Within a month, the Democratic party will present a “strong, bold, sharp-edged and common-sense economic agenda” to underpin its efforts against Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday.
“Here’s the No1 lesson from Georgia 6,” the New York senator said on ABC’s This Week, referring to the sixth congressional district in which Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff this week lost the most expensive special election in history.
“Democrats need a strong, bold, sharp-edged, and common-sense economic agenda. Policy, platform, message that appeal to the middle class. That resonate with the middle class … and unite Democrats. That’s what I’ve been working on for months.”
Amidst that work, Schumer said, he had been “talking to Trump voters”. During a recent visit to Yankee Stadium in New York City, he said, he watched baseball from a seat next to a “truck driver” wearing clothing that bore a Trump campaign message: “I’m proud to be a deplorable voter.”
With House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Schumer leads the establishment wing of the party. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, is seen by many as the de facto leader of the progressive wing.
Activists who support Sanders were prominent among critics of the Ossoff campaign in Georgia, which ran on a centrist message in a district Trump won by 1% in the presidential election, and lost.
Schumer said: “I’m talking to Bernie Sanders, I’m talking to [moderate West Virginia senator] Joe Manchin. This is going to be really something that Democrats can be proud of and I’m excited about it.”
Sanders spent the weekend rallying against the Republican healthcare bill set to be voted on in the Senate this week. Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday about the Georgia defeat, Sanders said: “Well, it’s more than the special election.
“For the last nine years, Democrats have lost the White House, we’ve lost now the Senate, we’ve lost the US House, two-thirds of governors’ chairs are controlled by Republicans, a thousand seats have been lost to Republicans in state legislatures all over this country.”
Nonetheless, Sanders said, Democratic woes originated in a general dissatisfaction.
“I’ll tell you what I think is going on,” he said. “I think there is a massive amount of demoralization on the part of the American people with the Democratic party, with the Republican party.”
Like Schumer, Sanders focused on pervasive economic woes, including the cost of healthcare, education and retirement, and “almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1%”.
“I think what the Democrats have got to say is that we will be on the side of the working class of this country,” he said.
Schumer said: “This economic message platform is going to resonate. It’s what we were missing and it’s not going to be baby steps: it’s going to bold. We’re coming out with it this summer, within a month. You will see it and Democrats will try to pass it legislatively for a year and campaign on it in 2018.
“But you lose an election, you don’t blame other people, you blame yourself.”
Asked about calls for the California congresswoman to step down, Schumer said: “Yes, look, you always blame … they always blame the leader. I think if we come up with this strong, bold economic package … it will change things around.”
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