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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.

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What's the problem, then?

This:

”The survey also found that 9 of out 10 voters erroneously think that a federal law is already in place protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination. A similar number of voters also did not know whether their state had a gay and transgender workplace discrimination law. These numbers show the huge disconnect between voter perceptions about workplace protections and the realities that gay and transgender people face on the job.”

How do we pass a law when the vast majority of the public thinks a law is already in existence? The Center for American Progress pointed out that anywhere from 15 to 43 percent of gay people have faced some form of discrimination or harassment on the job—and that figure is a staggering 90 percent for transgender workers. In a good economy, the fact that 44 percent of transgender people report being passed over for a job because of their gender identity or expression, and 26 percent report being fired, would be cause for alarm.

In the current economy, where every job opening yields far more qualified applicants than can possibly be hired, it's a tragedy.

Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York, is basking in the glow of having passed a marriage equality bill that was extremely popular with his constituents. Progressive Democrats should be making the point that no, there is no federal workplace protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers—and then fighting like hell to pass one.

5. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Wait, immigration reform is a horribly contentious issue, isn't it?

Not, actually, as much as you'd think.

The numbers of immigrants from Mexico are down and states like Georgia that have passed draconian anti-immigrant laws are actually suffering from a lack of willing farm workers.

But while Jan Brewer and other right-wing governors have passed horrific immigration bills on the state level, a Daily Kos poll a few months ago showed 69 percent support for comprehensive immigration reform that included increased border security and a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers, as well as a path to citizenship for undocumented workers who apply for legal status, learn English and pay back taxes.

Jed Lewison at Kos noted:

”Those numbers are pretty emphatic, but what's even more remarkable is that every single demographic and ideological group in the survey would support immigration reform based on the principles outlined in the question. In fact, the right is more supportive of the approach than the left, presumably because it would require immigrants to pay back taxes and learn English before becoming eligible for citizenship.”

If that's still too messy a fight (or concedes too much to the right), the DREAM Act also polls with majority support—54 percent are in favor of a law that would give legal status to those who attend college or join the military.

4. Increase environmental protections.

The right wing loves to trash environmental laws as job-killers and claim that progressives and environmentalists are attacking private industry when they push for regulations. But despite years of that sort of rhetoric and a miserable economy, Americans still want their air, water and land clean. Seventy-one percent still want the Environmental Protection Agency funded, and as of last year, 56 percent chose protecting the environment over keeping energy prices low. Fifty-six percent also want the government to regulate private companies' energy output to control global warming.

Erik Loomis, environmental historian and blogger at Lawyers, Guns and Money, argues that environmental policies that put people first are winning issues. He says: