Learning to Love the Status Quo


Across the board, but especially in progressive circles, trade policy issues tend to get incredibly contentious. In part, that’s because of contention on the merits, but you also see a lot of heated disputes about the politics of trade deals. Under the circumstances, I was rather surprised to see this polling result in the DLC’s report on the politics of globalization.

The country is very evenly divided on the question of trade agreements, but not in an especially “polarized” way. Instead, about thirty percent of the country wants to see existence agreements repealed, an equal number want to see new agreements signed and implemented, and a further thirty percent want to see the status quo maintained. Throw in the ten percent who “don’t know” what they think, and you have a pretty overwhelming case that the smart political play is to . . . do nothing.

The good news for politicians is that doing nothing is extremely easy. Over and above the general ease of not doing things, the American political system has been specially designed to facilitate not doing things. Under the circumstances, you’d think people might find it in their hearts to get a little bit less worked-up on this topic, especially since the clearest substantive result on trade policy is that trade policy doesn’t matter nearly as much as people tend to think.