Time to Rebrand: Democrats Desperate to Stand for Something

Schumer pushes new economic message as party suffers dismal fundraising, perceptions of anti-Trump obsession

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 23 Jul 2017 at 7:34 PM

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) admitted “the number-one thing that we did wrong” was failing to communicate “what we stood for” as a party to the American people. During an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” he discussed Democratic electoral losses in 2016 and a new economic agenda congressional Democrats plan to unveil Monday.

Schumer acknowledged 2016 wasn’t a good year for Democrats across the board, as they lost the White House, the House, and the Senate while struggling to convey a cohesive economic message to voters. Responding to a recent ABC News-Washington Post revealing that only 37 percent of Americans believe that the Democratic Party “stands for something” while 52 percent say it only stands against President Donald Trump, Schumer said that Democrats must — and will — do better.

When “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked Schumer why Americans don’t know what the Democrats stand for and whether or not that was his fault, the Senate Democratic leader said that “it is, in part, our fault” and that he has looked “in the mirror” and asked “what we did wrong.”

"We didn't tell people what we stood for," Schumer said. "So tomorrow, Democrats will unveil our economic agenda. It is called 'A Better Deal.' It has three components. We're going to raise people's wages and create better-paying jobs. We're going to cut down on their everyday expenses they have to pay. And we're going to give them the tools they need to compete in the 21st century."

"So simply put, what do Democrats stand for? A better deal for working families — higher wages, less costs, tools for the 21st century," he added.

Pollster Geoff Garin wrote a memo obtained by Axios with the purpose of kicking off the project, writing, "[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans."

Noting that "a large majority of battleground-state voters respond favorably to a statement of the premise and direction that define the Better Deal economic agenda, transcending partisanship even when the statement is explicitly described as coming from Democrats," Garin summarized the Democrats' message in a paragraph in his memo.

"Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a stranglehold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes," Garin wrote. "If the government goes back to putting working families first, ahead of special interests, we can achieve a better deal for the American people that will raise their pay, lower their expenses, and prepare them for the future."

But Stephanopoulos pressed Schumer further, saying, "You had a president, though, for eight years. You had control of Congress for part of that time. What took so long? And why didn't it happen during the campaign?"

Schumer admitted that he didn't know why "it didn't happen in the campaign" and why Democrats struggled to come up with a strong and positive message to take to the voters.

"We all take blame, not any one person. But now we have spent a lot of time working on this. And it's going to really impress the American people," Schumer said of the economic agenda to be presented Monday.

Hoping that the plan will tap into the economic concerns that drove thousands of blue-collar Trump voters to turn out on Election Day, the Senate minority leader said the new agenda "is not going to be left or right."

"It is going to be totally focused on working people who realize, believe correctly, that the system is rigged against them, and not helping them with all the changes. Rapid changes, economic and social," Schumer said. "And people ask, well, are you going [to] appeal to the Obama coalition? You know, young people, LGBT, people of color? Or the Trump people — Democrats who voted for Trump, blue collar voters? This will appeal to both."

"It will unify the Democratic Party because we are united on economic issues. And a bold, sharp-edged message, platform, policy, that talks about working people and how the system is rigged against them is going to resonate," he added. "And this is the first time we're going to have it, and our party is going to be unified." (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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