Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Unprincipled opposition

Fire Dennis Moore thinks Moore will vote against CAFTA. They even seem to think that's a bad thing.

Why, or why anyone would care, no one knows.

They think he'll take this tack:

“I strongly support free trade but I don’t like this particular agreement because it hurts workers and the environment and my fundraising.”
Dropping that last part, it looks a lot like what I wrote yesterday:

I'm for free trade, but CAFTA does it wrong. It weakens already weak controls on worker rights and protections in trade partners, meaning we import poor labor and environmental standards.
Politics isn't just about "Fire this" or "Support that." There are reasons and principles behind every person or policy I endorse here, and I've yet to see anything resembling principle coming out of FDM. As far as I can tell, they don't like that "D" CSPAN puts next to his name, and that's it.

At some point, I had someone over there agreeing that Moore isn't too liberal. They agree he's business friendly. They seem to just wish he were Republican.

For those who are curious, here's what I see wrong with CAFTA, and what can be right about free trade.

Part of FDM's lack of stated principle may have more to do with their intended audience than with a genuine vacuity.

There's no way to beat Moore without unifying the Republican Party, and unifying the party would be a valid goal for a partisan anyway. FDM wants to unify Republicans, and the Republican party isn't unified ideologically.

There are the big business advocates, for whom CAFTA is all good. There are the economic libertarians, for whom CAFTA has some interest, though it isn't nearly "free" enough for free trade. There are individualistic libertarians, for whom the seizure of more power by corporate interests holds no appeal, though free trade is good in principle. Small business conservatives are more protectionist, since CAFTA steals their (agricultural) markets. Then there are the religious conservatives, the major part of the conservative wing of the Kansas Republican Party. They don't care about CAFTA at all, and they're the ones who don't like Moore.

So moderates are divided on CAFTA, conservatives are indifferent. How do you bring all those people together to dislike Moore for voting against CAFTA? By turning it into an issue of selling out to unions, FDM hopes to bring together a group of people who otherwise disagree about the merits of CAFTA.

Here's the problem. If CAFTA fails, it won't be on account of Democrats. It'll go down because so many Republicans are against it. Farm district Republicans will vote against it, as will many democrats. Free traders on both sides of the aisle will oppose CAFTA because it is a bad deal. There's no political hay to make here, unless FDM wants to make a serious policy argument. And they can't or won't do that.