This week, in the 26th district of New York, an outstanding precedent was established when Democrat Kathy Hochul took home the Congressional seat previously held by Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY). In one of the most conservative, Republican districts in the country, she defeated the opposition despite being heavily outspent. Her message was clear: Medicare cannot be diminished and the middle class must be protected. It was a concept that resonated with voters in NY's 26th, just as it will continue to resonate with citizens across the country. As we anticipate the 2012 elections in swing states, conservative districts and progressive quarters alike, the overall lesson is clear: Democrats have the message, and the GOP just has the mess.
For several weeks now, Rep. Paul Ryan has been touting his grand budget proposal, which in essence continues down traditional Republican ideals of rewarding the rich while taking benefits away from the poor and middle class. As Americans -- rightfully outraged by Ryan's suggestion of eliminating Medicare and other programs -- have expressed their discontent at the ballot box and in public, GOP leaders are scrambling to get their stories straight and their party in line.
When a Republican leader first objected to the Ryan plan, he/she was instantaneously shunned and silenced by party heads and conservative pundits alike. But after witnessing the public outcry themselves, many on the right are slowly distancing themselves from this proposed budget as the rest of us wait to see if there will soon be an about face. Regardless of how many GOP members go on the record in favor of this budget, they must be cognizant that their politics of distraction can no longer work.
In NY's 26th, countless voters stated that they checked Democrat for the first time in their lives. And when the third party candidate took home only 9% of the vote, Republicans cannot claim that he took any sort of momentum away from their own party. The reality is, that despite all of the obstacles in front of Hochul -- including a tremendous amount of outside money funneled into her Republican opponent's campaign -- she stuck to core Democratic values of fighting for working people, preserving the rights of our seniors and staying on the side of progress. If Democrats can duplicate this fundamental idea in races around the nation, then the regressive measures of the right can and will be combatted.
As Medicare appears to be one of the definitive issues of 2012, we cannot forget jobs, health care, education and housing. When unemployment continues to ravage communities everywhere, we will not allow Republican leaders to dupe us into believing that assisting the rich and wealthy somehow benefits the collective. We will not allow them to continuously reward those that have done the most damage, and we will not allow them to ignore the majority of the nation. They must know that we will hold them accountable, just as the voters in NY did this past week.
If Hochul can win in a district that voted for John McCain in 2008, Democrats should look forward to retaining the coveted office of the Presidency in 2012 -- and maybe even taking back control of the House.