As the Obamacare situation stabilizes, Democrats are starting to come to their strategic senses and realize their best course of action is to defend the program, not run away from it.
But that’s not enough. If Democrats want to maximize their chances of holding the Senate in 2014 and making at least some progress in the House, they need to go on the offensive on issues that will mobilize their base and split their opposition. A new poll from National Journal shows how.
In the poll, respondents were asked first about whether legislation would be passed in the next year to address various issues. Of the issues tested, three were deemed more likely than not to generate successful legislation: “Creating jobs by increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges” (56 percent likely/39 percent not likely); “Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales” (53–43); and “Reforming the immigration system to increase border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally” (49–46).
This expectation is borne of desire, not fatalism. The poll followed up by asking respondents whether they’d be pleased or disappointed if legislation actually passed in these areas. The results were quite one-sided. By 77–21, Americans said they’d be pleased rather than disappointed if legislation was passed to create jobs through infrastructure spending. By 74–22, they said they’d be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales (including an astonishing 56 percent who said they’d be “very” pleased, the highest of all the issues tested). And by 66–28, they said they’d be pleased to see a pathway to citizenship make it through Congress.
So the public wants and expects action in these three areas. Who’s standing in the way? Congressional Republicans, of course.
And here’s the beauty, tactically speaking: not only do these issues hugely appeal to the Democratic base, they also appeal to the majority of Republicans, thereby making these issues potential vehicles for splitting the GOP vote. A large majority of Republicans would be pleased to see more infrastructure spending to create jobs; 66 percent would be pleased to see universal background checks on gun sales and 57 percent of GOP identifiers would like to see immigration reform happen.
Mobilize the base, split the opposition — these issues are political gold for the Democrats. And while we’re speaking of political gold for the Democrats, it would be remiss not to mention raising the minimum wage, an issue not tested by the National Journal poll but likely to be voted on in the Senate shortly. This is also an issue that gets overwhelming public support, particularly from the Democratic base, but splits the Republican party. Moreover, this split in support has a very distinct class character. In a recent Pew Research poll, working class (non-college) Republicans supported the proposal by 58–40, while college-educated Republicans opposed it by 60–34. Similarly, low income Republicans (less than $30,000) supported raising the minimum wage by 68–31 while high income Republicans (over $75,000) opposed such a raise by 57–40.
Job creation through infrastructure spending. Universal background checks for gun sales. Immigration reform. Raising the minimum wage. Music to Democratic ears and a prescription for political success. Maybe Democrats should think about taking their medicine.