For all the sound and fury that has accompanied this election season, it's worth remembering that Democrats and Republicans have remarkably similar positions on globalization. In an October poll, nearly twice as many Republicans, usually the party of business, opposed free trade as supported it. At the same time, with a majority of Democratic voters opposing trade, even the most centrist Democrats are backpedaling--Hillary Clinton says she would reexamine the North American Free Trade Agreement, a landmark deal passed by her own husband.

America is hardly unique. As a Pew poll from September revealed, “Since 2002 enthusiasm for trade has declined significantly in the United States, Italy, France, and Britain.” Except for small Scandinavian nations, which have relatively small populations and comprehensive worker transition programs, no developed country has developed an effective program to help workers who lose jobs because of globalization. Though some polls show that citizens of developing nations back trade in principle, this support is shallow, and developing world politicians share this wariness. Countries like India, Brazil, and South Africa have become far wealthier in recent years, but they still believe they do not have enough say at the WTO, which tends to be dominated by the West and Japan. They may be right: A Carnegie Endowment study of the current Doha Round of WTO multilateral trade negotiations, designed to slash trade barriers around the globe, found that the biggest gainers from the Round would be developed countries like Japan and Europe, not poorer nations.

Meanwhile, though fears of China as an economic competitor first emerged in the West, developing countries, which only three years ago embraced new trade links to Beijing, have started to worry as well. In South Africa, which once enthusiastically welcomed Chinese investment, President Thabo Mbeki has warned Beijing not to dump goods on his country. In Thailand, which once touted a new trade deal between China and Southeast Asian states, politicians have begun worrying that imports of Chinese produce will destroy Thai agriculture.

In the past, politicians sometimes were able to ignore middling support for free trade and push deals anyway; NAFTA hardly had overwhelming public backing. But in an ever-tighter American political scene--one in which many voters increasingly blame trade for the insecurity of the modern workplace, rather than taking a hard look at other factors that might be causing these problems, like Americans’ abysmal savings rates  and companies’ willingness to shower senior executives with pay packages--no one can afford to lose votes. While in Europe, a series of referendums on Continent-wide initiatives, like a new European constitution, have forced EU politicians to listen more to the public. Though European politicians once shunned the kind of tough trade sanctions preferred by the U.S. Congress, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, a longtime trade advocate, now suggests Europe should consider taking trade cases against China to the World Trade Organization. What’s more, as many developing nations have become true democracies over the past decade, their politicians now have to take public opinion into consideration. After thousands of demonstrators in 2006 surrounded a hotel in Chiang Mai where Thai and U.S. negotiators were attempting to hammer out a bilateral free trade deal, the proposed agreement soon collapsed.

With public support waning, nearly every major trade initiative is on life support. The Doha Round has missed one deadline after another. Though WTO head Pascal Lamy plans to host more Doha discussions later this year, progress most likely won’t be made before a new administration takes over the White House--if it happens at all. President Bush already has lost his “fast track” trade authority, which allows him to put trade deals to Congress for straight yes-or-no votes. With Doha sidelined, countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe will focus instead on bilateral preferential trade deals, which lead to what Haruhiko Kuroda, head of the Asian Development Bank, calls a “spaghetti bowl” of overlapping deals that often conflict with each other and confuse companies trying to invest across an entire region.

The death of real free trade, though it might keep some American jobs, will not be a benefit in the long run. Lowering trade barriers around the world, if handled correctly, does boost growth. Even the relatively pessimistic Carnegie study showed that, if Doha succeeded, it would add over $40 billion to global income annually. In Asia, countries from Thailand to South Korea to Singapore have built their economies on exports and shipping, and many of their exported products keep American consumer prices low. Africa now is booming, its best growth in decades, largely because of new trade with Asian nations. And strong growth rates there, along with the creation of real middle classes, will promote democracy and reduce support for radicalism. But don’t expect to hear much about that from Hillary Clinton--or from any of her rivals.

Joshua Kurlantzick is a special correspondent for The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s China Program.

By Joshua Kurlantzick