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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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“Go to Louisiana and talk about the BP oil spill, talk about how we need an oil industry that provides jobs and doesn't destroy our coastline. Go to Arkansas and talk about how we need energy, but we also need to make sure that the natural gas industry doesn't cause earthquakes underneath us. Go to rural New York now and argue the same thing since that's a big issue there. Go to West Virginia and talk about how we can create a coal industry that doesn't remove mountains and provides more jobs to people. Not to mention pushing green jobs and alternative energy projects that put people back to work.”

Once again, with the economy the main concern for so many voters this election cycle, it's time for politicians to think smart about linking jobs to new and alternative energy technologies. Deeply unpopular conservative governors may be rejecting money for high-speed rail transit, and progressives running in their states (Florida and Ohio, for a start) can turn that anti-environmentalist job-killing argument right around on them.

3. Fight for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

It's depressing that with a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in charge of at least one house of Congress, this should even be an issue.

However, these programs are consistently immensely popular—even when the public thinks they could be administered better, 88 percent think Medicare has been good for the country, followed by 87 percent for Social Security and even 77 percent for Medicaid, the program that provides health services for the poor. (And a new study confirms with research what public opinion already believes—that Medicaid provides concrete benefits for its recipients.)

So why is Barack Obama floating the idea of cuts—or of raising the eligibility age for Medicare?

As Joshua Holland wrote for AlterNet last week:

This administration has certainly shown itself to be enthralled by the idea of scoring big, “bipartisan” legislative victories on what the chattering class considers the most pressing issues facing the country, and a Beltway consensus has (unfortunately) gelled around the idea that reducing the deficit in the near term, rather than getting people back to work, is a top priority.

This simply doesn't gel with public opinion. Sixty percent at least want benefits to remain unchanged from these programs, and according to one poll, 22 percent would cut the defense budget first, and 42 percent would rather raise taxes on the rich than see cuts to Social Security.

Which brings us to the next point...

2. Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax the rich.

It should be a no-brainer by now, right? One of Barack Obama's biggest applause lines on the campaign trail was the one about letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those who made over $250,000 a year—and he even won a majority of votes from that same income bracket. The grand compromise late last year to keep those cuts angered many and drove Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to a fiery eight-and-a-half-hour speech on the Senate floor, where he concluded:

"If the American people stand up and say, we can do better than this, that we don’t need to drive up the national debt by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, (if) the American people are prepared to stand – and we’re prepared to follow them – I think we can defeat this proposal.”

The proposal passed, and even though Obama promised it would be for the last time, the GOP is determined not to raise taxes on its own base in any sort of debt deal.