On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, talks with Kara and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen about a range of tech-related issues, including immigration, net neutrality and Russian election meddling.
You can read a write-up of the interview here or listen to the whole thing in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as the creator of the popular Facebook page “100 Percent American Patriot News, Definitely Not From Russia, But Don’t Look Too Closely.” In my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.
Today I’m joined once again by democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who regular listeners may remember co-hosted a month of political episodes with me last year. One of the people we wanted to talk to back then was Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s the senate minority leader and the senior United States Senator from New York, obviously, and he’s joining us today from Washington, D.C., for a shorter Recode Decode, but we’re thrilled to have him. Senator, welcome to Recode Decode.
Chuck Schumer: Kara, great to be with you, I’m looking forward to it.
KS: We have so much to talk about, we could talk for hours, I’m guessing. Let’s go right into it. You’ve been in the Senate for 20 years now and the leader for one. I’d just like to know what the biggest difference ... you’re in an administration that’s quite active too, so why don’t you talk a little bit about that?
Okay, well I’ll tell you a story. I like stories. Abe Lincoln said, “The best thing a politician can do is tell stories.” It’s election night, 8:00 pm, I see the exit polls of college-educated women, North Carolina and Florida, the first two states to close, and I go, “Oh, boy.” I call up Hillary’s chief pollster, strategist, guy named Benenson, he says, “Don’t worry, our firewall in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan can’t be broken. There’s no way Trump wins.” Of course, he won, and the next morning just by way of reference, Paul Ryan called me up, the Republican Speaker, and I just happened to ask him, “Well, did this come a surprise to you, Paul?” He told me this story, I hadn’t told him the 8:00 pm story.
He said, “I called up our chief pollster at 6:30 pm, he said, “Sorry Paul, Feingold’s going to be your new Democratic senator in Wisconsin. Schumer’s going to be majority leader, Hillary’s going to be president.”
Okay, I am distraught, my wife is distraught, my big daughter is most distraught, because she had worked in the Hillary campaign and had her job picked out in the White House. I taught them the old Shirelles song, some of you will remember this, “Mama said there’d be days like this,” and I moped around in my house for two days. I’m not a moper.
Hilary Rosen: As did the rest of the country.
The third day, I had an epiphany, almost a message from the heavens. It went like this: “Chuck, stop moping. If Hillary had been president, your job would be easier, it would be more fun, and you’d get some good things done. That’s why you’re there. But with Trump as president and you as minority leader, your job is much more important.” That has fueled me the whole way through. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Much harder than just being senator, particularly with Trump as president. I worry more in this job. I wake up in the morning and I have three or four things I’m always worried about. I’m not a worrier, I never used to worry, but I love it more than any job I’ve had because what we’re doing is so vital and so important to saving America.
KS: How is your frenemy relationship going right now? You were down with immigration and sort of up with Dreamers then down with Dreamers, and it goes back and forth quite a bit. Where is it right now? How do you characterize it? Because I can’t tell what’s happening there.
He likes to talk to me. He calls me up, but I’m right in his face. He said to me when we were debating immigration, “Everyone loves the wall.” I said, “Mr. President, 35 percent of the people like the wall, that’s your base. If you keep just appealing to your base, you’ll never be re-elected and you won’t be a good president.”
I said to him time and time again, “You’ve campaigned when you ran as a populist, and against both the Democratic and Republican establishments, but you’ve embraced the hard right. The hard right is so far away from not only where the American people are, but even most Republicans. You’re going to be an abject failure as president. You ought to change.” I talk to him like that, and he keeps calling me back.
HR: Do you sense you’re one of the few who actually does talk to him that way?
I think I am one of the few. Most of the people around Trump seem to be in the sycophant mold. That’s not quite my nature.
KS: Let’s ask about Dreamers though, where are they now? You were getting along with them, you had that lovely, I don’t know, lunch or whatever it was, dinner. This was supposed to be the easy one and it hasn’t passed, obviously. That’s a concern here, immigration issues are a major concern in technology and the technology sector.
