If the public option campaign succeeds, it will be a proof of concept for the Progressive Block strategy--House Progressives threatening to join with Republicans to block must-pass Democratic legislation unless they receive a major concession. After all, the public option campaign would not even exist had House Progressives not voted to draw a line in the sand on the public option. If a public option passes into law those Progressives, through their new strategy, will have been the prime movers.
So, thinking ahead for a moment, what should House Progressives target next if they achieve this proof of concept? Climate change might not be feasible, since almost every House Progressive already voted in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Afghanistan probably won't work, since their won't be anymore supplemental appropriation bills (it will be merged into the budget now), and because Republicans will vote in favor of Afghanistan funding as long as it isn't tied to any other legislation. Financial regulation is difficult because it requires drawing a bright line on such a murky subject. Immigration is a possibility, but given all of the delays in even introducing an immigration bill, it isn't clear at all that the Democratic leadership considers immigration reform to be must-pass legislation.
The best bet is for Progressives to target the budget next year. Specifically, they should demand a substantial, probably 10% (a nice round number), increase in taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Here is why:
Increasing taxes on the rich is pretty popular. In fact, it is one of the most popular things the federal government could do:
CBS News/New York Times Poll. April 1-5, 2009. N=998 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).
"Do you think the tax code should be changed so that middle and lower income people pay less in taxes than they do now and upper income people pay more in taxes than they do now, or don't you think the tax code should be changed?"
They took our stuff from us, and we are taking it back. How can the top 1% argue that they are the only people who add wealth to America? This is the sort of fight that can help Democrats regain the populist mantle heading into 2010.
People are worried about deficits, but this would be a lot more popular than cutting spending.
This is a clear bright line, the budget is an undeniably must-pass piece of legislation, and this proposal is guaranteed to have 100% Republican opposition.
No question about Senate reconciliation for a budgetary measure like this. So, we wouldn't have to deal with the 60-vote Senate.
This seems like a winnable campaign and could shift the balance of economic and political power in this country. After health care, I hope the Progressive Block pivots toward addressing income inequality through a big, progressive change in the tax code.