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Democrats Need to Get Off Capitol Hill to Win the Gas Price War

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I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on a new online show called Meet the Bloggers. Here's the introduction post I did yesterday all about Meet the Bloggers.

Also on the show was Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), someone who has been trying very hard to tackle inflated gas prices and get America on the right track when it comes to its 20 million barrel-a-day oil addiction.

While I admire Reid for what he's done I think he is incorrect in the assumption he made on the show that the Democrats are winning on the energy and gas price issue - and I would have elaborated on this point on Meet the Bloggers, but unfortunately there was some technical difficulties and I lost my connection.

The truth is, at least according to my sources close to the Party, that the Democrats are very worried that they're getting beat on this issue.

The bottom line is that the Republicans have done a very good job at framing the expansion of offshore drilling rights as the answer to high gas prices and oil independence, as can be shown in this already-discredited (but effective) McCain campaign ad called "Pump." For the most part the Democrats have been playing right into the Republican "drill-our-way-out" frame and instead of offering their own vision and solution to the energy crisis, they are spinning their wheels attacking McCain and the Republicans on offshore drilling.

The Democrats are also wasting a lot of time on Capitol Hill where any new energy policy is being delayed and shot down by Republicans. The Republicans want to go into the Fall election and say that the Democrats have done nothing in Washington on the energy issue - its twisted PR spin and political maneuvering, but its working.

The solution? I would propose that the Democrats get off Capitol Hill and articulate a simple, easily understood plan to reduce oil consumption that will in turn see some relief at the pump. Talk to the people directly, instead of through wonkish energy bills.

First, in the short term, offer a plan that sees a portion of oil company windfall profits going back into the pockets of American families in the form of incentives to reduce gas consumption - further tax breaks on hybrid vehicles and transit subsidies etc.

Second, demand auto manufacturers begin to build cars that use less gas.

And third, offer a long-term vision that starts with a redirection of the $14 billion in subsidies to oil companies to an investment in making the United States a leader in renewable energy technology development and deployment. Obama goes even further and proposes a $150 billion investment in renewables.

To be sure, the Democrats and their presumptive presidential candidate have committed to already doing much of what I have outlined above. But the key is to go out to the American people, articulate the plan in simple (read: not policy wonk) language and only once they've convinced voters bring the plan back to Capitol Hill and dare the Republicans to vote against it.

At least that what I think and I'm more than happy to being convinced otherwise.