Of course, of course. Well, we need immigration in tech. I’ll tell you an interesting thing. When McCain and I did the 2013 immigration bill — which passed the Senate with 68 votes but the Tea Party stopped it in the House, Boehner was afraid to bring it up even though it would have passed — but we put on the legislation, where of course there was a path to citizenship for the 11 million. We also said that any foreigner who studies STEM — science, technology, engineering or math — and gets an MA or PhD at one of our universities gets a green card stapled to his or her diploma.
That would have been such a shot in the arm for tech, and still today, I’ve nurtured and helped the New York tech industry, which now doesn’t need much nurturing. We’re No. 2 after California. When I asked them what their complaints are, it’s still getting talent and how many people from overseas want to come here and can’t.
With Trump, in answer to your question, I said afterwards, negotiating with him is like negotiating with Jello. I try when I’m negotiating to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I knew Trump wanted his wall. I hated the wall, but I felt, we all felt so desperate to help the plight of the Dreamers, that we were willing to give him not the cutbacks on legal immigration, which involved humanity, and not interior enforcement, and not sanctuary cities, which would hurt lives, but this physical structure of the wall, which I believe never would have been built.
To build a wall in the 60 miles that he first wanted to, you needed 982 eminent domain cases. Anyway, we gave him what he wanted but he couldn’t take yes for an answer. We sat at the table, myself, I insisted it just be his chief of staff, Kelly, my chief of staff, Mike Lynch, him and me. I didn’t want Miller there or Cotton or anybody else; these anti-immigration people. Basically, we didn’t shake hands on a deal, but we said this is the parameters of a deal, we think we can both accept it. Immediately he talks to Miller and Cotton and adds all these unacceptable things. You can’t negotiate with him because it’s like Jello.
KS: What happens now then? Where are the Dreamers? Where is immigration? This is wending through the courts and everything else. What happens?
We meet regularly with the Dreamers and the other groups that have been with us through the battles on immigration. The first thing we’re doing is urging Trump to simply extend the date. He caused all this problem.
KS: He created the deadline.
He created the deadline. He can lift it tomorrow. We’ve said that to him. If he doesn’t, we will then have to see, in this omnibus bill that comes up March 25th, if we can get something in that’s positive for Dreamers and extends the deadline. The problem has been Paul Ryan. Not so much the Senate, although some — and you saw the vote in the Senate even on our bipartisan bill — but Ryan has been very negative here but he’s feeling the heat from two places. One, the deportation, the breaking up of families, just the total nastiness of this administration to Dreamers is just an issue that strikes the heart chords of America.
Second, he’s got 30 or 40 so-called moderate Republicans in suburban districts, and those districts are putting heat on those people to say, “Do something.” Now in the past, unfortunately, when the hard right, the Freedom Caucus, says jump, Ryan says, “How high?” and that’s what’s tied us in a knot. But maybe he’ll feel the pressure this time.
KS: We’re going to take a quick break now for a word from our sponsors. We’ll be back in a minute with Senator Chuck Schumer.
HR: There’s such unanimity among Californians and in the tech community and maybe on the coasts to support the Dreamers and to support some immigration bill. There was this perception after the budget at the end of last year that maybe Democrats didn’t use all the leverage that you had to try and do something. Do you think that’s because the politics of immigration aren’t really the same way that Californians or the tech industry perceives it?
That’s certainly true, Hilary, but I remind people, we’re playing with a pair of fours. We have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, led by a Republican party that is the most anti-immigrant we have ever seen in the history of America. We can pressure as best we can, but we really don’t hold the cards. Democrats hate to shut down the government. We hate it. We like government. We’re not like the Republicans. The only time we’ve ever done it has been for Dreamers. We put the issue on the table. We came real close in the bipartisan vote where he got the piece of the wall, which I think would never be built. We got a really good bill on Dreamers, not just 700,000 but close to two million citizenships for them.
Then Trump lobbied against it. The Republicans backed off, so at some point we’re going to have to go back at it again, and we will, but we got to call our shots because we can’t just pound our hand on the table and say, “It’s going to get done.” One reminder, if all of those who support Dreamers, Dreamers themselves, the Hispanic community and all those who support it, if we take back the majority in House and Senate, it’ll get done like that.
