Obama Pushing Republicans Away From Popular Ideas?

He’s not completely explicit about it, but at the Plum Line, Paul Waldman suggests an unusual way in which Barack Obama can and will help Hillary Clinton (or whoever the Democratic nominee is) win the 2016 general election. After noting that administration figures are spending time promoting paid family and medical leave–a topic Hillary Clinton is widely expected to talk about a lot–Waldman notes there could be more to the synergy than repetition:

Paid sick leave is one of those policies (like increasing the minimum wage) that Republicans oppose but that are absurdly popular. For instance, in this HuffPo/YouGov poll from 2013, 84 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of Independents supported requiring companies to offer it. Yet while it’s possible that a Republican or two in the presidential race might surprise us and support it, that’s not too likely. They just aren’t inclined to support any regulation that requires employers to offer a benefit to employees, even if we’re the only country in the developed world that doesn’t have mandatory paid sick leave. And now that it’s something Barack Obama is pushing, the odds that a Republican could say he agrees with it are quickly plummeting toward zero.

It’s that last sentence that’s worth thinking about: Republicans may be able to bring themselves to try to “neutralize” relatively anodyne and very popular ideas like paid family leave, even if they offer half or a fourth of a loaf. But not if they are associated with Barack Obama. So Obama may offer the signal service to other Democrats of making wildly popular ideas so toxic to Republicans that Democrats can monopolize them.

It’s enough to make you wish Obama could find at least one acceptable idea Republicans have already embraced that he can suddenly start talking about, if only to see if they repudiate it like wild rabbits abandoning their offspring if their nest has been contaminated by the scent of another species.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.