Pundits often talk about how the Democrats have lost working class and middle class white voters since the civil rights legislation in the 60s was passed. The fact is, the Obama presidency and the gargantuan majorities the Democrats had in Congress were an opportunity to win back working and middle class whites for generations to come. But instead of giving those voters clear concise policies that directly benefit them, the Democrats played it safe on the two biggest policy initiatives of the Obama administration and lost big.
All the Democrats had to do in order to win over those voters is to remember that no voting block that receives benefits from the government ever goes to the polls to vote away those benefits.
Seniors always vote to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare, and if Republicans want their votes the Republicans must take a moderate stance on Social Security and Medicare if they want the senior vote.
The poor always vote to protect Welfare, Medicaid, and Food stamps. Always. If you want poor people's vote you MUST not threaten those programs.
Imagine, then, if you created a program that relieved middle and working class people of a huge financial burden. What if that program gave middle and working class people security that they'd never have to fight with an insurance company for benefits?
Imagine if the Democrats had gone all-in on health care reform. What if the Democrats voted in unison for single-payer health care that would've gone into effect in a matter of months instead of years? Imagine, if they got this done by August of 2009 rather than Febuary 2010? Imagine if the entire country was enrolled in this program by the end of 2009?
Oh yes, the Republicans and tea partiers would've still melted down over "socialism" and "higher taxes." But by March of 2010 most of that meltdown would've eroded, as EVERY member of the public would've benefited. People don't vote against the government benefits they receive. It has never happened in the history of human elections.
Could anyone imagine a situation in which every American, their brothers, their sisters, their children, and grandchildren would've ever marched to the polls voting for candidates talking about "repeal and replace"?
It would never happen. Governing from the left isn't "socialism" it is, if you allow me to coin a term, victory-ism.
Simple as that.
However, what if Obama's first policy initiative had truly been a liberal one. What if none of the stimulus money had been wasted on useless tax cuts. Yes, I know it makes a sweet paean to talk about "middle class tax cuts." But in terms of stimulating the economy, it is useless. And it really does nothing for unemployed workers.
Instead, imagine this. Imagine a stimulus package that was about 1.2 trillion dollars. Imagine if $800 billion of that stimulus was invested in infrastructure investments across the country. I'll leave it to the rest of you to note how badly we could use such investments in our infrastructure. I'll leave it to rest of you to note how our infrastructure is falling behind the modern world, and we are losing out economically because of it. I am not an economist so I couldn't tell you how many jobs we'd create with 800 billion dollars in infrastructure improvements. But I am certain of this --- we wouldn't be talking merely about the jobs saved due to the stimulus, we'd be talking about net gains in employment. And unemployment wouldn't be anywhere near 9.6%.
Yes, I know, Republicans would've squealed even louder about the deficit, and they would've whined even more about socialism and big government. But all those working class families who now had jobs? Who do you think they would've voted for this election?
We on the left often complain about white working class people not voting their own interest. Why do they vote for the party of the wealthy? Number one? We haven't acted in their interest. We haven't given them a reason to be interested in the Democratic Party. Because, as a party, we've offered them nothing more that the Republicans: the culture wars and a tax break. But what if we gave them health care? What if we gave them $800 billion dollars worth of jobs? Then they'd have an interest in us.
We lost this election, and make no mistake about it, we lost it bad, because we governed like the Republicans. The health care bill, which won't go into full effect until 2014, was a Republican health care bill. Bob Dole proposed this kind of thing in 1994. The stimulus bill was loaded down with the most counterproductive and useless of Republican ideas: tax cuts.
We'd still have Alan Grayson in Florida if he could've went to his constituents and say, "see this is why its good to vote for a progressive" while holding up a Medicare-for-all card.
We'd still have Russ Feingold in Wisconsin if he could've pointed to a multitude of infrastructure construction projects in his state and be able to say, "this is what voting for progressive does!"
Look, the party in power always loses about 25 seats in Congress. There's no certainty that a single payer health care system would've prevented that. There's no way to be sure that created millions of jobs would stave off midterm loses in the Senate. But 25 seats wasn't enough to win the House. If the Democrats in Congress acted like real Democrats, there is one thing I am certain of: we'd be looking at the next two years with Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and Presidency. And there's a damned good chance we may be even better off than we were at the start of 2009 both in political terms and economic terms.