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7 Winning Issues for Democrats (If They Only Had the Guts to Fight)

It's not enough for progressives to count on Republicans to lose in 2012. Democrats need to find some issues to fight for. Here's a few suggestions.

The 2012 election is still a while away, but the horse race stories have already begun and new Republican candidates seem to be jumping into the fray every week.

Meanwhile, the debt ceiling debate is the political fight of the summer, and since President Obama floated the idea of Social Security cuts as part of the “grand bargain” he's seeking, the progressive base has been expressing its anger. Seventy-six percent of MoveOn's membership said they would not donate to or volunteer for Obama's reelection effort if he allowed cuts to Social Security benefits. And Jim Dean, of Howard Dean's Democracy for America, said “Cutting Social Security to reduce the national debt is like attacking Iraq to get Osama Bin Laden -- the two things are not related."

Friday's jobless numbers also prompted several writers to note that Obama could well lose a reelection bid if unemployment remains at the same level into election season. John Nichols rightly pointed out that “Americans are not that into the debt-ceiling debate. Polling has suggested that less than a quarter of Americans are 'closely following' the fight.”

As the election comes closer, it won't be enough for Democrats to count on unpopular right-wing politicians to lose fights for them—they will need to find some winning issues to campaign on. And it's not actually that hard to do.

There are a few issues, after all, that are consistently popular in public-opinion polls, not to mention with that same Democratic base that was depressed in 2010 and is angry now at the idea of cuts to the social safety net. For Democrats to make gains in 2012, not just hold the White House and the seats they've already got, here are seven winning issues to fire up the base and convert swing voters. It won't be easy, but it would be real progress.

7. Get out of Afghanistan and Libya and oh yeah, all the way out of Iraq.

Obama positioned himself to the left of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on the wars back in 2007 and 2008, proclaiming his opposition to the war in Iraq from the beginning and touting diplomacy, not violence, as the solution in the Middle East. His rhetoric at the time won him a Nobel Peace Prize.

But it's 2011, and not only are troops still in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan ongoing, but we've got a “kinetic military action” in Libya and drone strikes most recently in Somalia as well as Yemen and Pakistan.

And Americans aren't feeling it. A New York Times/CBS News poll released in June found that 58 percent of the public thinks we shouldn't be in Afghanistan and 59 percent think we shouldn't be in Libya. (It's worth noting that the poll didn't even ask about Iraq, lending fuel to the belief many have that the war there is “over.”  It's not.)

Some Democrats have pushed for a real end to the war in Afghanistan. Most recently, a group of Democratic senators introduced a bill, coordinated with a push from Democracy for America, calling for “Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan.”

With the economy still the biggest issue on most Americans' minds, the wars are an unwanted expense and a huge force contributing to the deficit. Smart Democratic politicians will link these issues together on the campaign trail and call for an end to wars that are costing us too dearly in lives as well as dollars.

6. Push for a comprehensive employment non-discrimination act (ENDA).

Nearly three-fourths of voters believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be protected from discrimination in the workplace.