Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnA Banner With arnStrange DevicernAs the House of Representatives slitheredrntoward its vote on the North AmericanrnFree Trade Agreement last November,rnthe regiments of lobbyists who werernpeddling the pact set up their tents inrnwhat the New York Times described as “arnstately conference room on the first floorrnof the Capitol, barely an elevator ridernaway from the action in the Housernchamber.” There, amidst the high-techrnopulence in which the public interest isrnbought and sold, the real rulers of thernUnited States bargained and bickeredrnover the economic future and nationalrnsovereignty of the country. According tornthe Times’ account of the scene, thern”stately conference room” was plasteredrnwith banners that proclaimed the ethicrnof the New World hog trough into whichrnthe lobbyists were bartering the nationrnand that were intended to inspire thosernwho required inspiration with a firmrnmoral grounding for the bribery and liesrnby which they earn their bread. One ofrnthe banners tells us all we need to knowrnabout both NAFTA and the larger issuesrnthat stood on the auction block thatrnweek. “We defend,” it blared, “and wernbuild a way of life not for America alone,rnbut for all mankind.” There was a timernnot too long ago when such banalities ofrnhumanitarian universalism were left torngather cosmic dust on the surface of thernmoon, but today they are taken seriouslyrnas formulas by which the managedrnevanescence of the United States is rationalized.rnBut for all the banality of the banner,rnthe device it bore communicated an importantrntruth about NAFTA and thernforces that pushed it. Strangely enough,rnit was NAFTA opponent Jesse Jacksonrnwho perhaps encapsulated those forcesrnmost succinctly in a statement utteredrnsoon after the vote. “President Clinton,”rnthe country’s most voluble ProfessionalrnNegro proclaimed, “leads the Reagan-rnBush-Limbaugh-Iacocca-Kissinger-Rostenkowski-rnmajor publishers-Wall Street-rnRepublicans victory team.” While this,rnof course, is not a precise analysis, thernReverend Jackson’s proclamations arernnever noticeable for their precision orrntheir analytic clarity (although at leastrnthis one doesn’t rhyme). Nevertheless,rnhis description does accurately suggestrnthat it was the nation’s elite that offeredrnthe most fervent apologetic for NAFTA,rnand not merely the corporate elite but alsornour political and cultural oligarchs.rnThat is why Mr. Clinton could trot outrnevery living ex-President in support ofrnthe treaty as well as the recently retiredrnchairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff andrnmost of the country’s governors, and thatrnis why NAFTA lobbyists enjoyed suchrnposh headquarters in the U.S. Capitol,rnwhile their opponents had to make dornwith rather less up-scale offices considerablyrnfarther from the elevators.rnWhat binds these different elites together,rnhowever, is not merely their commitmentrnto NAFTA but their larger investmentrnin the emergent transnationalrnregime—variously known as the “NewrnWodd Order,” the “Global Economy,”rnthe “First Universal Nation,” etc.—rntoward the construction of which, asrnHenry Kissinger announced, NAFTA isrnthe first vital step. Probably more thanrnany other political issue for years, NAFTArnshows clearly the immense gulf thatrnseparates the interests of these elites fromrnthe interests and aspirations of MiddlernAmericans. In an analysis of the NAFTArnconflict soon after the vote, WashingtonrnPost reporter Thomas Edsall made itrnclear that the real source of the strugglernover the trade agreement was not simplyrn”left” versus “right” or “free trade” versusrn”protection,” but rather a social conflictrnbetween the elite as characterized by Mr.rnJackson and what Mr. Edsall described asrn”men and women without college degreesrnfor whom the work ethic no longerrnis paying off.” “For the past 20 years,rnfor men especially,” Mr. Edsall added,rn”inflation-adjusted wages have beenrneroding, and the likelihood of permanentrnlayoff has grown.”rnDemocratic Whip David Bonior, onernof the leading opponents of the tradernagreement in the House, was even morernspecific about the Middle American oppositionrnto the treaty. “When jobs arernlost,” he said in the debate on the Housernfloor, “these are the people who have tornsell their homes, pull their kids out ofrnschool and look for new work. The workingrnpeople who stand against this treatyrndon’t have degrees from Harvard. Theyrndon’t study economic models. Andrnmost of them never heard of AdamrnSmith. But they know when the deck isrnstacked against them.” It will be recalled,rnand Mr. Edsall did recall it, that itrnwas precisely this stratum of the Americanrnpopulation to whom Mr. Clintonrnpledged his troth in his acceptancernspeech at the Democratic Convention inrn1992, “the people who work hard, payrntheir taxes, [and] play by the rules,” andrnof course, as with every other successfulrnpresidential candidate who has gulledrnMiddle Americans into supporting him,rnMr. Clinton’s practice in office has beenrnto betray them at every opportunity andrnto ally himself with the elite and its interests.rnThe conflict between, on the onernhand, the Middle American core of thernnation and, on the other, an elite lodgedrnin the bureaucratized, technocratic, andrnincreasingly global mass organizations ofrnthe state, economy, and culture is ofrncourse not new and has underlain andrninformed most of the social and politicalrnconflicts in the United States since thern1960’s. Yet with the NAFTA debate, thernconflict reached a new level, turned arncorner, and took a giant step toward anrnexplicitly nationalist (and, on the otherrnside, an explicitly anti-nationalist andrnglobalist) consciousness. While earlierrnstages of the conflict have settled on cultural,rnracial, and social issues, what thernNAFTA battle accomplished for the firstrntime was to bind and synthesize therneconomic complaints of the MiddlernAmerican core with the issue of nationhoodrnitself.rnThe opposition to NAFTA generallyrnemphasized two major flaws of the agreement.rnOne was its effect on Americanrnjobs and the “giant sucking sound” thernagreement would cause the economy tornemit as American jobs gurgled across thernRio Grande. The other was its erosive effectrnon national sovereignty through therntrinational panels that the agreementrnempowers to rule on which local andrn8/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn