The Independent View: Could the USA’s November mid-term elections herald the return of the long-fabled “Liberal Hour”?

USA Flag - Some rights reserved by freefotoukThe November mid-term elections in the United States will be vital for the future of the Democratic Party, as it not only seeks to retain its control of the Senate, but possibly reclaim the House of Representatives after four years under Republican control.

If it wishes to do so, the Democrats must be clear in what it stands for in social policy, and carry out a programme of major liberal reform that fulfils the promises of hope and change that Barack Obama evoked amongst so many people on his road to the presidency back in 2008.

In social policy, a Democratic Congress should amend the country’s social security system by introducing new social benefits for families and employees.

A universal child benefit scheme could help to tackle poverty, while a universal system of child care (a policy proposal passed by Congress way back in 1971 but vetoed by then-president Richard Nixon, and one which the Democrats pledged to introduce in 1992) would make it easier for parents to meet family and work commitments.

Statutory entitlement to paid holidays along European lines should be enshrined in law, while paid sick leave (which last year covered only 62% of employees) should be made mandatory for the entire workforce, along with paid parental leave for all mothers and fathers.

No longer would the United States be one of the few countries in the world not to provide paid leave to mothers, despite its immense wealth.

A Democratic Congress should also work towards implementing the remainder of Obama’s liberal policy agenda during his last two years in office. This includes the realisation of such bold promises as the exemption of all seniors living on less than $50,000 a year from paying income tax, the indexation and raising of the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and the requirement of employers to provide 7 days of annual paid sick leave.

In addition, the Democrats could reintroduce blocked initiatives such as the Paycheck Fairness Act (aimed at reducing the pervasive pay gap between men and women), the Buffett Rule (which, supported by investor Warren Buffett, seeks to introduce a minimum tax for millionaires), and a bill to expand education and healthcare programmes for veterans.

According to Obama, at least 500 bills have been blocked by the Republican opposition since 2007, highlighting the difficulties of legislative bipartisanship in contemporary American politics and further demonstrating the need for a liberal majority in Congress.

There exists, therefore, the basis for a strong liberal programme for the Democrats in Congress to unite behind and implement in a wake of a potential victory in the November elections. The implementation of such a programme would not only change America for the better, but also demonstrate the importance of progressive liberalism as a force for innovative change. For progressive liberals in the United States, the return of the long-fabled “Liberal Hour,” a time of great liberal reform, may be just around the corner.

* Vittorio Trevitt has written for Respublica, Democratic Audit, Catch 21, Fabian Society and Compass. He has also done voluntary work for the Labour Party, including campaigning on behalf of local candidates, carrying out research for speeches, and writing articles to raise awareness of important social issues. He believes in British socialists and liberals working together to achieve progressive ends, united by their commitment to equality, freedom, and justice.

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