One of the most overlooked moments in Tuesday night’s Republican debate came at the very beginning. Donald Trump, asked whether he’d support a hike in the minimum wage, instead digressed into saying, “Wages [are] too high,” in making the case for corporate competitiveness. And he repeated the same keep-wages-low talking point Wednesday morning on Morning Joe, apparently not recognizing the potential backlash he created. Even though he was answering a question about the minimum wage, his remarks (in both cases) sounded like he was talking broadly about the economy.
Trump, for those not paying attention, has been advancing a campaign message that he’s a traitor to his class. One of his most effective lines is that he knows that politicians are controlled by wealthy donors because he was once one of those wealthy donors. He supports tax hikes on the most wealthy and argues, “The hedge fund guys have been getting away with murder.” He has been an outspoken critic of free-trade deals and promises to act tougher with China (on “stealing” American jobs) and Mexico (over immigration), further establishing his populist bona fides. His central appeal is that he’s promising to bring the skills that made him wealthy to enrich the broader public.