By Brent Budowsky | The Hill
Progressives throughout the nation should rally around a strategy that could bring a surprise victory in the 2010 elections with a clear electoral plan and a program that is patriotic, populist and progressive.
The plan is simple: Progressive Democrats have a golden opportunity to win Republican Senate seats in New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri and possibly Florida that would solve their 60-vote problem. They should begin a total mobilization and shadow campaign for good Democrats running against Republicans to win 60 solid votes in the Senate and a governing majority in the House.
The program is simple: The Contract for America of patriotism, populism and progressivism would champion Americans who are hungry for an economy that grows with jobs and brings economic fairness for all.
The patriotic populist agenda begins with jobs that are a hallmark of the party of working people. It includes jobs to rebuild heartland America and progressive tax cuts for middle-income consumers and small businesses. The lethargy about jobs from the president and Congress must end. The time for action is now.
The patriotic populist agenda stands with Americans holding more than 500 million credit cards who are under attack by bankers who took their money for huge bailouts, pay themselves huge bonuses and destroy jobs through punitive interest rates, punishing fees and rising foreclosures.
Progressive patriotic populists believe it is wrong for banks to take taxpayer money at near zero percent interest and loan it back at 30 percent. It is wrong for drug companies to raise prices by almost 10 percent after they promised to cut costs. It is wrong for insurers to raise premiums sky-high, profit from legalized price fixing and then oppose a public option because they want it all, and they want it now.
Patriotic populists want the upcoming jobs summit to speak for hundreds of millions of Americans who want real change, real jobs and a rising tide that lifts all boats with a patriotic challenge to those who profit from the status quo. We do not want and should not accept a jobs summit that is nothing more than a genial photo-op for the status quo in a nation where the majority believes we are moving in the wrong direction.
The hidden ball in 2010 involves the Senate. Mainstream Democrats can win three and possibly four Senate seats now held by Republicans. Even in the current negative climate, mainstream Democrats can win Senate seats in New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri and Florida if Republicans nominate conservative state Rep. Marco Rubio over moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.
The important fact is not the net number of Democrats, but the net number of Democrats who vote to reach 60 votes to end filibusters. If Democrats lose a seat now held by a Democrat who votes to support filibusters, but gain a seat from a Democrat who votes to end filibusters, the result is neutral for the Democratic Party but a victory for progressives.
Progressives must not be demoralized and stay home in 2010. They should be mobilized to win the right seats and enter 2011 with a solid 60 votes in the Senate and an effective majority in the House.
Progressives should create a shadow campaign for their friends and no longer “wait for Godot” from the president or Democratic insiders. For every worker and dollar withheld from a conservative Democrat, there should be a worker and dollar for good candidates fighting for progressive, populist and patriotic change.
Democrats cannot win when their demoralized voters stay home. Any strategist who sugarcoats the 2009 election should be ignored for duplicity or malpractice. Many liberal voters stayed home. Many young voters and black voters stayed home. Many first-time voters from 2008 and friendly independent voters stayed home. What happened in New Jersey and Virginia was a disaster for Democrats. Delusion, denial and dishonesty by the White House or any Democrat will not change this fact.
The issues discussed in this column stand at the heart of the American economy and the source of discontent that now spreads throughout the land.
With the principled stand of progressive patriotic populism, we speak for the majority of voters. With a total mobilization to support those who stand with us in 2010, we can confound the experts again, as we did in 2006 and 2008.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics.