In the Democratic presidential primaries NAFTA became a dirty word. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama vied to out-diss the trade agreement and gain the votes of disenchanted (and often unemployed) workers in blue-collar parts of the country.
The candidates weren’t just pandering to swing states. Surveys showed for the first time that the scales had tipped: the majority polled nationwide expressed negative opinions of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Evaluations of NAFTA at the ten- and 15-year anniversaries had increased skepticism because they had recorded flat growth in Mexico and job loss in the United States.
It was quite a turnaround. NAFTA first entered the American lexicon as a symbol of progress measured by rapid economic integration. Globalization of what we produce and what we consume seemed a beneficial and, in any case, inevitable outcome.