Feeling pressure from the midterm elections drawing ever closer, Democrats are trying to coax their 2012 voters out of complacency to get to the polls this fall. But that might be difficult, given that midterms tend to be smaller and whiter affairs, which translates into better turnout for Republicans.
To replicate the record numbers from President Barack Obama's second election, Democrats are using issues like minimum wage, immigration, and policies aimed at women and minorities to motivate voters. And while there's a limit to what legislation they can pass through Congress, they can continue to make statements about what they want to do. Here are some other ways the Democrats are trying to attract more women and minorities to avoid a midterm slump in the fall.
Women’s Economic Opportunities
President Obama understands the importance of courting female voters, and played heavily on the GOP's "War on Women" message during the 2012 election. The White House said it wants to double the minimum wage for tipped workers to $4.90 by 2016, and that raising the tipped wage would help to close the gender pay gap, reports Reuters.
Raising the minimum wage — a paltry $2.13, it hasn't budged since 1991 — for tipped workers would largely benefit women, who make up 74 percent of tipped restaurant workers earning at or below the minimum wage. While employers are required to pay the gap between the standard and tipped minimum wage if tips fall short, it still means that one in 10 workers will end up earning less than the minimum wage.
The push to increase the minimum wage has already had success in some states. As Fox News reports, New Jersey lawmakers advanced a bill on Monday that raises the state’s minimum wage for tipped workers to $3.39 from $2.13 by the end of the year, and to $5.93 by the end of 2015. Pennsylvania introduced legislation to get rid of the tipped minimum wage altogether, while increasing the standard minimum wage.
Speaking at a Florida community college last week, Obama said he wants to raise pay and improve economic opportunities for women, and said that they should be able to have children without fear of losing their job. “This isn't 1958 — it's 2014,” he said, also referencing Mad Men. 55 percent of women voted for Obama in 2012, compared to 44 percent for Romney, according to CNN exit polls.
To see Obama's commitment to women's health, especially access to contraceptives, look no further than the Supreme Court this week, where craft emporium Hobby Lobby is fighting for its right not to cover their employee's contraceptives. Obama championed the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which would require employers, including for-profit companies, to cover their employees’ contraceptive costs. The case is currently being debated in the Supreme Court — and Facebook.
My Brother’s Keeper Program
Obama was inspired to launch My Brother’s Keeper, a program aimed at helping the country’s young black men and men of color. Obama drew on his own experience growing up black and fatherless, and said, “I didn’t have a dad in the house… And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time,” reports The New York Times.
The DREAM Act helps those who were brought to the U.S. as children, but because of their 'illegal immigrant' status can't gain employment, by allowing them to apply for temporary legal status, and eventually become eligible for U.S. citizenship. But under Obama’s leadership, there has been a record 2 million deportations, mostly of Latinos, which has torn apart communities and families.
House Democrats Discharge Petition on Immigration Reform
Minority groups, including Hispanic, black and Asian Americans, gave a combined 80 percent of their votes to Obama in 2012. House Democrats submitted a discharge petition to force a vote on immigration reform, a contentious and unresolved issue in congress, although some House Republicans have already rejected the idea. The petition will pressure Republicans to vote on the issue, with the aim of an overhaul this year.