AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR (AND MAYBE FIVE)…. I have to admit, it really never occurred to me the existence of the minimum wage could be a campaign issue in 2010. And yet, here we are.
Last week, Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon of Connecticut, the wealthy and scandal-plagued wrestling company executive, suggested it’s time to consider lowering the minimum wage. Over the weekend, extremist Senate candidate Joe Miller (R) of Alaska went even further, arguing that the entire concept of the minimum wage is unconstitutional and should be eliminated.
But as yesterday progressed, the list of GOP Senate candidates hostile towards the minimum wage grew even longer.
Democrats believe a handful of GOP Senate contenders in pivotal races have opened themselves up to a lethal line of attack on the minimum wage.
As of Monday, 4 Republicans running for the Senate in Alaska, Connecticut, West Virginia and Washington have made controversial statements opposing the minimum wage. To be sure, some have gone farther than others, but Democrats believe that the statements are political death wishes as unemployment holds steady around 10%.
Democrats view the issue as a base energizer, particularly among union members. They also plan to use the statements to show that Republicans are out of touch and out of the mainstream for their states — a line of attack they have already been using in most of these states. Don’t be surprised to see these statements in campaign ads soon.
McMahon in Connecticut raised the prospect of a wage decrease, and in the state of Washington, Senate hopeful Dino Rossi has made similar remarks. West Virginia’s John Raese, meanwhile, is more in line with Alaska’s Miller, and has been candid in his demand that the minimum wage be eliminated altogether. We could arguably say there are five Senate GOP candidates on the list, because Kentucky’s Rand Paul has also questioned whether the minimum wage should exist.
Remember when the Republican Party used to champion a “living wage“? Its candidates don’t.
It’s difficult to choose the most radical of the bunch, though Raese proclaimed just a couple of weeks ago, “I profess [sic] that minimum wage be eliminated and we operate on the laws of supply and demand just like we did before the Depression.” Raese also told CNN yesterday that Tea Partiers are too liberal, adding, “Minimum wage is something that Franklin Delano Roosevelt put in during the Depression. It didn’t work during the Depression, it certainly hasn’t worked now.”
Even by Republican standards, attacking the very existence of the minimum wage is crazy. I’d like to say it’s unpopular, but the idea is so far from the American mainstream, I can’t find any polls even asking the question. (Usually, polls ask whether the minimum wage should go up, not whether it should be abolished.)
Put it this way: GOP Senate candidates like Raese and Miller are talking about going back to a time when child labor was legal, and when pillars of American society like Social Security and Medicare didn’t exist.
I know most Americans are unsatisfied with the status quo, and are impatient with the pace of change. I don’t know whether Americans are ready to elect nutjobs to the United States Senate.