Don't Let Republicans Off the Hook on COVID Relief and the Minimum Wage

In Pennsylvania, 62% of voters in 2019 supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That was consistent with polls from previous years. A poll this month showed that 59% of Pennsylvanians support the COVID relief bill currently being voted on, including the hike in minimum wage. The current minimum wage in Pennsylvania is the same as the federal one: $7.25 an hour.

In Wisconsin, the bill polls at 60% support. A 2019 poll showed 57% support for a higher minimum wage. The minimum wage right now in Wisconsin is $7.25 an hour.

In West Virginia, raising the minimum wage to $15 has the support of 62% of voters. The state's Republican governor, Jim Justice, supports the COVID relief bill, including the minimum wage hike, which is currently a comparatively generous $8.75 an hour.

Nationally, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill polls at 76% approval, including 60% of Republicans. It is one of the most popular major pieces of legislation in years. It is bipartisan. Hell, it's universal, considering that 71% of independents are for it at least "somewhat." And at least 59% of Americans support the $15 minimum wage. 

I chose Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia specifically because they are states whose two senators are divided between Democrat and Republican. And while it's easy to dump on Democrats in the Senate for their failure to unify behind the minimum wage hike or getting rid of the filibuster (and, yes, I realize it's primarily Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona), and while it's easy to be cynical about Republicans' fealty to their agenda of owning the libs and getting back power so they can get in more judges while undermining democracy and kissing Trump's voluminous ass, that lets Republicans off the hook for doing things that large majorities of Americans, including in their own states, want them to do. 

Seriously: the approval of the COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, is above 50% in Republican states like Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana. And that's in a poll that not only laid out what was in it (including the minimum wage), but also gave examples of arguments for and against it before asking about support. 

We simply give up on Republicans without making them take the blame. The problem isn't just two Democrats. The problem is 50 Republicans. Yeah, sure, put all the pressure you can on Manchin and Sinema. (By the way, Manchin isn't changing parties if he's squeezed. If he does, he'll be crushed in the Republican primary in West Virginia in 2024.) But Republicans need to be reminded that they can pay a price for ignoring their states' voters. Why should Manchin get all the grief when West Virginia's other senator, Republican Shelley Capito, simply sails along, flipping off the people in her state who desperately need funding. Even now, Democratic groups and the DNC need to be running ads nonstop that put the screws on Republicans, that get the phone calls pouring in. Will most of the targeted Republicans not give a damn about it as long as their corporate funders back them? Probably, but you can make them sweat and set things up for 2022, at the very least. 

When Senate Minority Leader and Man Who Always Looks Like He's Seen a Large Penis for the First Time Mitch McConnell was asked about the broad support for COVID relief, he called it "wasteful," and Republicans criticized Democrats for things in the bill like funding for the Kennedy Center and a bridge in upstate New York, as if $100 million is anything other than a molecule in a drop in a $1.9 trillion bucket. 

But this popularity of this bill and the minimum wage fight during the time of COVID gives Democrats a chance to do something that I've talked about a great deal: it allows them to shift the political narrative away from "feckless Dems are too liberal" to "cruel Republicans are taking food out of your mouths" and "Republicans want to keep you at starvation wages." Democrats like Manchin and Sinema and previous self-proclaimed "moderates" are still buying the former narrative, but the nation has obviously moved away from that. The nation took the legislative and executive branches away from Republicans two years after giving them complete control of them.

Democrats are still responding to the narrative that Republicans created for them during the Reagan presidency. Too many Dems tried to prove they weren't that "liberal" (including Joe Biden). Now, let's figure out how to make Republicans have to show they are not who we say they are. This is a legit chance to do that, the first one since 2009, and we screwed that one up. Don't waste this opportunity.