Eureka! Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has the solution: "The 50 Percent Solution." Schumer is credited, as much as any other man, with putting into place the strategy that regained Democrats control of both houses of Congress.
To build on their midterm gains, Schumer says in the Jan. 29 Newsweek, Dems need a new slogan: catchy, upbeat, positive. Something to match the GOP's diabolical cleverness in 2004, when (according to Schumer), "They figured out specific issues that connected to their deeply held values, defined themselves clearly by those issues and then stood by them unequivocally. In 2004, they did it with eight words: War in Iraq. Cut taxes. No gay marriage." Those eight words, he says, sum up the reasons for George W. Bush's re-election. "What are our eight words?" he asks, meaning "we Democrats."
After all, he admits the Dems' slogan in 2006 was simply "No." As in "No war in Iraq. No corruption. Bad economy."
Searching for the magic eight words, he turned for consolation and advice to his imaginary friends, Joe and Eileen Bailey. No, I'm not making this up. Sen. Schumer actually says this: "Though they are imaginary, I frequently talk to them. To me, they represent the hard-working and often-ignored families who are not tuned in to special-interest newsletters or editorial pages, but want a little something more from their government and their leaders." (Ahem, on behalf of all of Chuck's 19 million fellow constituents: Does the good senator really know no actual hard-working families he might consult, who have the additional advantage of actually existing? And who might (therefore) say something Schumer's brain hasn't already heard?) It takes many years in Washington before a man becomes brave enough to publicly admit that the way he finds out what the American people really want is to consult imaginary voices living in his head. But my goodness, it certainly explains a lot about that town, doesn't it?
Finding the right eight words is hard, Chuck says. Elusive, even. He's spent two years looking for them. "Better Health Care"? Nah, he says. Too easy. Too empty. Too "typical political b.s." But after two years in the darkness, he now gropes toward the light: The 50 Percent Solution. "Democrats should commit to increasing reading and math scores 50 percent by dramatically increasing federal involvement, and funding, in public schools. We should increase the number of college graduates by 50 percent. We should call for reducing illegal immigration by at least 50 percent and increasing legal immigration. We should cut our dependence on foreign oil by 50 percent, and reduce cancer mortality, abortions and childhood obesity each by 50 percent. We should increase our ability to fight terrorism by 50 percent."
I sat for a long time (though less than two years) looking at those sentences, trying to figure out what the voices in Chuck's head have been saying to him. Joe and Eileen have a fat, dumb kid they need the government's help to slim down and get educated before one or both of them dies of cancer?
Some things I recognize. Chuck Schumer, who has never seen an abortion he is unwilling to vote for, whispers to Joe and Eileen that he longs to reduce abortions by 50 percent? Right. In practice, I suspect this means he wants to give 50 percent more of your taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. But don't worry -- they won't spend THAT money on abortions. Joe and Eileen, he thinks, will like the sound of that.
Joe and Eileen, he apparently thinks, have ADD: The point of that 50 percent thing is to make the typical b.s. promises sound somehow more concrete. Never mind how, or what, or how much: All politics is values talk now.
As typical political b.s. promises go, "Better Health Care" isn't looking 50 percent bad.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.