For pretty much every election in recent memory, the Democratic Party’s strategy in swing districts has been to back the “safe” candidate, which is typically a moderate or conservative small business owner or prosecutor or veteran type. The logic behind it seems simple enough: if a district varies on what party it wants to represent them in Congress every two years, the majority of voters there are probably pretty moderate.
That might be true for some districts, but it’s a bad rule of thumb, and there’s a large body of evidence out there—i.e., the last four midterms—indicating that voters largely don’t care how moderate their member of Congress is if they’re furious with the party in power. It doesn’t necessarily mean every swing district wants Joe Manchin to represent them.
Case in point: the National Employment Law Project dropped a new poll yesterday on the $15 minimum wage, as House Democrats advance a bill that would raise the federal minimum to $15 by 2024. What’s especially interesting is that they focused polling on swing districts currently represented by Democrats; here’s what they found, per the Washington Post, emphasis mine:
The battleground district survey highlights some of this disconnect. Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates surveyed 800 likely voters across the 57 congressional districts a Democrat won by less than 15 points in 2018. Nearly all of the Democratic lawmakers who have declined to cosponsor the Raise the Wage Act hail from one of these districts.
The survey showed that 65 percent of likely voters in these districts favored raising the minimum wage. That figure includes 89 percent of Democratic voters in those districts, 55 percent of independents, and 46 percent of Republicans.
The strength of support for raising the wage also stood out: The share of voters who strongly favor the wage increase (36 percent) was greater than the total share of voters opposed (32 percent).
Voters in these districts also said that a lawmaker who voted for the minimum wage bill would be, on net, more likely to get their support in the next congressional election: 37 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for a representative who supported the wage hike, while 21 percent said they’d be more likely to oppose such a representative.
Yes, this is just one survey, even if it’s firmly in line with other polling on the topic. But consider how the Fight for $15 movement began. In November 2012, hundreds of low-wage workers in Chicago organized the first Fight for 15 campaign, followed a few weeks later by the first Fast Food Forward protests unionization drive in New York.
Now, less than seven years later, six states have passed legislation to get to a $15 minimum wage. It’s the Democratic Party standard, and something that’s proving to be wildly popular in exactly the same sorts of districts where we’ve been told time and again that progressive politics won’t win.
Maybe—stay with me here–it’s time to reconsider how accurate our conventional wisdom really is.
Correction: This post originally credited New York fast food workers with the first ‘Fight for $15' protest. While New York fast food workers started their unionization drive and held their first protests in late November 2012, the first ‘Fight for 15' campaign was actually launched a few weeks earlier in Chicago, by the Workers’ Organizing Committee of Chicago.