“One of the open secrets in Washington is that senators of the same party and same state rarely get along. Hillary and I are both ambitious hard working politicians who occasionally step on each other’s toes. We have had out high point and our low points. But we have the bonds of my campaign in 1998 and hers in 2000 that are unique to our relationship.”
The book starts with some curious little tidbits. For example, Schumer, aka Mr. 1600,reveals that in 1964, as a 14-year-old, he worked the mimeograph machine for Stanley Kaplan of the eponymous SAT prep course and that he nervously munched on “Cold calamari and oversized cookies” in the Hyatt Regency Washington on midterm election night. At Harvard, he originally planned to be an organic chemist and, much less surprisingly, what he looks for in a restaurant is a place where the “food is good and not very expensive.”
(Hillary Clinton will be throwing Chuck his book party in his favorite haunt, a cheap Chinese restaurant in D.C.)
As far as the future of the Party, Chuck was not satisfied with the Democratic takeover of the Senate.
“Our victory was well deserved, but the Democratic Party still needs a new paradigm,” he writes. And Schumer thinks he is just the person to provide it. His key to perpetual victory is encapsulated in the title for Chapter 2: “It’s the Middle Class Stupid.”
Chuck talks at length about Joe and Eileen Bailey, the middle class family he has conceptualized and who he feels should be the Party’s target voters.
They live in Massapequa and are both 45. He’s an insurance agent and she works in a doctor’s office. They have two cars in the garage, are worried about terrorists, heath care property taxes and college tuition. They are infrequent church goers and “politically, they are up for grabs.”
One of the reasons he recruited Casey over significant opposition, he said, is that “Casey was the guy who best represented the Joe and Eileen Baileys of Pennsylvania.”
Chuck says that he was at first reluctant about taking on the head job at the DSCC.
“The DSCC job is not necessarily a plum assignment. It’s like being elected resident of your condo association – someone’s got to do it. It requires a lot of travel and a lot of time dialing for dollars.
“The number-one reason that I decided to take the job was because I worried that if we had another bad election, if we lost another two or three seats, it would be over…The Supreme Court would take this nation backward 130 years.”
The major cause for the 2004 electoral losses, Schumer says, was losing touch with middle class voters.
“We were competitive among the middle class – voters with household incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 – only because of near- unanimous support among middle-class African-American voters. Meanwhile, among white middle-class voters – a third of the electorate – Bush beat Kerry by twenty-two points. Twenty-two points!”
“We needed to do a better job of reaching the middle class, regardless of ethnicity, and, whatever we did, we could never ignore African-American voters.”
Schumer attributes the decay of Hispanic support for the Democratic Party in 2004 to their increased incomes, which put them more in the middle class that he thinks the Democrats were ignoring.
The rest of the book targets the more wonkish reader, and consists of Chuck’s “eureka moments” about how to “increase reading and math scores by 50 %,” how to “reduce property taxes that fund education by 50%” how to “increase the number of college graduates by 50%,” how to “reduce illegal immigration by at least 50% and increase legal immigration by up to 50%” “reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 50%” and how to reduce cancer mortality, abortions, tax evasion, child obesity and access to child pornography by 50 percent.