I was just about to write a column about Donald Trump being the only potential Republican candidate I knew of to forcefully come out against fast-track, and then I read this article. Carly Fiorina has now come out against it, as has Mike Huckabee. Fiorina and Huckabee are already declared candidates and Trump seems nearly certain to declare next month. According to the linked article Bobby Jindal has spoken out against fast-track as well, and for this he deserves praise, but I won’t deal with Jindal here because he is much less certain to be a candidate.
Trump has a long record of skepticism toward trade deals going back to at least 2000 when he flirted with running for the Reform Party nomination. His opposition is therefore not surprising, and his entrance into the race will be a welcome and much needed voice in the debates.
Huckabee has made statements in the past that indicate he is not an orthodox free-trader. This is one reason that certain conservative organizations and a segment of conservative activists got so disproportionately exercised when Huckabee started to perform well in 2008. Oddly, Huckabee’s website does not mention his opposition to fast-track, which seems unwise since it is an issue that plays well with the GOP base. This is why I wasn’t going to include him as someone who has spoken out “forcefully” against fast-track, but he came out guns blazing on his first day on the campaign trail. His voice will also be a welcome addition to the debate.
Carly Fiorina is that most surprising of the three. Trump and Huckabee both have a history of hitting populist notes, but Fiorina had an offshoring controversy during her tenure at Hewlett-Packard which came up as an issue in her 2010 Senate race in California, and as far as I know has not struck a particularly populist pose in the past.
Fiorina cites not trusting China to live up to any deal it signs as one reason for her opposition. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the two people in the race with real life business experience oppose fast-track and the TPP. They are in the best position to realize that ideological theories about trade don’t always align with reality.
Notable in their absence from this list are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both of whom are attempting to portray themselves as outsiders battling the Establishment, and both of whom have enthusiastically endorsed fast-track and TPP.
While Fiorina, Trump and Huckabee all appear to oppose fast-track and the TPP, while Cruz and Paul support both, it is important to separate the two issues. One could potentially support free-trade in theory (as did Rand’s father) or the TPP in particular, without supporting fast-track. This is why Paul and Cruz have no excuse for their perfidy.
Fast-track is a deliberate subversion of the normal legislative process and is arguably unconstitutional. It is a means to get to a particular end by not playing by the rules. No patriot or anyone who claims to revere the Constitution should support it. According to the Constitution, regulating trade is one of the few things that Congress actually has authority to do. The power to regulate trade is “vested” in Congress, and they have no rightful authority to hand off that constitutionally delegated role. No conservative would dream of supporting a similar arrangement for tax or spending policy, which are also specifically the domain of Congress.
Paul and Cruz are trying to sell us on their anti-Establishment bona fides but yet they support legislative gimmickry so globalist, corporatist fat cats can get their managed (not free) trade deal. This is highly unfortunate and something genuine anti-Establishment voters should carefully consider when deciding whom to cast a vote for in the 2016 primaries.
If I have missed any other Republican candidates who are publicly against fats-track, let me know in the comments.