Former governor Deval Patrick is joining a group of liberal Democrats to push for President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that has drawn strong opposition from national progressive leaders, including Patrick’s close political ally, US Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Patrick will be part of a group — Progressive Coalition for American Jobs — organized by former Obama aides to blunt the charged opposition that has come from leading liberal national political figures, labor unions, and environmental groups.
Patrick’s involvement is part of the group’s recruitment of well-known national Democratic leaders that include former Washington governor Christine Gregoire and former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk. The three will head the group’s advisory committee.
Patrick was not immediately available for comment.
In a statement released with the announcement, Patrick said “embracing global trade” is essential to job growth. He argued that progressives should want Obama to work out the trade deal.
“I’d rather have the president and this administration work out the rules for doing so through the Trans-Pacific Partnership than leaving it to administrations, at home or abroad, less sensitive to worker rights and environmental stewardship,” he said.
Part of the Obama administration’s strategy is to woo members of the Congressional Black Caucus to get behind the trade deal in hopes of gaining votes for its support when the issue comes before the House. Patrick and Kirk are among the most prominent African-American political figures in the country.
But a spokesman for the group said Patrick will speak to a wide variety of progressive leaders and groups.
“He’s taken this unpaid position because he believes it will be a good deal for the American worker and the American economy,” said the group’s spokesman, Hari Sevugan.
“The purpose is to demonstrate that there are progressive voices that support a fair trade deal that provides strong international environmental and labor standards,” he added.
“We want President Obama to negotiate this deal because without American leadership, there will be leadership from those who don’t have the commitment to American jobs or strong international environmental and labor standards,” he said.
Warren’s leadership in the fight to defeat the trade deal puts her in direct conflict now with Patrick, with whom she has had a warm relationship since her election to the Senate in 2012.
The deal has created a rift among Democrats. Warren has sharply attacked the deal for what she said is its lack of transparency and some of its provisions that she claims would further empower corporations.
Obama’s political team, some of whom are embedded in the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, is deploying some of the president’s cutting-edge campaign strategies that put him in the White House.
“We will employ digital, grass-roots, and grass-tops organizing — as well as comprehensive communications strategies — to make the progressive case for free and fair trade,” said Sevugan, who served as the senior spokesman for the Obama presidential campaign. “We are running digital ads in Oregon and Washington state now — and we’ll be expanding to other states in the coming weeks.”
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.