Politico is featuring the results of some internal polling the Democrats have been doing and the results are not good (at least for them). Recognizing the need to break out of their enclaves of support on the coasts and in the major cities, the party has been testing its messaging to see how they might fare outside of their normal base. Most of the attacks on President Trump don’t seem to be sticking, but they at least hoped that they’d been scoring points on the policy front.
Far from it. If they stick to the themes which please their furthest left-wing base, the survey results indicate that they might wind up, “driving right into the ocean,” (as one Democratic strategist described it). There are two policy issues included in the survey which should come as a wake-up call to liberals considering how poorly they fare. The first is the Fight for 15 and significantly jacking up the minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 is as unpopular as it was when the Obama White House tried to make it Democrats’ rallying cry in the 2014 midterms. Participants in battleground-state focus groups said they see that rate as relatively high and the issue in general as being mostly about redistributing money to the poor.
The DCCC memo urges candidates instead to talk about a “living wage,” or to rail against outsourcing jobs.
This is just a classic example of preaching to the people when you don’t realize how those outside your bubble actually think. Yes, the Fight for 15 is very popular among the most liberal elements of the base and it can obviously draw high marks from people actually earning the minimum wage. (That’s a shockingly small percentage of the voter base, by the way, accounting for only 3.3% of workers in 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
You know who doesn’t like the idea of the minimum wage going up to $15 per hour overnight? All of the people out there actually earning $15 per hour or a bit above. They know that if the minimum wage suddenly leaps up by seven dollars an hour or so, their employers are not going to turn around and say, “Gee, I guess I’d better start paying you $22.” They will essentially be earning minimum wage and will be asking themselves, why did I bother getting my associates degree? Why did I bother going to technical school? Why did I spend two years in an apprenticeship program? I knew I wasn’t going to be making doctor or lawyer money, but I did it so I’d be making twice as much as I would standing in front of the fry machine or flipping burgers, and I could make a decent, if not plush living.
That’s one of the major failures of this plan. If wages at the bottom don’t grow organically but instead leap upward because of a government mandate, you’re delivering a shock to the system for everyone else further up the ladder and it’s not going to be pleasant.
The other proposal from survey I wanted to touch on was the subject of “free college tuition.” (That belongs in scare quotes because any thinking person knows that there’s no such thing as “free” anything when the government uses the term.) Again, the lowest income groups and the hard core Democratic base (a lot of overlap there) think that free tuition is just swell. You know who doesn’t? Pretty much everyone else. Check this passage out.
The call for free college tuition fosters both resentment at ivory tower elitism and regret from people who have degrees but are now buried under debt. Many voters see “free” as a lie — either they’ll end up paying for tuition some other way, or worse, they’ll be paying the tuition of someone else who’ll be getting a degree for free.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Gerstein Bocian Agne Strategies conducted online polling of 1,000 Democrats and 1,000 swing voters across 52 swing districts for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Their advice to candidates afterward: Drop the talk of free college.
Much like the Fight for 15 talk, Democrats launched into this free tuition without having even a clue as to how the rest of the country, who either paid their own way and are still carrying the debt or who know that their taxes will be going up for a bunch of new people to get a free ride, would react to the news. That’s not a case of being hardhearted, mean spirited or anything of the sort. It’s just a combination of realism and human nature.
But you just keep singing this same song, Democrats. Let’s see how well you do in all those red counties across the nation next year.