CEDAR RAPIDS — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told Iowa Republicans last Friday night that the tea party’s partial shutdown of the federal government has energized conservatives.
Saturday night, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will tell Iowa Democrats the shutdown is energizing “mainstream conservatives” right out of the tea party.
“Ted Cruz and the tea party have peaked,” according to Schumer, who will be the featured speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday in Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.
About 700 people are expected for the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, which is considered one of the top political events in the country. Past speakers have included Vice President Joe Biden, President Bill Clinton, then-Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Vice President Al Gore.
Schumer, 62, the third-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, also will talk about what he sees as the nation’s No. 1 economic problem. It’s not the deficit, although reducing it remains important. Rather it’s the fact that for the first time in American history, middle-class incomes have declined, said Schumer, who has a reputation as a strong voice for progressive politics.
“They’ve been declining since 2001, so it’s not just the recession,” he said.
Declining middle-class income is the greatest problem because it diminishes the American dream, Schumer said.
“If you ask the average American what the American dream is, they will tell you it means that if they work hard, they will be better off in 10 years than they are today and their children will be better off than they are,” he said.
While Cruz may think the shutdown fight has energized conservatives, Schumer thinks it scared most Americans.
During the 16-day shutdown, the public “actually saw what it was like and they found it distasteful,” he said.
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He characterized the tea party as “ideologues who think they are so right they don’t have to compromise” and engage in “bludgeon politics,” threatening that “unless you do it my way I will hurt a lot of innocent people.”
That is causing many mainstream conservatives to have second thoughts about the tea party, Schumer said.
“It made a lot of mainstream conservatives realize that if they follow the tea party, they will be following the Republican car over the cliff like Thelma and Louise,” he said.
Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2005 to 2009 and the current chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, also made it clear he’s not traveling to Iowa to plant the seeds for a 2016 presidential run.
“The last time I ran for president was at Cunningham Junior High School in 1964,” he said. “I lost, and I vowed I would never run for president again, and that still holds."