On Wednesday the Senate failed to pass an increase in the minimum wage, even though two-thirds of Americans want it. How can this be?

It’s not simply because well-heeled political donors would rather choke on an Egg McMuffin than pay someone $10.10 an hour to microwave it, although that’s certainly a factor.

According to a New York Times/CBS poll in February, a super majority of Americans want a higher minimum wage, but 52 percent of voters would support a candidate who disagreed with them on the issue.

In other words, it’s something people want, but not so much politicians have to worry. The same dynamic drives the gun control debate. You can have 90 percent support for stricter background checks, and still lose in Congress because the minority of voters who oppose the measure are going to get a lot more worked up about it.

Polls aren’t always such a good predictor, and we can turn this dynamic on its head. During the health care debate, for instance, the public option always polled well, even when cable news outlets showed town halls in an uproar and made it seem as though the idea was anathema to the voting public.

The lesson, then, is to make a fuss over the issues you care about. Senators care as much or more about office visits, phone calls and faxes from their constituents as they do about polls and donations. We think.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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