Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) argued at the National Press Club this morning that Democrats can win back the majority in 2016 by courting the middle class.
“If you’d ask the average American what the American Dream means to him, he wouldn’t put it in fancy, textbook language or academic terms. He or she would put it very simply. They’d say: ‘It means if I work hard, I’ll be doing better 10 years from now than I’m doing today and my kids will be doing still better than me,'” Schumer said.
“However, if that torch flickers, if the torch is no longer lit, if people no longer believe in the American Dream, we become a different country. And that is exactly what is happening. The light is flickering, has been flickering for over the last decade. And that fact has dominated our politics more than any other.”
Schumer, who led the Democrats to 14 new Senate seats in 2006 and 2008 as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, ceded the post to Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in 2009. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led the DSCC effort during this midterm, in which Democrats lost the Senate majority.
Schumer said the “most salient factor in our political economy is that for the first time in American history, middle class incomes have been in decline for over a decade and the grand optimism of America and the American Dream is itself in jeopardy.”
“The 2014 election results can be explained this way,” he said. “During 2013, neither party convinced the middle class that they had an effective way to get them out of this morass; that they had an effective plan to create good jobs and raise incomes. As 2014 began, the parties were in stalemate. But when government failed to deliver on a string of non-economic issues — the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, the mishandling of the surge in border crossers, ineptitude at the VA, the initial handling of the Ebola threat — people lost faith in government’s ability to work and then blamed the incumbent governing party, Democrats, creating a Republican wave.”
The senator argued that the American public “knows in its gut that a strong and active government is the only way to reverse the middle class decline.”
“Democrats lost in 2014 because the government made mistakes that eroded the electorate’s confidence in its ability to improve the lives of the middle class,” he said.
Schumer said the stage is set for a 2016 Democratic victory “if and only if we can convince people that government can work and help restore the middle class to prosperity.”
Democrats, he stated, need to “embrace government, not run away from it” in order to win.
“The Republican mantra that less government works is counterintuitive to the middle class because they know that government is needed to stand up to the big economic forces like technology and globalization that push them around,” he said. “If Democrats can create a convincing plan that is both achievable and believable, embracing government is a way to help the middle class advance, we will roll to victory in 2016.”
Democrats need to make the case that “government can be on their side” and convince voters that their party “will make government the people’s champion, not captive to the powerful.”
“Now, this message has an element of populism. Democratic populism does not mean the rabble-rousing populism or divisiveness of Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan. Democratic populism recognizes that the powerful have much more access and influence over government, and specific and strong actions must be taken to curb that influence so government can really represent the average person,” Schumer said.
“…We must convince the middle class that the only way out of their morass is by embracing a strong and effective government, not demeaning or running from it.”