Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) thinks Hillary Clinton should run in 2016, and she could win a “huge majority” if she does. But only if she also follows the plan Schumer laid out on Tuesday — one he says is essential for Democrats to change up their fortunes in 2016 and beyond.
During a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Schumer urged Democratic candidates across the country to “embrace government.”
“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,” Schumer said.
“If Democrats can create a convincing plan that is both achievable and believable, embracing government as a way to help the middle class advance, we will roll to victory in 2016.”
As the head of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, Schumer led a messaging team that presided over massive midterm-election losses in 2014. Democrats lost their majority in the Senate, where Republicans are likely to claim 54 seats after next month’s runoff election in Louisiana.
Schumer traced the slide back to the aftermath of the 2008 election, after which he said Democrats’ priorities shifted from their campaign promises. He said it was a mistake to pass such a wide-netted stimulus in 2009 that allowed Republicans to target various elements of “pork” in the bill.
And, intriguingly, he said Democrats made a mistake by focusing on health care in the aftermath of the stimulus’ passage. He said the Affordable Care Act gave birth to the rise of the Tea Party that won sweeping electoral victories in the 2010 midterm elections, and he was critical of the Affordable Care Act as a political messaging tool.
President Barack Obama ultimately signed a bill that largely only affected the uninsured, at least one-third of whom are not registered to vote, Schumer said. He pointed out that only about 5 percent of registered voters in the U.S. were uninsured in 2010.
“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform,” Schumer said.
“The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed," he added. "But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their health care.”
But he said the key for Democrats is to learn from those mistakes. Along with embracing government, he said the party must develop a platform that is “focused” and easily understood,” while being agreeable to both the moderate and liberal wings of the party.
That plan, he said, “must become our blueprint – indeed it should unite Democrats from Elizabeth Warren to Hillary Clinton to Joe Manchin.”
During a question-and-answer session after Schumer’s speech, one reporter asked him if, since he was involved in shaping Democratic messaging in the 2014 cycle, he regretted any parts of the party’s 2014 strategy.
But he rejected the criticism, pointing to how focus on issues like raising the minimum wage was a success in individual states.
“The greatest success our candidates had in the deepest red states was on that agenda,” Schumer said. “It just has to be bigger, broader, more prominent, and more across the whole Democratic Party.”
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.