Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, in a new polling memo released this week, is declaring that a Democratic party takeover in the Senate is within reach – but only with an “unambiguous” middle-class economic agenda, and policies that would curb the influence of big money in politics and make government more functional.
“The pairing is critical,” wrote Greenberg in the memo, a joint project of Democracy Corps and the Women’s Voices, Women Vote Action Fund. “Voters believe you cannot have a middle class-driven economy without first reforming our politics.”
The memo comes closely behind the publication of a new book by Greenberg that explores in greater detail the themes that progressives can use to build a governing majority beginning in 2016.
That book, “America Ascendant,” begins by drawing parallels between today’s political and economic tumult with previous periods of political stress that gave birth to progressive eras of broad prosperity, such as the post World War II period. The book argues that America is in the midst of positive “revolutionary changes” that “come with powerful contradictions: they come with a high human cost, stark inequalities, and political dysfunction. People live the contradictions, and increasingly they insist on a bold politics that can mitigate the social costs and create human possibility. That is why reformers have the opportunity to renew America and make it possible for America to be exceptional again.”
“The people are there,” Greenberg said in an interview with OurFuture.org. “I think they are ready for bold reforms. They want to start by cleaning up the corrupt politics, and there are good signs that Democrats are beginning to address the kinds of issues that are central. But it’s going to take some time.”
The political memo says Democratic candidates for Senate are up in Colorado and Wisconsin and virtually tied in Ohio and Florida. Republicans are incumbents in all of these states except Colorado. The “rising American electorate” – unmarried women, people of color and millennials – either are or close to a majority of the electorate in each of these states. Most importantly, “a Democratic middle-class reform money and government message and agenda like the one tested in this poll shifts the vote in Colorado and significantly increases the turnout of unmarried women and white working-class women.”
That message explicitly rejected “more trickle-down economics,” called for making sure “taxpayers get their money’s worth,” and embraced “an agenda for the hardworking and families” that included affordable college, child care help, paid sick days, equal pay for women, protecting Social Security against benefit cuts, and help for small businesses. In some states, a message that also explicitly stressed “auditing the federal government to root out waste” was slightly stronger than a message that emphasized “barring corporate and secret contributions and empower small donations.”
The key, the memo concluded, is to offer the members of the rising American electorate – the vanguard of Greenberg’s “America Ascendant” – a compelling agenda that speaks to their experience and aspirations in today’s economy, and proposes to transform our political system so that necessary economic reforms become possible.
The book “America Ascendant” is available for sale through OurFuture.org at Powell’s Books and at other independent booksellers.