It wouldn’t always be the worst thing in the world if Democrats in the Senate acted like Republicans in the House of Representatives. Republicans know their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act won’t succeed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some benefit to trying. It keeps their issues in the news and lets them campaign on trying to do something that their constituents want (even though polls routinely show that most Americans, including even some Republicans, don’t want the ACA repealed.)
The reason that opposition to the ACA has remained high while support for new gun regulations has fallen is because Republicans know how to keep their issues alive, and Democrats don’t.
With the Senate up for grabs, Democrats should dedicate the Senate’s agenda to debating and voting on a minimum wage hike, new gun regulations, a new tax package of cuts for the middle class and increases on the rich, and new education spending even if it’s not paid for. Every single one of those policies has majority public support and is opposed by the Republican Party.
You can break up the major planks with smaller policies that would be even more popular, such as billing reform in the telecommunication and cable industries, and positive reforms to the health care law that make it even better than it already is.
Establish a replacement for the Medicaid program that’s run entirely by the federal government so that states run by Republicans can no longer deny access to Medicaid to their poorest, most vulnerable citizens just to score political points. Another solutions to the Medicaid gap would be to get rid of the income eligibility for federal subsidies at the low end of the scale. Establish a new tax on hedge funds or corporate raiding to bolster Social Security. Close any and all loopholes that allow or promote off-shore tax havens and dedicate every penny saved under the program to hiring new teachers and giving block grants directly to schools, so that state governments can’t divert it elsewhere.
Democrats can take a page from Karl Rove’s 2004 playbook and work hard (and quickly) to get referendums on the ballot that Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans will support in states where Democrats are in a dead heat with GOP challengers in Senate races. North Carolina’s unemployment rate is well above the national figure and Kay Hagan is a tossup to keep her seat against half a dozen Republicans.
Republicans scaled back unemployment insurance last year in NC and it’s not just Hagan’s challengers that would be vulnerable to an economic populist fight. A public referendum to restore unemployment insurance or even expand it, I think, would be very popular in North Carolina, and that could serve as a template for other states as well.
If Democrats want to keep the Senate this year, they should stand up and fight for what they believe in, and earn that privilege. Or they can sit on their asses and watch it handed to people who will raise taxes on the middle class and cut them for the rich and corporations, cut education spending, ban abortion, ban same-sex marriage, cut or eliminate the minimum wage, and further erode the right to vote unless you’re white.
If Dems want it, they have to earn it, and it’s not like there aren’t plentiful opportunities to do that.