"It's a question of making Republicans an offer they can't refuse," Sanders tells me. "Their position is no more revenues. You and I know that is not the position of the American people. One in four corporations doesn't pay any taxes. What Democrats and progressives should say is, 'Sorry, we're not going to balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable.'" Sanders described the idea of cutting education, Social Security, Medicare and veterans' benefits as an "obscenity." [...]Now that's a pretty smart and pragmatic reading of the American electorate as well as a smart and pragmatic strategy for getting the Republicans to relent on revenue. Wooing them sure as hell isn't going to get the job done. But standing up as Democrats, with the people, could.
"The alternative is not to go into a back room and negotiate with Boehner; it's to make our case to the American people," Sanders said. "I don't believe there's a red state in America where people believe you should cut Medicare, Social Security and veterans' benefits rather than doing away with corporate tax loopholes."
Engaging the public is something Republicans seem to recognize, or at least pay lip service to. That's what's behind their whole supposed "rebranding" effort. RNC chair Reince Preibus says it clearly: "We've got a marketing problem. [...] A pretty big lesson, I think, for the party is that we can't be totally obsessed with math and arithmetic—that we have to go for people's hearts."
But while they're going for people's hearts in marketing, they're missing the mark when it comes to actual policy. Paul Ryan's latest budget is the clearest evidence that they really haven't yet learned the lesson of the 2012 election. So what Democrats, what President Obama, should be doing is to exploit that. The tax message, particularly, was extremely effective in 2012. It could be again, and the American people could be engaged in this budget fight with the promise that Democrats are looking out for them.
That's Sanders' message, and he thinks he has liberal backing in the Senate to amplify it. Or perhaps at least enough help in the Senate to stop a grand bargain that damages social insurance programs, and the Democratic brand with it.