Politics & Policy

A Cause Endures

Gephardt is out. Is protectionism in?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the February 9, 2004, issue of National Review.

Richard Gephardt’s quest for the Democratic presidential nomination is over, and so, apparently, is his political career. But one key element of his message continues to reverberate within his party.

WWhile Howard Dean tapped the antiwar sentiment among Democrats, Gephardt tried to mine resentment against international trade. In his stump speeches, he blamed trade for most of America’s perceived and real economic ills. He hammered home the fact that, in contrast to his rivals, he opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) bill that ushered China into the World Trade Organization. It’s a message that, at least before the Iowa caucuses on January 19, seemed to resonate with many blue-collar union members.

No one could accuse Dick Gephardt of an eleventh-hour conversion to the protectionist gospel. The 14-term Missouri congressman has been preaching and practicing it for years. Back in the 1980s, he championed an amendment that would have imposed sanctions on countries that ran bilateral trade surpluses with the U.S. He not only opposed but led the charge in the House against NAFTA, PNTR with China, and trade-promotion authority (a.k.a. “fast track”).

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–Daniel T. Griswold is associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

Daniel Griswold is a senior research fellow and the co-director of the Trade and Immigration Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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