I see signs that the Democrats are getting organized and coalescing around a populist economic message. Sen. Chuck Schumer is taking a time-out from undermining the administration’s Iran policy to give a speech at the Center for American Progress today, where he will outline a strategy to split rank-and-file Tea Partiers from their oligarch leaders, using an extension of unemployment insurance and a hike in the minimum wage as bait.
Likewise, the president will use the State of the Union speech to focus on income inequality:
A president who has yet to add to the big legislative accomplishments of his first term will call for raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour and extending federal unemployment benefits that expired last month.
He will also discuss energy and college affordability, two other issues that relate to the economic mobility message that is a major White House theme ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
The White House sees the State of the Union as a key part of the president’s second term reboot, and will accentuate it with a presidential road trip where Obama will tout his proposals.
Some recent polling suggest that the Democrats are on solid footing here.
When asked what would do more to reduce poverty, 54% of all Americans say raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations in order to expand programs for the poor. Fewer (35%) believe that lowering taxes on the wealthy to encourage investment and economic growth would be the more effective approach.
Now, if you think of the typical Tea Partier as working class, white, and somewhat culturally conservative, you might expect to find a lot of them in a place like West Virginia, and that is a state where the Democrats’ populist pitch ought to resonate. Will it?
Here in West Virginia, which has some of the shortest life spans and highest poverty rates in the country, the strength of the demand has surprised officials, with more than 75,000 people enrolling in Medicaid…Waitresses, fast food workers, security guards and cleaners described feeling intense relief that they are now protected from the punishing medical bills that have punched holes in their family budgets.
President Obama gave those waitresses and security guards access to health care, and the Republican Party wants to take that health care away from them. The Koch Brothers want to take that health care away from them.
And, the question is, can the Democrats break through the idiot wind being blasted out by the Mighty Right-Wing Wurlitzer and make their case to these people?
It’s interesting that they are even going to try. Being coordinated will help.
And in another sign of better coordination between congressional Democrats and Obama’s team, Organizing for Action, a grassroots action group created to support the president’s agenda, has helped coordinate events around the country this week to pressure GOP lawmakers to support extended unemployment benefits.
Outside groups such as the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME and MomsRising have also participated in the coalition targeting GOP lawmakers. They helped organize events targeting Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Wednesday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Thursday and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Friday, according to Democratic aides briefed on their activities.
I do try to maintain my optimistic nature, even though it is difficult sometimes. I’ve been arguing for more populist politics for a decade now. Let’s get to work.