Who's a 'Seattle Democrat?'

John Edwards is a Seattle Democract. So is James Webb. But what about Hillary and Obama?
John Edwards is a Seattle Democract. So is James Webb. But what about Hillary and Obama?

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James Pethokoukis, a senior writer for US News & World Report, has a name for Democrats who are free trade skeptics: He calls them "Seattle Democrats," which is funny since most elected Seattle Democrats are actually free-trade boosters. The name is a legacy from the 1999 WTO demonstrations that turned "Seattle" into either a synonym for the anti-globalization movement or a code word for a fiasco: Law enforcement officials might say, let's not have another Seattle! Just who are the Seattle Democrats? Pethokoukis writes:

These Democrats – such as Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, as well as "netroots" activists of the blogosphere who revolve around the Daily Kos Web site – see free trade as the mechanism though which globalization is lowering wages, destroying unions, unraveling communities, increasing income inequality, hollowing out U.S. manufacturing, and transforming America into a sort of corporatist state where the motto is "What's good for globalization is good for America."

John Edwards is a "Seattle Democrat;" the jury is still out on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, writes Pethokoukis, though they're likely not as "Seattle" as Edwards. Nevertheless, a fair number were elected to Congress last November and as Pethokoukis wrote in an earlier piece this year, a sizable number of Democrats – not just WTO anarchists – are worried about U.S. trade policies:

A poll taken [in December 2006] by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council found that 70 percent of respondents were concerned about "jobs moving overseas" while just as many thought the United States should repeal current trade agreements as thought the U.S. should make new ones. And 59 percent thought their standard of living would decline over the next decade. Another sign of workers' economic insecurity: 79 percent would prefer a job that paid less but "wouldn't be taken away."

In the House, Ways & Means Committee Chair Charlie Rangel is trying to reconcile globalizers and skeptics with a new set of trade policy principles (PDF). Likely they will appeal to Seattle's Democrats, but the question is whether they will lure "Seattle Democrats" into a compromise. The wrangling promises to be a new battle for what Seattle means to trade.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.