The final two years of President Obama’s time in office could be like most of the previous six—lots of frustration with occasional victories—or there could be a wave of reforms from immigration to the budget to offshore banking (which is a big friggin deal and no one talks about it). The crucial factor: taking back the House of Representatives. If John Boehner (or another Republican) is Speaker of the House, then Republicans will continue to deny Obama and the Democrats big legislative reforms.
But taking back the House will be really hard: House Democrats actually got a million more votes in 2012 than House Republicans, but because of gerrymandering, Republicans enjoy a 32 seat lead. However, with every seat up for election, all things are possible. Here’s how the Democrats can take back the House:
Obamacare has to be a good product that people are happy with well in advance of the 2014 elections, or taking the House is a non-starter. That certainly can happen, and this whole website debacle may be all but forgotten in a few months, but until that happens, the Obamacare rollout is a major liability. The Republican Party will try to (once again) make the election a referendum on Obamacare, so having a good product is crucial.
2. Minimum Wage
Raising the minimum wage is one of the most popular policy ideas out there. A majority of Republicans, a strong majority of Independents and an overwhelming majority of Democrats favor raising the minimum wage. Elected Republicans tend to not be too keen on raising the minimum wage, because of their ties to business owners and rich people. Democrats should pass minimum wage increases wherever they can on the state level, and push a minimum wage hike federally. Where Republicans block that from happening, Democrats can make a lot of noise, and the public will have their back.
Funny, it really wasn’t that long ago that immigration was the first bullet point on the Republicans list of things to do to take back the Senate. Democrats enjoy a massive lead among minorities right now (hence the previous sentence), and they can count on Republicans in the House to waffle on real immigration reform and, when finally prodded to action, provide an unsatisfying piecemeal approach. Democrats will have plenty of ammunition, to say, “if you people want real immigration reform, we need to vote these guys out.”
The government shutdown came and went, and it was a huge embarrassment to the Republican Party. That by itself has helped the Democrats hopes for 2014, but the shutdown shenanigans might not be over. The last round of negotiations only pushed the deadlines for raising the debt ceiling and continuing to fund the government into early next year. All the same dynamics that produced the shutdown last time are still in place. Did the Republican Party learn its lesson? Whether the Republicans choose not to have that fight again or go in for another round, it’s likely to help the Democrats, who can be counted on to hold firm in not giving any concessions to the GOP.
Gerrymandering is one way Republicans held the House in 2012, voter suppression is another. Republicans are fond of making it hard to vote, and Democrats have to be ready for that . Voter registration pushes should start now to make sure that supporters have all the necessary documentation and are registered to vote. To take back the House, Democrats will need a massive turnout, and that has to start now.