In the past, Donald Trump has said that the American wages are too high and repeatedly expressed the concern that raising the minimum wage would undermine American competitiveness in the global economy. But less than a day after securing the status of presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he said he’d consider making it higher.
As the New York Times noted, the billionaire showman told Wolf Blitzer on CNN Wednesday that he’s “open to doing something with” the minimum wage. Trump also described himself as “very different from most Republicans” on the issue.
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Why would Trump change his tune on the issue so quickly? Aside from his general tendency to be inconsistent in his policy stances, it could be the opening gambit of his pivot to the general election. Stagnant wages are a concern for citizens across the political spectrum, and small increases in the minimum wage are certainly not always anathema to conservatives.
Increasing the minimum wage is also likely one of the most obvious ways to catch the attention of former supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a group that Trump has said that he plans to target as Sanders’ nomination chances continue to dwindle. Trump has demonstrated sustained appeal to the white working class — a demographic that Sanders has attracted in large numbers — and his opposition to free trade agreements should play well with Sanders supporters, too. There have been multiple reports in recent months that the rank-and-file of labor unions, who typically vote for Democrats, have taken interest in Trump.
“In terms of his message, it is really resonating. Particularly if you are talking [about] union people, he is speaking our language,” Josh Goldstein, deputy national media director for the AFL-CIO, told the Huffington Post. “We can’t let that go unattended, because people have been doing that with Trump for a long time, and his numbers have only gone up. … It is our job to go out and educate people now, so it doesn’t cross that threshold and become a threat.”
Sanders has called for a $15 federal minimum wage, and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has said that in certain circumstances she’d consider it as well. Trump’s likely going to have to go very bold — uncomfortably bold, for someone running on a Republican ticket — on raising the wage to really capture the interest of left-leaning voters receptive to his message.