, said the groups do not want Democrats in Congress to underestimate the impact of their vote here. "We want people to understand that this is not one of those free votes where you can make up your mind and there are no consequences," he told National Journal. "This is a vote where virtually the entire activist base of the Democratic Party is mobilized against this and against a president they respect and like, because they think this is a fundamental question for our country about the structure of our economy going forward.
Green is pushing the same message. "This impacts so many millions of jobs that this vote will not be forgotten. It will be around for years. There is arguably no bigger vote that will impact more American jobs than this [Trans-Pacific Partnership] fast-track vote."
Borosage, Green, and leaders of the AFL-CIO all say this could mean progressive opposition to incumbent Democrats in next year's primaries. Already, Rep. Ami Bera, a two-term congressman from a marginal district in Sacramento, California has been targeted. The California Labor Federation has called his support for Obama's TPA "a slap in the face to those who worked so hard to elect him." No primary opponent has surfaced yet, but Bera, without sufficient funds, easily could lose to a Republican.
The Campaign for America's Future has taken aim at the 13 Democrats who supported TPA in the Senate, putting out a flyer with "SHAMEFUL" in large red letters over their pictures and the lament that "these Democratic senators voted to shut out America's workers from the trade debate." At least one of those senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon, could face a primary challenge because of that vote.
"Democrats have been pretty coddled by their base," said Borosage, noting that Republican activists have been less swayed by arguments that they could cause a seat to flip to the opposition. "I think the base has to be increasingly assertive. Not on every vote, but on major questions, people have to face consequences. That doesn't mean we're going to go out and primary every senator. But I think one or two of these congresspeople are going to get primaried."
What is amazing is how irrelevant an incumbent president of the United States is to this debate at the grassroots.
Basically, the anti-trade coalition sees no reason to waste energy attacking a lame-duck president, whose mind is made up on this issue, who has been an ally in many past battles, and who could once again return to the good graces of the activists when this fight is concluded. They also feel a sense of liberation now that Obama can't run again. "Especially now that he is not running for reelection, there is no real necessity for having his back, particularly when he's on the wrong side of the majority of Americans," Green said.