Dan needs more Dan

Todd Tucker
Sep 13 · 4 min read

(From this thread.)

Uncannily, Abe Newman read my mind.

@dandrezner is puzzled at how progressive candidates’ trade plans appear to diverge from the preferences of poll respondents.

Dan needs more Dan in his life.

Thread 👇

Abraham Newman@ANewman_forward

Thread. Time to rethink US market power and how it could reshape global trade debates. Im channeling @dandrezner to talk to @dandrezner https://beta.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/07/30/elizabeth-warrens-trade-plan-is-bad-politics-worse-policy/ …

Here are a range of explanations for the puzzle — any one of which would be sufficient to explain the supposed gap.

1. This has been the majority progressive position in Congress for many years — certainly since most members have been in office.

It’s long been true in the House, but it’s increasingly true in the Senate as well. (theguardian.com/us-news/2015/m…)

So policy inertia and path dependence are one explanation, which Dan writes about here: (tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…)

One reason it has been the progressive position is because unions are the most important organized force helping to elect and re-elect Democrats, and they’re generally status quo trade policy critics — including those that aren’t trade-exposed.


62% of voters say the #TPP will make things worse. 175 organizations agree (we’re one of ‘em!) #FairTradeNow

Ceteris paribus, organized interest beats disorganized poll respondents, per public choice theory. Here’s Dan on why interest groups might be especially powerful in trade — a foreign-policy adjacent space. (jstor.org/stable/2669278…)

But another reason is substantive, and it’s what Warren herself has offered by way of explanation. Trade agreements are no longer primarily about tariffs, but about a view of regulation that conflicts with her own. (thenation.com/article/elizab…)

This is a real conflict, it’s been there for decades, and that’s how activists in this space actually talk about it. Dan’s work on why international regimes get complex and why different and new interests might be affected is highly recommended (cambridge.org/core/journals/…)

(Side bar: Iain Osgood and coauthors have a great project in this space, which looks at the reasons legislators and activists give for being skeptical of trade deals. It promises to make a major contribution to complement the more reductive OEP paradigm.) (sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/ia…)

Setting these aside, might there be some reason to be concerned with any overlap between Warren and Trump on trade?

Well, Democrats do have to win states back from Trump, and there is at least some evidence that this msg would help or at least not hurt (journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.11…)

Candidates may feel the need to be precautionary and tack a more populist message on to win back some of these voters. Focus groups on Obama-to-Trump voters have shown that’s wise. (beta.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/…) Second, FWIW, there’s no evidence that Warren plans to actually start raising tariffs or pulling out of trade deals without something else in place. There are a number of ways to deliver on her plans — she mentions foreign govt capacity building.

Todd N. Tucker✔@toddntucker

Not sure I would criticize as protectionist a plan whose through line is bashing protectionism and basically doesn’t dwell at all on tariffs. Warren’s plan mentions tariffs six times. Three are in this para, which bashes Trump’s tariffs. https://twitter.com/dandrezner/status/1156177436574400514 …

See Todd N. Tucker’s other Tweets

Finally, there’s longstanding bipartisan concerns with China. I agree that policymakers haven’t landed on the most persuasive right solution. But since they’ll be doing something, it’s not a bad idea to have real talk with voters. Even Beto is doing that.

Todd N. Tucker✔@toddntucker

Beto has a trade plan! There’s a lot to like.

First, he advocates for an alternative vision that is neither neoliberalism nor Trumpism. He pledges to end an unproductive trade war, but also put working people and environment at the center, not the margin.https://medium.com/@BetoORourke/trade-for-america-7e62088911f5 …

Finally, I don’t think Dem poll respondents really care anywhere as much as Dan about trade. These are complex questions, and when pollsters insert that complexity into their questioning, there’s more nuanced responses, eg concerned with corporate power. (piie.com/system/files/d…)

Todd Tucker

Written by

I write about democracy, political economy, and trade. Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Roosevelt Forward.

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