Monday, June 9, 2014

Magazine recalls last time Democrats used the minimum wage as a big issue, looks at Kentucky race

By Al Cross

The latest issue of The Washington Monthly (June/July/August) has two references to Sen. Mitch McConnell's bid for re-election, both in prominent articles.

Paul Glastris, the magazine's editor in chief, writes that Democrats are "working the GOP's weak spot" by pushing for an increase in the minimum wage, a strategy that worked for them when Bill Clinton was running for a second term as president in 1996. Republican Bob Dole was so "flummoxed" by Democrats' pressure on the issue that he resigned from the Senate to campaign full-time.

Glastris notes that at a February fund-raiser in Louisville for Alison Lundergan Grimes, Clinton "said . . . that McConnell's opposition to the minimum wage is reason enough to support Grimes. If she wins in November it wouldn't be the first time Clinton used the minimum wage to help drive a GOP Senate leader out of office."

Glastris notes several differences "that complicate the comparison. Then it was a presidential year; now it's a midterm." I think what he means is that a wage hike just before the election boosted Democrats' chances more than it would in a midterm election because Clinton was on the ballot and they rode his coattails and shared the credit. In this non-presidential year, a compromise appears to be available between the current $7.25 an hour and Democrats' proposed steps to $10.10 over three years, but Democrats appear unwilling to cut a deal because they think the more effective political strategy is to have an issue rather than a higher wage. Without a president on the ballot to offer coattails, credit for passing the bill would be too diffuse.

In the "Tilting at Windmills" column that opens the magazine, Monthly contributing editor Michelle Cottle of the National Journal finds it ironic that Sen. Mitch McConnell is "trying to weather an incoming storm of hostile free speech" after doing "his damnedest to smother any attempt to smother any attempt to reduce the influence of money in politics with his big, fluffy, money-equals-free-speech pillow" and seeing the Supreme Court put many of his views into case law.

Cottle notes that Grimes has out-raised the Senate Republican leader in two of the last three quarters, but "I assume that, in the end, McConnell will live to serve another term. . . . Still, it's been a while since Darth Vader had a real race on his hands, and nobody more deserves to have to go out and grub for campaign cash." What Cottle apparently doesn't realize is that McConnell, unlike most politicians, actually enjoys raising money.

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