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Schumer warns: Democrats can't just be anti-Trump

by Jonathan Allen /
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to a meeting with Senate Democrats as the Senate continues work on ending the government shutdown on Monday.Shawn Thew / EPA

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WASHINGTON — Democrats need a positive platform — not just anti-Trump sentiment — to win in this fall's midterm elections, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

"You cannot just run against Donald Trump," the New York Democrat said in a speech at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center. "It is the job of we Democrats to put together a strong, cohesive economic group of proposals aimed at the middle class and those struggling to get there."

It was Trump's ability to connect with those voters, particularly working- and middle-class whites in the industrial midwest, that delivered him the presidency in 2016.

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But the president's poor approval ratings, Democrats' ability to flip a string of Republican-held seats in recent elections, and the party base's fury over Trump's actions have encouraged many top Democrats to focus more on Trump than on their own platform.

That's a "mistake," Schumer said.

Voters want to hear what Democrats will do to create the environment for their economic security and prosperity, he argued.

"There's a lot of discontent in America, people don't have faith in the future," Schumer said. "We have always been the party of economic advancement, and I think we've lost some sight of that."

Congressional Democrats have rolled out a "Better Deal" agenda, an eight-part plan intended to serve as their legislative platform should voters return them to power in the House, the Senate or both in November. Some of their proposals were included in a budget deal that will keep the government operating through March and sets the stage for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending over two years.

Schumer's not alone in arguing Democrats have to focus on what voters want, not Trump, if they hope to persuade swing voters to abandon the GOP.

"Instead of being consumed with attacking Trump, we need to be consumed with solving the real problems of the citizens and nation we represent," Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said in a recent interview with NBC News.

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