“I worry that the party is going down this Pat Buchanan wing of the party—that’s now the Donald Trump wing—is ascendant,” added Moore. “There’s now becoming a rift within the party between the ‘build the wall’ party and the—I think—the party Reagan [built.]”
More than 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan campaigned on a North America Free Trade Agreement and, when he became president, entered the U.S. into the first free trade agreement with Israel. His emphasis on expanding trade and lowering trade barriers in an effort to increase economic growth and create better paying jobs stuck with the establishment wing of the party. In 2012, the GOP platform stated: “A Republican President will complete negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open rapidly developing Asian markets to U.S. products. Beyond that, we envision a worldwide multilateral agreement among nations committed to the principles of open markets, what has been called a ‘Reagan Economic Zone,’ in which free trade will truly be fair trade for all concerned.”
Yet of the nine top-tier candidates taking the GOP presidential debate stage Tuesday night, at least four oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congressional approval for TPP, which was recently reached by the U.S. and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim, is under severe political pressure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he is “disappointed” but undecided on the agreement—and warned President Obama that voting on his potentially last legacy-defining achievement should wait until after the 2016 election.
“I think he ought to take into account the obvious politics of trade at the moment in our country,” McConnell said at a Politico-sponsored breakfast.
The issue is blurring all kinds of lines. Along with both unions and the “Middle American Radical,” Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz all oppose the pact.
The vast majority of Democrats in Congress oppose the agreement, as they think TPP would outsource American jobs and depress wages. Republicans are split. Many are particularly skeptical of this agreement because it was negotiated under the Obama administration, which has deemed TPP the most progressive pact in U.S. history, and are concerned it places burdensome environmental and labor regulations. McConnell and the North Carolina GOP congressional delegation have concerns about various tobacco provisions, and some Republicans, particularly Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, believe the intellectual-property protections for pharmaceutical companies producing biologic drugs aren’t strong enough.
But other conservatives are keen on lowering tariffs and taking advantage of greater economic trade with the Pacific nations surrounding China. Grover Norquist, the chief of Americans for Tax Reform, supports the pact, while acknowledging flaws in intellectual-property provisions, among others.