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Like It or Not, We Need to Help Dems Retake Congress

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The most bizarre aspect of our current political environment is that while President Obama's future ostensibly is in peril because he's only got a 43 percent approval rating, only 7 percent of likely U.S. voters approve of the Republican-dominated Congress, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released on June 5. Believe it or not, their rating is 15 points lower than that of Tricky Dick Nixon during the Watergate scandal in 1974. The current body is probably going on record as the most obstructionist in history, whether we're talking about blocking financial services/health care reform or holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

Of course we should all be relieved that a slim majority of the SCOTUS decided that Obamacare is legal, given that same body thinks that corporations are people -- ummm... when is GM getting its heart transplant? But despite the Tea Party's blathering to the contrary, the majority of Americans actually support health care reform -- including Tea-Partiers! An Associated Press-GIK poll shows that while the public may not agree 100 percent with the Obama version, a whopping three quarters of them want some kind of health care reform including 60 percent of Tea Party supporters.

It's ironic enough that Mitt "Romneycare" is opposed to mandatory coverage but Obamacare is actually the product of a conservative think tank.

As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein pointed out in a recent New Yorker article, the mandate made its political debut in a 1989 brief by the Heritage Foundation titled "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans," as a counterpoint to the single-payer system/employer mandate favored by Dems. The mandate became the Health Equity and Access Reform Today act in 1993, co-sponsored by 18 Republicans, including Bob Dole.

What's more, virtually every Obama policy has majority support by Republicans and Democrats alike. Here are just a few examples:

  • By more than a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans favor his immigration policy, according to a Bloomberg poll released on June 19.
  • A Gallup poll released in April shows that 60 percent of Americans favor the Buffett Rule requiring 1 million-plus households to pay at least 35 percent of their wages in taxes.
  • Most Americans support cuts to military spending. A poll conducted by the Center for Pubic Integrity and two other groups showed that most respondents would cut the defense budget by 18 percent, which runs counter to Mitt Romney's intentions to increase military spending by $2.1 trillion.

Apparently, Democratic members of Congress are energized enough to try to reverse the Tea Party's bloodless coup. Despite losing 60 seats in the 2010 election, more than a dozen Democratic candidates who lost -- including seven former members of Congress -- are running again in 2012.

This is all well and good but if they don't campaign aggressively and spend big bucks on ads the Republican divide-and-conquer tactic will continue to prevail. The Dems not only have to figure out how to retake the 60 seats they lost but boot out the 42 members of the so-called New Democrat -- aka Not Democrat -- Coalition, who have fought financial services reform, not to mention the 17 Democrats who voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress because they prioritize the support of the gun lobby over that of their constituents.

In addition, Dems have got to coordinate with their counterparts in state elections. Let's face it, in a logical world, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would have lost his job in the recall vote as a result of his efforts to destroy public pensions. I would imagine if pollsters asked Americans if they deserve to be able to retire a majority would say yes. Unfortunately, while recent polls show that most Boomers are worried about being able to, with 73 percent planning to continue to work, their shortfall is inaccurately blamed on the stock market and not the typical puny employer contribution to their 401(k) accounts that's around one-third of what employers contribute to pension plans. (Full disclosure: For those of you who don't follow my posts regularly, I'm an advocate for 401(k) participants.)

The lack of understanding, along with anger at sometimes too-generous public sector pensions, is probably the reason why even many Democrats didn't back the recall. There should have been a "Retirement for All" campaign that united public and private sector workers. More importantly, Democrats should have raised big bucks to launch an aggressive ad campaign -- Walker raised seven times what Democratic challenger Tom Barrett did: $21 million versus $3 million -- and that money is apparently on top of Tea Party and super PAC contributions. The Repubs also appear to have launched a much more aggressive direct mail campaign to solicit donations; I know firsthand because I'm a New Jersey resident who is registered to vote as a Republican and a Democrat -- don't ask me why; probably local voting officials messed up? -- and while I received a letter soliciting donations from Scott Walker's campaign I got nothing from Tom Barrett's supporters.

Here's the deal: You may be annoyed, disappointed or frustrated with the Democratic Party but this is war. This country is facing the biggest economic challenges since the great Depression, whether it's the outsourcing of jobs or the disappearance of pensions. We need to re-elect the party of the 99%. If you've got money and/or the time, support their cause. Democrats may hold their noses when it comes to the Citizens United decision but when you're at war, you've got to fight fire with fire.