Last night was a huge victory for progressivism and a great night for America. We re-elected President Obama with room to spare, gained seats in the Senate against all odds (and elected some outstanding new progressive senators in the process), and made great progress on the issues of marriage equality, women's rights, and marijuana reform. We also protected the Affordable Care Act, dealt a crushing blow to the idea that elections can be bought by the wealthy and powerful, and while results in the House of Representatives were less positive, we at least fired a few of the worst House members.
Today and tomorrow, the fight continues.
If the last four years are any guide, Republicans will continue to resist our agenda at every turn. They will still hold the House of Representatives, and thus the power to block the President's initiatives. And the electorate remains divided almost 50-50. But America is changing and we have a unique opportunity to not only win broad-based support for a progressive agenda, but also to make our opponents pay a bitter price for their stubbornness and small-minded, backward-thinking views.
To do that, the progressive coalition should adopt a three-pronged strategy for the coming years:
1. Promote popular, unifying economic reforms
2. A constant campaign to win mainstream support for progressive policies
3. Drag the GOP into the 21st century (through a combination of strategic partnerships and divide-and-conquer tactics)
Here's how we can make it work.
1. Our advantage on the issues
On issues like the economy, health care, abortion, immigration, the environment, and many others, the bulk of opinion polling shows that most people favor a progressive approach rather than a conservative one: http://www.pollingreport.com/...
A few highlights:
* In budget considerations, the biggest fear is that too much will be cut from government programs.On many of these issues, the biggest challenge will be convincing the American people (in the face of well-funded attacks from the right) that Democratic plans are in fact consistent with what they already support.
* Americans favor letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, by almost a 20-point margin
* A clear majority recognize that Bush/Republican policies deserve most of the blame for the current economic mess
* Only 20% wish to ban abortion in all circumstances; by a double-digit margin, more people would favor a pro-choice candidate to a pro-life candidate
* 56% believe that the main focus of immigration reform should be a path to legalization
* A huge majority support Obama's "Deferred Action" immigration policy; only 18% say it goes too far
* In a recent poll, only 34% wish to repeal the Affordable Care Act; 59% either support it outright or are at least willing to give it a chance
2. The fiscal cliff and the economic recovery
The "fiscal cliff" budget negotiations will be the first major post-election hurdle for Obama and the progressive coalition. But while some compromise will likely be necessary, given that the American people already support their stance on the budget--and just gave Obama a mandate to continue--Democrats will be negotiating from a position of strength, and have the opportunity to turn this into a "wedge issue" that will further divide an already divided Republican party.
Once we get past the fiscal cliff, prospects for economic recovery look very strong, and will only improve if Democrats can push through some broadly-supported stimulus and job-creation measures. This will be another wedge issue, and one that will pay political (and economic) dividends long into the future as unemployment continues to fall and markets continue to rise. If are able to effectively sell these measures to the general public, Republicans who oppose them can and should be attacked as anti-job. But it will take a concerted, sustained effort to make this happen.
3. The future of Obamacare
Another key advantage we have is that after the Affordable Care Act (let's go ahead and call it Obamacare...Republicans are going to rue the day they coined that word) is fully implemented, it will positively impact more people, and it will gradually grow more appreciated until it finally takes its place among the ranks of untouchable Democratic policies like Social Security and Medicare. It's a shame we couldn't get single-payer or a public option done (yet) because I think this shift could have been even more profound, but I think this still looks like a long-term win for the Democratic Party and for the country.
4. Demographics as destiny?
Enough words have been penned on this point by others that I won't belabor the point. Suffice it to say that unless Republicans make some major changes, they'll be carrying some major and growing disadvantages into every future national election. Either the GOP will reform itself, or it will collapse, or it will fade into irrelevance. I'm actually hoping that it reforms itself, because I think our system requires a viable--and reasonable--opposition party to keep the in-power party honest.
To the extent that Republicans are willing to embrace equality and rationality (and whether they will do so remains to be seen), I think we should help them along by forging partnerships with moderates and strenuously opposing reactionaries. I understand that not everyone will agree with me on this...
5. The Republican civil war
Many are predicting serious infighting in the GOP as a result of the election, with some claiming that Republican failures are because the party hasn't been consistently conservative enough, while others will argue (correctly, I think) that the party has drifted too far to the right, too far to the past, and too far from reality.
To an extent, this squabbling is probably inevitable, but I would caution that because of the makeup of the Republican delegations in the House and Senate and their leaders, the natural tendency of the party will be to re-coalesce around the same sort of right-wing agenda. Democrats should seek to prevent or at least delay this. While a right-wing Republican party may appear self-destructive, in effect their radical stances seem to push the center of the national conversation further to the right, and (as has been demonstrated in the past) sometimes can force Democrats to step too far to the right in order to forge a compromise. By winning the national debate over the issues, Democrats can force Republicans to adapt to take more rational, centrist, and forward-thinking positions in order to maintain their relevance.
6. Big money, small money
A word of caution: corporations, Super PACS, and the moneyed elites may have lost the battle, but they may be winning the war. Their goal is to deceive enough people to erase Democratic advantages on issues like the environment, fair labor standards, and health care--and to an extent, it's been working: the presidential election was closer than it should have been, and Democrats failed to make significant progress in the House of Representatives.
We need to enact some common-sense campaign finance reforms in order to avoid getting swamped in the message wars. It may be the only hope the right has left at the moment, so expect them to exploit it as much as they can. To counteract this, we need to continue volunteering and donating to the causes we believe in! Election Day was yesterday. Election Day is today. Election Day is tomorrow. Let's keep fighting, and keep winning!