In a speech at The National Press Club, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) admitted that the Obama administration's initial focus on health care was a political mistake. With unusual candor, he said:
It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40% of those registered voting. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5% of the electorate.
Give him credit for consistency. In 2010, Jeffrey Toobin reported in The New Yorker:
After Brown won the Senate race in Massachusetts, and the Obama agenda seemed stalled, Schumer told a meeting of his fellow Democratic senators, “If we ignore that and don’t change, we are like Thelma and Louise. We are headed right over the cliff. They were all saying, in as loud a voice as they could, all the middle-class people of Massachusetts—listen to us.” As he explained to me, “What the public hates the most is when they think the politicians aren’t listening to them. They understand that we can’t solve all their problems with a snap of our fingers, but they sure want us to try, because we are public servants.” Schumer said that Obama needed to heed the voters in Massachusetts and change course. “They said, ‘We’re not against doing health care, but right now we are hurting. Jobs, the economy, stretching the middle-class paycheck—which even those with jobs are having a tough time doing—start doing that.’ That’s what they said.”
Schumer also called on Democrats to embrace big government and take on special interests. Francine Kiefer writes at The Christian Science Monitor:
First, a gut check. Polls paint a different picture about Americans’ views of government than Schumer does. The 2014 midterm election exit polls showed that a majority of voters (54 percent) believe that the “government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” while just 41 percent think “the government should do more to solve problems,” The Washington Post reported.
From Gallup to the Pew Research Center, 2014 polls show Americans’ trust of government at historic lows.
Second, about those special interests. While liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts champions consumers even as she charges at Wall Street, on Capitol Hill, Schumer is known as “Wall Street Chuck,” according to The Huffington Post. He has raised millions for Democrats from the financial sector, which he oversees as a member of the Senate Banking Committee.
“Chuck Schumer taking on special interests is like Kim Kardashian taking on media hype,” says John Pitney, a congressional expert and professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “The likely 2016 presidential nominee is Hillary Clinton, who is also no stranger to Wall Street.”
Third, Democrats had a pro-government middle-class plan, and they still lost the Senate. The plan, called a “Fair Shot” agenda, included raising the minimum wage, pay-equity for women, and affordable student loans. Its chief architect? Schumer.Schumer quoted Reagan’s “government is the problem” line out of context, omitting the crucial lines that followed moments later: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”
The 2016 election will be about reality, not messaging. If the economy is doing okay and we are not in the middle of an international crisis, then the Democrats have a very good opportunity to hold the White House. If events go south, so do Democratic chances.
Meanwhile, the best advice is a paraphrase of one of President Obama’s favorite lines: don’t say stupid stuff.