Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
In two weeks voters will go to the polls in a race that looks increasingly dire for Democrats. It's not that voters agree with Republicans on the issues. On the contrary, polls show that a majority of voters across the political spectrum agree with core Democratic principles and programs.
The problem is that Republicans keep changing the subject, and Democrats keep letting them. Rather than letting themselves be kept on the defensive -- about President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, Ebola, or the Middle East -- Democrats would be wise to pick one or two key issues and keep hammering away at them.
The Democrats should be using Social Security expansion as a key part of their 2014 election strategy. (See "Democrats Can Win on Social Security -- By Fighting to Increase It.") A few of them have, and in recent days Social Security has been raised in several more Democratic races.
But the days are dwindling down to a precious few. There isn't enough time left to promote Social Security expansion in depth, but Democrats can still use it as a key campaign tool. Here are five reasons why they should:
1. Social Security is a "core value" -- and a winning issue.
As Celinda Lake told me in a radio interview (available here), there is "overwhelming" support for expanding Social Security and taxing millionaires to do it. This support is present among voters of all political leanings, including self-identified Republicans and independents. Social Security is a "core value" for voters, and Lake described it to us as a "valence issue" -- that is, an issue that is likely to sway their vote.
Her observations came from a study of likely voters, nationwide and in several key states, which she conducted for Social Security Works and the Center for Community Change. Voters were asked how they felt about "increasing Social Security benefits and paying for that increase by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security as everybody else."
- 90 percent of Democrats said they support the idea; 75 percent strongly supported it.
- 73 percent of independents support it; 55 percent strongly supported it.
- 73 percent of Republicans support it; 47 percent strongly supported it.
- Advertisement -
- 63 percent said they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who votes to increase Social Security.
- 70 percent said they are less likely to vote for someone who votes to cut Social Security benefits.
These findings reinforce several earlier polls (compiled in PopulistMajority.org), such as the one that found that "87 percent of voters favor protecting Social Security and Medicare."
When I asked why more Democrats weren't embracing this idea, Lake answered, "I can't imagine."
2. It helped them win in 2006.
When the Democrats took back the House of Representatives in 2006, Social Security was a key part of that victory. President Bush and Congressional Republicans tried unsuccessfully to privatize the program in 2005, which proved to be deeply unpopular with voters. The memory of that attempt was fresh in voters' minds when they went to the polls the following year.