I’m a political newb, but even I can see why progressives would concern themselves with “stagnating” middle class wages rather than poverty (e.g. here). Poor folks don’t vote, but if you can convince the middle class (which is like everybody if you ask ’em) they’re getting screwed and you’ll fix it, then you’ll get elected.
The thing is, you’re already elected, progressives!
And if you’re looking for more electoral advice from a political naif: everybody cares about poverty. Nobody likes to see people suffer. If you want to broaden your political base even further, tackle poverty.
I recently learned of a group of people called the “undeserving poor”. These people, apparently, don’t deserve to not be poor. You don’t want to associate your anti-poverty rhetoric with them, of course. What you do then, is talk about how the current social safety net actually encourages people not to work!
In fact, progressives, if you want to have the greatest chance of helping people — you know, to make progress— you might consider non-state-based anti-poverty programs. Half of folks think the government can’t do anything about poverty anyway. You come up with a way to help poor people that doesn’t involve the government and you’ll win a lot of those folks over to your camp. An idea I haven’t heard a good argument against is to replace the current welfare state (including tax deductions and credits and the minimum wage) with a basic income guarantee or the EITC on steroids.
In the end, its about making progress, right?