Charles Schummer discusses new book, Iraq, and ’08 race

Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking at GW Tuesday night, said the key to the Democrats’ success in future elections is to focus on the middle class of America.

Schumer spoke to students in an event sponsored by the College Democrats in the Jack Morton Auditorium. His discussion focused on his new book, “Positively America,” which emphasizes the importance of connecting with the middle class.

The typical middle class family is disenchanted with the progress of the Bush administration but does not know what the Democratic Party stands for, he said.

“George Bush won in 2004 with eight words: war in Iraq, cut taxes, gay marriage. What are our eight words?” the U.S. Senator asked. “If we don’t have our eight words, Republicans will take the next election even if they are out of touch.”

Schumer is a senior senator and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and was influential in leading the Democrats to victory in the 2006 mid-term elections. He was first elected to the New York State Assembly at 23, making him one of the youngest members of that body since Theodore Roosevelt.

In “Positively America,” Schumer’s first book, he focuses on the Baileys, a middle-class family Schumer created that has guided him in shaping his political agenda and career. They are fictional, he says, but he has talked to them for the past 20 years.

In order to appeal to the Baileys and all middle class families, Schumer proposes what he calls the “50 percent solution” or a platform based on promising a 50 percent change in the execution of numerous socio-political issues over the next 10 years.

For example, Schumer proposes a 50 percent increase in math and reading skills, a 50 percent decrease in child obesity, a 50 percent reduction rate of cancer related deaths and a 50 percent reduction on the U.S.’s foreign oil dependence. Schumer also proposes cutting property taxes and freeing up the income tax system to allow disproportionate taxing of people of different incomes.

“The Baileys are not cynical of politics – they are skeptical,” Schumer said. If concrete platforms can be presented that are ambitious but attainable and that appeal to standard middle-class values, then the Democrats will garner victory in 2008, Schumer said.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg invited the senator, his long-time friend, to come speak. After recounting shared memories at James Madison High School in New York, Trachtenberg introduced Schumer who followed his 20-minute speech with a question-and-answer period.

Questions from the audience ranged from the future of Iraq to the 2008 presidential elections.

“By January, President Bush will start pulling out troops. We’ll leave 40,000 troops on the outskirts of Iraq near Kuwait tracking terrorism but were not going to be on Haifa streets as the Sunnis and Shiites shoot each other,” Schumer said.

When the discussion was over, many in the audience stood in line on the second floor of the SMPA building to have the senator sign their copies of “Positively American.”

Said Noah Seligman, a senior with the Semester in Washington program: “Chuck Schumer showed why he is in such a good position in the Democratic Party. Each individual idea he had was great, but more important was the message of strengthening the Democratic Party with the support of the middle class.”

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