What should the Democrats of the now focus on to give themselves a platform to campaign on come the midterms (and, ultimately, a chance for Obama to get reelected)? I would list it like this:
- Deficit reduction
- Floating a second stimulus package
- Tackle the continuing home foreclosures
- Recouping the ‘bail outs’/ the ‘Wall Street Tax’
- Strengthening/re-regulating the financial sector
- (Attempt to) Tackle big bonuses
- Return small business loans to pre-2008 crisis level
- Health care reform
- Massive PR campaign about the bill
- Strengthen any bill and get it through
- Tort reform
- Gay rights
- Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
- Commission into gay marriage/civil unions
- National security
- Increase communication among the intelligence community
- ‘Improve’ airline safety through specific bills
- Resolve the Guantanamo Bay fiasco
- ‘Fix’ Afghanistan
- Immigration reform
- Establish the status and conditions of current ‘illegal’ immigrants
- Reform to the immigration procedures
- Establish a strong border policy
- Float some sort of pollution-reduction bill (cap-and-trade perhaps?)
- Begin the framework of some sort of federal-to-state program that deals with pollution and environment conservation
- Administration ‘shake-up’
- Make changes to the financial arm of the administration
- Crack down on lobbyists
- Pursue a line of ‘killing’ the filibuster
- Democratic party ‘shake-up’
- Crack down on lobbyist donations (possibly ban them?)
Points 1 and 2 are populist first and foremost, but essential to returning the US economy to any sort of state of strength. The ‘Wall Street Tax’ is one way to get the bail out money back quickly, but would go down a treat on Main Street, where the middle class and independents are beginning to turn their back on the Democrats. You just need to look at the Obama’s approval levels in the past year. For those in the income bracket of $30,000 to $75,000 they registered a 63% approval to 17% disapproval in February of 2009. In the latest January poll of this year, his numbers are 53% approval to 35% disapproval. More middle class people have made up their mind about Obama’s first year, and more people disapprove of his job.
A tax on those doing it good in this tough time will go down well for those people struggling. A tax on the companies that both caused all this mess and have taken the government for a ride will score well for those looking to blame someone, and might even help shift the blame off the current government towards the banks (who could be tied to the Republican party with some crafty policy making – as explored below).
Republicans are against taxes on people and on businesses – both big and small. By floating taxes, the Republicans will, to a man/woman, oppose it. With some good spin, this could be characterised as obvious siding with banks – the root cause of the problem. “Look what happened when Republicans sided with the banks before? Everyone except the super-rich suffered. Imagine how it would be if they were in power again? They are still siding with the banks in opposition, they will do it if they get in power. Keep the banks out of Congress!” No Republicans are prepared to side with a tax. If there is, they will get attacked savagely from the right in their primary election. The TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party has made their views on compromising/moderate Republicans (they don’t like them, at all).
Health care is on the list, and reasonably high, just to get the damn thing over already! They need to either get it through (with a Republican vote) or push something through with reconciliation followed by a separate bill that will improve and strengthen it that the Republicans can oppose over and over again. If they get something through, the Democrats at least have something to show for and something that they can pledge to defend and strengthen upon reelection.
The health care bill also needs a new public relations manager. The Democrats, thus far, have done a terrible job of explaining it. So few people will be affected by what is before Congress that it’s laughable about the hyperbole. And there’s a big group that are against it: seniors. If you look at Massachusetts numbers from the Brown-Coakley election, Brown won the age group 65-74 at 58% to 38%. This same age group oppose national health insurance at 48% to 28% (with a full 41% saying they ‘strongly oppose’). While that’s a massive margin, note that still 34% who neither oppose or support it! But what is astounding is that even though the current bill will reduce the deficit (as the Senate bill has been scored by the CBO), 66% of those said that the government couldn’t afford to pay for the plan, while 33% said the government could.
Now, clearly, there is some confusing here: 34% have no opinion on the bill, but there’s 66% of people who say it can’t be funded by the government. Wouldn’t you oppose a bill the government couldn’t afford? And 28% say they support national health insurance but 33% say that the government can afford it. So there’s 5% in there that say the government could help insure the entire country, but they don’t want them to do it! Do these people hate poor people or something? It’s possible that that 5% of these people are within the 34% who have no opinion. But if they are it comes back to the fact that …..
….. AFTER ONE YEAR OF MESSING AROUND WITH THIS BILL OVER ONE-THIRD OF PEOPLE STILL HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT IT!
I’ve thrown up a post as to how I would broadcast to the electorate if a bill gets through the House and Senate in its current form (even with reconciliation). You’ll see that just by passing this weakened bill it will give Democrats at least a few strong planks to campaign from.
4, 5, and 7 are to re-excite the base. Clearly, if a Republican can win in Massachusetts then the Democratic base isn’t turning out and (therefore) isn’t nearly excited enough for what’s going on in DC. The latest national polling registers 55% of Republican voters as “very interested” in the upcoming midterm election. Contrast this with just 38% of Democrats. That’s a 17% difference. The Democrats, if they want to win some of the close House and Senate races, need that 117% to be a +17%. Otherwise, they are going to be struggling up a hill.
6 paints the Republicans into a corner with voters. Southern Republicans are opposed to any sort of immigration reform that doesn’t include erecting a massive fence along the borders and patrolling it with guns. But the Northern/industrial Republicans, whose electorates benefit from illegal immigrant labour, are not exactly opposed to reform. This issue splits the GOP down the middle. And GOP-er that supports immigration reforms will immediately get attacked from the right by the extremists of the party as well as the Tea Party. But any Republican that opposes it loses massive votes from the Latino and Hispanic demographic – which the Democrats are quickly taking as their own as elections go by. Imagine a bill that the Democrats float that gives citizenship to current illegal immigrants, or illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for a minimum of 5 years. The first thing that springs to mind: These people are going to remember which party granted them citizenship and the right to vote. It’s a similar scenario to the Civil Rights in a sense: African American voted for Democrats during and immediately after the Movement because the Democrats championed their rights in Congress (for the most part). This is a massive block of voters that might just side with the Democrats straight away and would create a lot of vulnerable border Republican in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
So immigration reform: splits the Republicans, gets a lot of voters for the Democrats, and brings seats (and possibly states come 2012) into play. Why isn’t this on the table?
8 and 9 are, again, populist moves. People are not happy with the current adminstration, especially with the economy. Unfortunately, they are calling for blood. Heads need to roll. Not to forget that the current Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, hasn’t been at all popular or adequate in his role. Have a shake-up and get some better people in there. Then go after lobbyists. Get the public back to hating them: Pin them with the Republicans (not hard: Obama didn’t take a cent from them in the 2008 campaigns), and pin them as trying to destroy health care and looking out for Wall Street. And then make sure that the DSCC and the DCCC aren’t taking lobbyist money for the up-coming midterms to make sure that the Democrats are the ‘common man’s’ party. By voting in a Republican, the voters need to be thinking they are voting in someone looking out for big business. They might as well vote for a lobbyist if they are voting for a Republican. Then just turn attention on the Republican use of the filibuster and pretend to make a move to try and kill it. It’s 90% going to fail in the end, but by continually reminding people that the Republicans used this to try and destroy health care and, in effect, the country it should be outlawed. It denies majority rule, and the majority of the country have voted in the majority. They should get the government they want, not some cronies stand for hours on end waffling on and on to destroy a bill.
That’s my take on the next 10 months or so, how the Democrats should go about with their agenda going into the midterms. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.