Six months out from the midterm election, Democratic prospects appear grim. A ABC News / Washington Post poll found President Obama's approval rating at a new low (41 percent). 53 percent of respondents said they preferred to have Republicans in charge of Congress, "to act as a check on Obama's policies." But there's still time for Democrats to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Until November 4, three issues will dominate U.S. political discourse: health care, the economy, and global warming. Democrats must seize the initiative in each area.
Health care: Democrats must not run away from "Obamacare." Millions of dollars spent attacking the Affordable Care Act have many voters confused. Democrats need to remake the case for Obamacare and emphasize two points: the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved and the attack ads are an example of moneyed interests trying to screw working Americans.
Despite its rocky start, Obamacare has provided insurance to more than 13 million uninsured. (More than 8 million Americans signed up for insurance through state and federal exchanges.) Besides reducing the growth in U.S. health care spending, Obamacare "is projected to cut the national deficit by over $200 billion during its first 10 years and over $1 trillion over the next two decades."
A February Kaiser Family Foundation Poll found that the majority of respondents (56 percent) want Congress to keep or improve the Affordable Care Act. (Opinions were divided by Party; with 83 percent of Democrats positive about Obamacare and 62 percent of Republicans negative.)
Meanwhile, Republicans are stuck on repealing the Affordable Care Act. The recent Paul Ryan budget, approved by the Republican-controlled House, "repeals the President's onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers." Republicans don't have a plan while Democrats delivered what they promised.
Moreover, the campaign against Obamacare is a graphic example of a more sinister development: plutocrats have purchased the Republican Party and are waging war on working families.
The Economy: National Polls have consistently shown that most Americans feel jobs and the economy are the nation's number one problem. A January Pew Research Poll found that 80 percent of respondents wanted to strengthen the U.S. economy and 74 percent wanted to improve "the job situation."
During the Obama presidency the Dow-Jones Industrial Average has more than doubled. There have been 49 months of job growth. 9 million jobs have been added during Obama's 5 plus years, in comparison with only 1.1 million jobs in 8 years of the Bush presidency.
Nonetheless, President Obama hasn't gotten credit for getting the economy on track because most of the gains have gone to the top one percent. Although Obama has decried inequality, he probably isn't the best Democrat to make this point in 2014. Fortunately, Democrats have a terrific national spokesperson: Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Warren was recently voted America's "hottest" politician. At the moment she's promoting her new book, A Fighting Chance. Warren's book was originally titled "Rigged," a reference to her notion that the U.S. is turning into a plutocracy where the wealthy and powerful benefit at the expense of working Americans.
Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion-dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in the their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they'll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children.
Most Americans understand the system is rigged. A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of respondents believed the current distribution of money and wealth is "fair" and 59 percent felt they should be more evenly distributed. 52 percent felt the government "should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich." Warren is in a perfect position to speak for Democrats on this issue and point out that Republicans in Congress haven't done anything to help working American by, for example, raising the minimum wage.
Global Warming: On May 6, the latest installment of the National Climate Assessment told a grim story: "Climate change is happening now... it's actually happening quite rapidly ... and the evidence clearly points to the reason we're getting these changes is because of human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels."
The latest Gallup Poll confirms that most Americans believe that global warming is happening.
This is the third area that differentiates Democrats from Republicans. The president should take the lead to both inform Americans of the threat and to take corrective action by executive order such as, strengthening EPA regulations and blocking oil shale and tar sands extraction and coal mining on federal lands.
Democrats have a fighting chance to salvage the 2014 election. If they take their case to the voters. If they come out fighting.