Trump Sounds Like Reagan: GOP Should Help Workers

Donald Trump speaks in Reno, Nev. (photo credit: Darron Birgenheier via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Donald Trump speaks in Reno, Nev. (photo credit: Darron Birgenheier via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

There’s a story in Politico today where Donald Trump says that the GOP will become a ‘workers party’ under his leadership:

“Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party,” Trump said in the May 17 interview. “A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Trump is right to recognize a critical flaw in the GOP’s current economic platform, which focuses almost exclusively on businesses and “job-creators.” The only way to win future elections is to make the GOP platform more friendly to workers. Republicans’ goal should be to win voters with all income levels, and that starts with winning voters with incomes under $50,000, where Romney got trounced 60 percent to 38 percent in 2012.

In understanding this need to make the GOP a ‘workers party,’ Trump is a lot like Ronald Reagan. Reagan understood that having an economic message that reached voters across the socioeconomic divide was critical to electoral success. Reagan’s big tent included businesses and job-creators, to be sure, but it also included working families that had been crushed by the high inflation of the 1970’s — almost immediately after we ended the gold standard, by the way — and who were inhibited from getting ahead due to oppressively high taxes.

I feel like a broken record, but I’ve been saying this since at least the 2012 election and probably before. The GOP needs to become more worker-friendly and address the immediate economic concerns of working Americans, or it faces the inevitability of becoming a permanent minority party.

Ultimately, the GOP economic message should be tailored to working people. Workers want a raise, which they haven’t received in 16 years, and instead of addressing wage stagnation, Republicans spend all their time talking about giving workers’ bosses a tax break. That makes no sense if the GOP wants to reach the 90 percent of voters who have never started a business.

This is not to say that Republicans shouldn’t support trade, corporate tax reform, balanced budgets, and regulatory reform, but these topics are less important to workers than wage stagnation and the chronic feeling of being unable to get ahead. Trump is taking on workers’ — read: voters top concern directly.

Terry Schilling is the executive director of American Principles Project.