The Budget Wars

clee November 27, 2012 0

Throughout late summer and well into the fall, two campaigns were at work throughout the country.

Above the radar screen was the campaign that no one could have missed – the 2012 elections.

Below the radar screen was a campaign known only to a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand activists. This campaign was aimed at laying the groundwork for a seamless transition from an electoral campaign to an issue campaign – raising taxes on wage earners who make more than $250,000 a year, keeping the promise of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, avoiding debilitating cuts in domestic spending and pushing for more job creation.

USAction was ground zero in this effort.

Our canvassers – while ID’ing voters and urging them to the polls –were also urging them to stay involved after the election. Some USAction affiliates even engaged in phone banking after the election (who does that?) to turn supporters out for “Budget showdown” events in local communities in key states right after the election.

Example: just 48 hours after the votes were counted in Wisconsin, more than 350 people, including Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin, gathered in downtown Milwaukee for an “election celebration and community strategy session.”

USAction affiliate Citizen Action of Wisconsin, like USAction affiliates across the country, showed a “Showdown in Washington” PowerPoint prepared by USAction to educate the public about what’s at stake in the fiscal showdown.

In all, USAction affiliates so far have participated in (and in some cases, led) more than 50 lame-duck events to put pressure on members of Congress since the election.

And now it’s game on.

This Saturday, a National Day of Action has been called. Almost all 21 USAction state affiliates will participate.

On Election Day, two distinct visions were competing for supremacy in the minds of the voters. Our take is that “We’re all in this together” defeated “You’re on your own” at the ballot box.

And now: We have an opportunity to topple a 32-year era in American politics – an era that began with Ronald Reagan and was populated by people like Grover Norquist and Bush/Cheney/Rove/Romney/Ryan.

32 years. Think about that.

And the public is with us.

Pre-election issue polling commissioned by USAction and conducted by Lake Research Partners show the public is strongly with us when it comes to raising taxes for wage earners who make more than $250,000 a year; protecting the promise of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and pushing for robust job creation – for example, through repairing roads, bridges and schools. As USAction Pollster Celinda Lake notes:

“Voters do not require explanations of these programs or the impact of such cuts; they implicitly understand the consequences. In fact, their opposition is both intense (57% strongly oppose cutting Medicaid; 67% strongly oppose cutting Social Security benefits) and broad (91% of Democrats, 85% of independents, and 77% of Republicans oppose cutting Social Security; cutting Medicaid is opposed by 90%, 83% and 65% of partisans, respectively).”

As our activists fan out across the country for Saturday’s events, we are by no means alone. Nearly 100 former staffers with Obama for America are now staffing state organizations throughout the country, including six USAction states – Florida, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Virginia. These staffers have particular expertise in the areas of field organizing and communications advocacy.

And we at USAction are leveraging our two strongest assets – boots on the ground in the form of our state affiliate infrastructure – the strongest non-labor progressive infrastructure in the country – with our 500,000 online activists, many of whom are veterans of the budget wars for decades now.

Offline, boots on the ground meets online activism to create a more powerful synergy.

But aside from the tax and budget issues, what is at stake in this fight? It’s simple, really.

We have to recognize that our nation has given birth to a new political era, if we allow it and nurture and nourish it. We must win this fight not just because it’s good public policy and the country needs us to be effective. We must win this fight because winning will make us and our President more powerful. A victory in the fiscal showdown sets the stage for more progressive advances in the next four years.

We win by winning.

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