The New “Wedge Issues”

If you want a good illustration of why Democrats are pushing “economic fairness” issues like the minimum wage, pay equity, and even (in some states) Medicaid expansion, give a gander to a Public Policy Polling survey of Texas released last week. The polls shows Ted Cruz as far and away the most popular pol in the state. It also shows every named Republican beating Hillary Clinton in 2016 trial heats. But then there’s this:

There’s no questioning that Texas is a conservative state but on a trio of hot button issues going on right now public opinion there sides with the Democrats. By a 55/37 spread, voters support increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour. By a 49/35 spread they support expanding Medicaid. And by a 50/30 spread, they support the Paycheck Fairness Act- reflecting a sentiment 93% of Texas voters say they agree with that “women and men should earn equal pay for equal work.”

There’s very strong support from Democrats on all three of those issues. But they get to majority support because independents in the state support each of them by 13-14 points and because 34-35% of Republicans support the Paycheck Fairness act and minimum wage increase, with 26% supporting Medicaid expansion.

These are by any definition “wedge issues” which divide Republicans and counter GOP advantages among independents. They also force Republicans into counter-arguments that expose the underlying radicalism of conservative ideology. There’s absolutely no reason on earth Democrats shouldn’t talk about them at every available opportunity.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.