Republicans are making two dubious bets heading into the midterms: One is that they have the faintest idea how to appeal Donald Trump's blue-collar union voters; two is that those voters will turn out to cast ballots for Republicans in 2022 when Trump isn't on the ticket.
There's plenty of evidence that the second assumption is flawed from the get-go since Trump voters haven't turned out for him in any election over the past four years where his name didn't appear on the ballot (2018 midterms, Georgia runoffs, 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial, 2018 Kansas gubernatorial). So Republicans are off to a flimsy start.
But equally as doubtful is the notion that Republicans can suddenly turn on a dime and become the "working class party now," as Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri declared on election night last November.
In fact, Congressional Republicans’ first foray into making some shapeshifter transition from the party of Corporate America to champions of the little guy isn't going so hot. Exhibit A is their unified opposition against a Democratic COVID-19 relief bill specifically designed to help working-class Americans who have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic.
A new AP-NORC poll found that fully 44% of American households say they are still feeling the impact of pandemic-related financial losses. But even more telling than that figure are the cracks that have emerged among Republican voters regarding President Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package.
A Pew Research Center poll released this week found that while 41% of Republicans overall support the bill, nearly two-thirds of lower-income Republicans favor it.
"A 63% majority of lower-income Republicans and Republican leaners (who make up 25% of all Republicans and Republican leaners) say they favor the proposed economic package," writes Pew. "By comparison, 37% of Republicans in middle-income households (50% of Republicans) and just 25% of upper-income Republicans (21% of all Republicans) favor the bill."
This GOP divide along class lines gives Democrats a real opening to both win back some blue-collar voters as well as remind some Trump voters why they were never sold on the Republican Party to begin with (thereby discouraging them from turning out next year).
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio summed up the Democratic line of attack perfectly in a rousing speech Tuesday from the House floor.
Ryan noted one Republican had complained that the COVID-19 bill is "the most dramatic change in labor law in 80 years," adding, "And I say, thank God!" According to Ryan, in the late 1970s, a CEO typically made 35 times the salary of their workers while today, CEOs make around 300-400 times as much as their workers.
"And our friends on the other side, running around with their hair on fire," Ryan said. "Heaven forbid we pass something that's going to help the damn workers in the United States of America.”
That messaging—We're the only ones fighting for you!—is the gift congressional Republicans have given to Democrats by uniting against a bill that is favored by 70% of Americans, according to Pew.
Trump's blue-collar voters have never really been that into the Republican Party. GOP lawmakers are currently doing nothing to win the trust of those voters as they uniformly line up against a bill that will benefit so many working-class households.