With polls showing widespread support for an increase in the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage among both Republican and Democratic voters, top Democrats see not only a wedge issue that they hope will place Republican candidates in a difficult position, but also a tool with which to enlarge the electorate in a non-presidential election, when turnout among minorities and youths typically drops off.
“It puts Republicans on the wrong side of an important value issue when it comes to fairness,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser. “You can make a very strong case that this will be a helpful issue for Democrats in 2014. But the goal here is to actually get it done. That’s why the president put it on the agenda.”
As the Times reports, Democrats are working with unions and other activists to place minimum wage measures on ballots in contested congressional districts, with the hope that they’ll boost liberal enthusiasm in a cycle where turnout favors Republicans.
I’m skeptical that there’s any electoral utility to pushing for a higher minimum wage—the single biggest influence on voters is the short-term economy—but there’s no question that this is worth doing. At $7.25, the current minimum wage is at a relative low when you adjust for inflation. The congressional proposal, which would bring the wage to just over $10, is a modest boost that increases the value of the minimum wage to where it was in the 1960s and 70s.