As Republican candidates around the country openly discuss repealing the minimum wage on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow made an interesting argument that the single issue that could power the Democrats to victory is the minimum wage. Maddow said, “When minimum wage is an issue, not only does it win, Democrats win alongside the issue, too.”
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Maddow pointed out that the minimum wage is great issue for the Democrats, “If you had a secret decoder ring for democratic electoral success, the minimum wage is what your ring decodes to. Whenever minimum wage is on the ballot, it blows up. In 2006, minimum wage initiative passed in Nevada by 38 points. Minimum measure in Arizona passed by 32 points. Two years earlier one passed in Florida by 44 points. Montana, Montana! Democratic senator Jon Tester of Montana elected in 2006, when was that minimum wage ballot initiative ballot wage on the ballot? 2006. This is the code for Democrats. When minimum wage is an issue, not only does it win, Democrats win alongside issue, too. Quoting Congressional Quarterly, “In 2006, voter motivation and reported interest in the election was disproportionately high among democratic-based voters, especially where minimum wage initiatives were in play.”
Maddow discussed how Republicans have tried to hide their position on the minimum wage to the voters, “The minimum wage issue is not something that gets talked about on the federal level very much, very often. But it is a very, very potent issue for Democrats. Raising the minimum wage is very popular with voters, and Republicans know it….Business interests, the backbone of the Republican Party have fought minimum wage initiatives tooth and nail over the years. Like the Chamber of Commerce, that brags it continues to oppose increases.”
She highlighted the political dilemma for Republican candidates on the minimum wage issue, “This is really awkward for Republicans. On the one hand, they’re so reliant on the support of business interests, they represent business interests. But on the other hand, they recognize that opposing minimum wage increases is really bad electorally, even in conservative states. So Republicans have been against the minimum wage, but very quietly. I’m convinced the republican jihad against ACORN was not about some fake expose. It wasn’t about that. it was was because they organized people around minimum wage initiatives that always passed. Initiatives that also turned out Democratic base.”
She concluded, “That sound you hear in the distance is the sound of Democratic antenna beginning up going up across the country. It is proven to energize Democratic voters over and over and over again. Every where in the country. Republican John Faese running for Senate in West Virginia. Linda McMahon of Connecticut, County Joe Miller of Alaska, all on record arguing against the minimum wage. In Connecticut, Democratic Richard Blumenthal already hit Linda McMahon on it. Now she says she misunderstood the question. She didn’t understand it at all. Good luck. The principle that anyone working a full time shouldn’t be poor, the richest most powerful country on earth, you ought to be table to live on what you earn if you live full time as Americans, that leaks out of our veins and Republicans are against it. It’s always been incredibly potent political issue for Democrats and this year the Republicans made the mistake of admitting in public where they always quietly stood on it before. It is the softest target there is in this entire election.”
It is stunning that the Republicans are so confident heading into next month’s election that they are openly discussing repealing or lowering the minimum wage. The minimum wage is a populist issue that cuts across all ideological lines. It is a pocketbook issue that motivates low wage earners in both Red and Blue states all across the country. It is a powerful, personal issue that energizes millions of voters, so the Republican willingness to discuss their unpopular position on the minimum wage is an absolute gift.
Politically savvy and experienced Republicans never ever volunteer to discuss their position on the issue, but this year the GOP is running a crop of inexperienced ideologues who don’t know when to shut up. When they spout off about repealing the minimum wage, they not only look completely uncaring and out of touch, but they undercut their own message of populism. All of these Republican candidates are running on a populist message of taking back Washington, but it is difficult for them to stick by their populism when they are in favor of gutting the minimum wage.
I’ll take Rachel Maddow’s point a step further. Not only should Democrats run on protecting the minimum wage, they should make it one of the central issues of the 2010 homestretch. Unlike healthcare reform, this issue is not complicated or difficult to explain. If you are working hard at making the minimum wage, the Republicans want to take your livelihood away. They want you to work at Wal-Mart for $3.50 an hour. Good luck feeding your family on that. It is an issue that clearly defines this election, and Democrats would be foolish not to run on it.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association