Morning Plum: Tea Party economic worldview holding back GOP

Commentators often cast the long term demographic problems facing the GOP as rooted in a refusal to evolve culturally, on issues like gay rights and immigration. But could the party’s adherence to the Tea Party economic worldview also prove an obstacle in appealing to groups that will be growing as a share of the vote?

Politico has a good story this morning reporting that a handful of GOP Senators are still privately trying to reach a deal with Dems on extending unemployment benefits. Why are they doing this, given that the issue is supposedly dead? Because Democrats will continue hitting them on it. This is crucial:

The political threat is especially acute for Republicans like Portman and Sen. Mark Kirk, who will both face voters in 2016 very different from the 2010 tea party wave that thrust them into office. In Ohio, about a third of the state’s unemployed have been out of work for more than half a year, according to Pew. In Illinois, the long-term unemployed make up 41 percent of the state’s jobless.

Those 2016 voters who will be “very different from the 2010 Tea Party wave” include members of the new coalition who are increasingly important to the future Democratic Party: minorities, young voters, and unmarried women, particularly downscale women who are a crucial swing vote Dems continue to court.

Meanwhile, Republicans are psyched about the new CBO report finding the minimum wage hike could lead to reduced employment while giving a raise to many millions more. But polls will almost certainly show the hike remains popular, and Dems will continue to wield the issue, to boost turnout among those core groups, in tough 2014 red state Senate contests, but also in 2016.

Some Republicans have been talking about poverty lately, suggesting an awareness of polls showing majorities believe GOP priorities favor the rich. But as Jonathan Cohn and Peter Beinart have detailed, their actual proposals tend to suffer from a problem: they don’t involve spending more money to help alleviate poverty and/or increase economic mobility, and they don’t seriously entertain a positive role for the federal government in accomplishing these goals. Even some conservative reformers say breaking from that anti-government orthodoxy is necessary to develop a more affirmative governing agenda on economic issues.

Structural factors probably ensure a big GOP victory in 2014. But as Ron Brownstein has argued, the prospect of a win is a short term disincentive to the party to address the cultural barriers — immigration, gay rights — preventing it from expanding its appeal to ”the new us,” i.e., the groups that have ”allowed Democrats to win five of the past six presidential elections.” I’d add this also applies to economic issues: Majorities favor government action to combat inequality, and those particular groups overwhelmingly favor it. At the same time, the GOP positions on economic issues overwhelmingly reflect the preoccupations of Tea Party Republicans rather than non-Tea Party ones. So perhaps the Tea Party economic worldview is also a barrier that could prevent the GOP from “competing in a changing America.”

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* DEMS ON OFFENSE TO EXPAND THE VOTE: Here’s some news about iVote, the new Super PAC that’s raising money to back Dem candidates dedicated to expanding the vote in Secretary of State races in four pivotal swing states.  The group is announcing today that it has hired a new executive director: Steven Walker, a former acting national political director for the Democratic National Committee.

“It’s time to flip the script by going on offense to elect Secretaries of State who will not only protect voting, but expand access to it,” Walker says in a release. The hire suggests Dems are treating the right’s national push to restrict voting far more seriously than in the past, and are preparing for a years-long struggle over access to voting that could have a real difference in 2016 and beyond.

* ECONOMISTS PUSH BACK ON MINIMUM WAGE REPORT: Annie Lowery has a useful overview of the debate over the latest CBO report finding that the minimum wage could reduce employment by 500,000 while boosting incomes for over 16 million people. Labor and liberal economists note that the report’s central finding was that far more workers would be helped than hurt, and that raising the minimum wage would “increase spending by lower income workers throughout the economy.”

Republicans seem to think the CBO report is a game changer, giving them more fodder to argue (as Mitch McConnell does in the link) that the minimum wage hike is a job killer.

* GREEN GROUPS WARN OBAMA ON KEYSTONE: The Hill reports that environmental groups are putting Obama on notice: If you approve Keystone, you’ll take a beating from us. The most important tell of all will be how Obama’s EPA handles its pending crackdown on carbon emissions from existing plants, which will show us how willing the administration is to weather political blowback in the face of ambitious executive action on climate.

* OBAMA TO FACE QUESTIONS ON TRADE: With the summit meeting with Mexico and Canada set to start today, David Nakamura notes that Obama will be facing some very hard questions over Congressional opposition to his efforts to negotiate free trade deals. The issue is emerging as a major fault line within the Dem Party, and it could only get worse now that Dems plan to campaign hard on inequality this year.

* YES, THE STIMULUS WORKED: Ruth Marcus responds to Republicans who continue characterizing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a boondoggle:

The stimulus represented a classic, and sensible, Keynesian response to recession, one that historically has been endorsed by both parties….The stimulus wasn’t perfect, but its chief flaws were dictated by political realities. Nearly a third was devoted to tax cuts, which are less stimulative than measures such as unemployment benefits because less is immediately spent. If anything, given the depth of the crisis, the measure should have been bigger…The White House calculation that the law saved or created 1.6 million jobs a year for four years comports with estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Without stimulus spending, more than 5 million additional people would have slipped into poverty in 2010.

The continued characterization of the stimulus as something extreme is only another reminder of the ways Republicans just weren’t a part of the conversation over how to respond to the worst economic crisis in 60 years, not to mention the jobs crisis that continues in its aftermath.

* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:

Jonathan Bernstein has a good corrective to the absolute certainty among certain pundits that Obamacare can be counted on to shower Republicans with political riches in an election nine months from now. As Bernstein rightly notes, Republicans very well may win a lot of Senate seats next year, but this can be true even as it’s also true that the health law is unlikely to be a leading reason why.

Norah Caplan-Bricker on a new study suggesting weaknesses in the background check system do lead to more gun violence and deaths. As she notes, even overwhelming public support for universal background checks wasn’t enough to get Congress to act, but this study suggests it should take up the issue again.

The DSCC has outraised the NRSC in January, bringing in $6.6 million to the GOP’s $4.6 million. Fundraising by Dems will be critically important, with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity swamping vulnerable Dems with anti-Obamacare ads unusually early in the cycle.

Glenn Kessler takes apart the continuing GOP/Tea Party use of the misleading phrase “blank check” to describe the debt limit hike Obama just secured. Only in the Tea Party alternate reality is it “fiscally responsible” to default on obligations already incurred.

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