Schumer, Democrats Looking for a Few Good Words to Woo Middle Class Americans

February 9, 2007
Robert O'Neill

Democrats will lose future elections if they do not pay special attention to the needs of the middle class. That was the message New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the lead architect of the Democrats’ successful campaign to regain control of the Senate, delivered to the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Feb. 9.

Schumer, author of “Positively American: Winning Back the Middle Class Majority One Family at a Time,” said he believes the 2008 presidential poll could be a seminal election, in which either party could build a majority that lasts a generation. But Democrats do not yet have a simple, positive, winning message to take to voters.

When President George Bush won reelection in 2004, he had a platform that could be summed up in eight words: War in Iraq, cut taxes, no gay marriage. Each one of those simple message, Schumer said, was tied to a value that resonated with voters.

“What are our eight words?” Schumer said. “If Democrats don’t have a platform, don’t have a vision, we’re going to lose.”

Schumer, whose Web site invites visitors to come up with their own eight-word platform, said he hopes his book will start a discussion among Democrats about the policies they must develop to become once again the party of the majority.

Central to the discussion, Schumer hopes, will be a fictional middle class couple he created for his book, Joe and Eileen Bailey, part of what he jokingly described as his imaginary political friends.

Schumer proposed simple, measurable goals to win the Baileys over, including: cutting cancer deaths by 50 percent, reducing terrorism by 50 percent, cutting the property tax that funds education by 50 percent and increasing the country’s ability to fight terrorism by 50 percent.

Schumer also railed against special interests, describing how interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum hampered the work of legislators by focusing their considerable resources on narrow issues.

“What’s hard for the Democrats is to resist the interest groups on the left,” Schumer said. “They make it not in our self-interest to do what’s in the national interest.”
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