The debate fell outside usual positions. Free trade is the hallmark of Republicans, they say, but they seemed to be unhappy with NAFTA. Democrats, in the old days, were protectionist about American workers, yet their criticisms suggested they wanted to keep manufacturing jobs in Mexico and for Canadian farmers to have a good deal in the U.S. while America got penalized in Canada.
Some of it is politicization of science and some is just the usual political obstructionism but both the environment and agriculture got a win here.
Yet Democrats will remain in opposition, even though it would be smarter to let this go. New York Senator Chuck Schumer can claim he is worried about the environmental impact of more Americans in manufacturing but America has the best air quality in the world. Why would he not want more jobs moving back here where, with control of the House of Representatives in January, Democrats can create new regulations? Even small micron particulate matter, the latest boogeyman of the environmental community, is non-existent in the U.S. (except during forest fires).
America has incredible air quality. This is not even real air pollution, PM10, this is PM2.5, which has never been shown to kill anyone. Credit: WHO
Bringing those jobs back here - and since Mexico now has to pay $16 an hour those jobs will come back - means lesser environmental impact for the whole continent.
This was also a thank you to farmers, a demographic where Democrats have done poorly but should not. In 2017, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught up in anti-Trump hysteria , he made a tactical error by creating a new Class 7 dairy pricing scheme specifically to hurt America's dairy community. He thought he could win political points at home but after Saudi Arabia brutalized Canada on the world stage, Trudeau sought support from both the U.S. and U.K., two countries whose leadership he had belittled routinely, and found that both suddenly ignored him. Trump was never going to back down on dairy reform for American farmers even though Wisconsin alone produces more milk than the entire country to the north.
Democrats are dismissing this as a token change, so why block it? It is certainly not going to remake the fortunes of American dairy farmers; due to over-supply they have been getting $16 per 100 pounds of milk, far below the $26 they were getting in 2014.
But that is even more reason for Democrats not to try and stonewall it. The jobs that return here will be union jobs and farmers voted for Trump because Democrats think more about environmentalists in fancy corporate offices than they do America's food providers. Farmers vote on their issues so if Democrats embrace agriculture, and agricultural science, they can make real inroads in rural America, where they've lost badly in recent years. Including the 2016 election.