If President Obama uses his State of the Union address to launch a major push for “fast-track” authority to bypass congressional input and oversight on a sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, he will need new allies to generate support around the country.
The president won’t be able to look to progressive farm groups. The National Farmers Union is explicitly opposed to using a fast-track approach that would allow trade agreements to move through Congress with limited debate and without amendments.
In fact, if Obama decides to ramp up his advocacy for a free-trade strategy that progressive Americans tend to see as a threat to workers, farmers, the environment, human rights and democracy, he won’t be able to count on many traditional allies to stir up grassroots support in the states. That’s one of the reasons there remains considerable uncertainty about whether the president really will—in a speech that is expected to focus on income equality—spend substantial time talking up a trade agenda that has drawn broad opposition from House and Senate Democrats and so much of his base.
If the president does go all in for the TPP, he will find himself in strange company—with groups that promote policies that critics argue are responsible for the growing gap between a wealthy few and an increasingly impoverished many.
There is, for instance, one group that maintains an extensive network of political connections in states across the country and is enthusiastically on board for “the expedited conclusions and approval of the TPP.”
That group is the American Legislative Exchange Council.