Can Republicans learn to talk about the American workplace?

The 2016 election will probably hinge on the economy. So why are Republicans having such a hard time discussing it?

Can the GOP crack the water cooler code?
(Image credit: iStock)

The 2016 election will, like every presidential election, turn in large part on the state of the economy. Perhaps by next November things will be absolutely booming, or perhaps we will have plunged back into a recession. But the more likely state of affairs is something like what we have now: strong job growth, not enough wage growth, and a pervasive sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with how the American economy works. Both parties need to arrive at a set of proposals that will convince voters they actually have some idea how to address the problem. But so far, it seems that only one party is even trying.

Much of the difference between Democrats and Republicans on the economy comes down to how they look at the workplace, and how involved government should be in setting the rules and conditions that govern it. The Democratic position is that government should guarantee certain things for employees, like safe working conditions, health coverage, the ability to bargain collectively, and paid sick and family leave. Some of those are old fights, and some are relatively new. For instance, despite the fact that the United States is the only industrialized democracy that doesn't mandate paid parental leave, Democrats are just now putting that issue high on their economic agenda.

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.