All the political action this month will take place outside Washington, D.C. And that’s as it should be. In a healthy republic, lawmakers hear from their constituents and then attempt to do what’s best for them and for the country.
This August recess will be an especially busy one for progressive (don’t call them liberal) activists. Ever since they were outflanked by the formation of the Tea Party in 2009, progressives have been trying to even things up. This year, President Obama “has urged his backers to spend the month speaking out on issues such as gun control, climate change and health care, part of an ‘Action August’ effort spearheaded by Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that grew out of his reelection campaign,” The Washington Post reports.
But the left has a problem. On each of these issues (and many more, of course), the general public leans conservative.
Gun control? The President has frequently promised to ram a bill through Congress. But most Americans don’t want it. A recent Reason-Rupe national poll showed that just 33 percent of Americans think the “Senate should debate and vote on gun control legislation again.” Almost two-thirds want the Senate to “move on to other issues.” Voters sensed that the Senate gun control bill aimed to erode American rights, and they oppose it.
Climate change? Most Americans have bigger concerns. A Pew poll released in June found that only two out of every five Americans consider global climate change a major threat to the United States. Foreigners seem concerned about the condition-that-used-to-be-called “global warming” (54 percent think it’s a threat to their country), but few lawmakers are likely to be campaigning outside the U.S.
Health care? Well, keep in mind that the Tea Party arose because voters wanted to let their representatives know they opposed Obamacare. And their opposition is getting stronger. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Obamacare is more unpopular now than at any time since it became law. Some 47 percent of Americans think Obamacare is a “bad idea,” while just a third think it’s a “good idea.”
Let’s throw in immigration reform for good measure. “At town hall meetings, lawmakers will face activists calling for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants,” the Post writes.
But Pew reported in May that “fewer than half (44 percent) favor allowing those here illegally to apply for U.S. citizenship.” A better, but more nuanced, approach would include securing the border, reforming our legal immigration system, and providing temporary worker programs.
Progressives would be more likely to succeed if they were talking about topics that matter to voters, such as how to create more full-time jobs. Yet they can’t touch that, because one of the biggest anchors holding the economy back is uncertainty among businesses caused by the President’s own policies: Obamacare, the Dodd–Frank financial law, environmental regulations, and lack of government action to head off a debt crisis that runaway entitlement spending will cause in the near future.
That may be why early returns from the field aren’t promising for liberals. At an early-month event to promote Obamacare in Virginia, Politico reports that only one volunteer showed up to work the phones.
May the best ideas prevail.