KS: You’ve got this pair of fours you’re carrying around. Net neutrality, explain what you want to do here and why you think you can be successful. This is another issue. Ajit Pai runs the FCC.
Well first, I feel really strongly about net neutrality. Like building highways, in the 21st century the net is our highways, and if we were, as a country, to have tolls everywhere and say rich people could use the highways and poor people couldn’t, middle-class people couldn’t, startup businesses couldn’t, we never would have gotten to the place we have here as such a strong economy. It’s the same exact thing with the net.
I really resent these ISPs. I talked to them. They came in and made the case, I felt more strongly for net neutrality after they came in than before because it’s clear they want to maximize their profits by squeezing people who don’t have much power and acceding to people who do.
We feel very strongly about this. This unites our caucus from the most liberal to the most moderate. The advantage we have here, which we didn’t have in immigration, is since it was done by regulation, by Pai, who I think is a horror as head of the FCC — I’m not supposed to use such a strong word. Let me strike that and say ...
... a very bad leader.
KS: I can think of bigger.
As the head of the FCC. We’re allowed to bring to the floor within 60 days of them passing this regulation a motion to overturn it, and it only takes 51 votes. We now have all 49 of our Democrats. We’re 49 since Doug Jones from Alabama joined us, and one Republican, Susan Collins, so we’re at 50. We get one more Republican to support what’s called CRA, Congressional Resolution Act, to overturn Pai’s regulation on net neutrality, it passes.
We are urging strongly our friends throughout America to email, write, call, picket, protest their senators, particularly their Republican senators if they’re in such a state, and say, “Support the CRA to restore net neutrality. Support restoring net neutrality.”
KS: Are you working with the big tech companies to do that?
KS: Who are you working with?
Yes, we’re working with the big tech companies, the little tech companies. I was on the phone today with the head of the Internet Association asking him to get all of his membership, which goes all the way from the biggest tech companies to the others.
I put in a call to someone I know, Reed Hastings. Netflix users will pay a lot more money if this happens, and they might get slower service too. I’d love Netflix to, any time you subscribe, to just have a little chyron on there and say, “Write your senator. Don’t be charged more for your movies.” We need to get all of our tech providers, big and little.
I spoke to Fred Wilson today, who’s one of the funders of tech in New York. We’re trying to get the whole tech community to rally the way they did with SOPA and PIPA. Folks, a lot of it depends on the employees in these companies. If they tell their leaders in their companies, “Please get onboard here,” that’s going to help too.
HR: I think one of the reasons this becomes different than SOPA and PIPA is that there really are customers on both sides of the equation here. When you look at Netflix or Amazon or YouTube, they take up 75 percent to 80 percent of all the bandwidth on the internet, and then these telephone companies feel like they’re subsidizing those businesses, but both of them charge customers, right?
HR: Netflix charges customers more anyway, right?
Yeah, it’s not the fight between Netflix ...
HR: It’s money versus money.
I want to be for the people, for the average person. This is going to cost them more because Netflix won’t reduce their prices, but the cable companies and the ISPs will raise their prices.
KS: Also, Netflix did do a deal with Comcast, so a lot of people felt like they backed off the fight after they got theirs.
It’s not just Netflix, it’s a whole bunch of companies that should do this.
HR: Do you think if you got 51 senators that that would lead to compromised legislation, or do you just see it as just a fight at the FCC?
I’d like to keep fighting. I am very leery with a Republican controlled House and Senate of legislation this year. Again, if we get back the majority, I’d like to do good legislation and force Trump to sign it. I’d make one more point here related to this and everything else. The M.O. of our Republican colleagues — I’m sorry to sound partisan here, but these are the facts — they always side with the big interests over the average people. That’s certainly true here in net neutrality. Average folks will pay more. New startup companies, Fred Wilson, who I talked to, who’s funded a lot of the startups in New York, they’re petrified because their larger competitors will get better rates than they do.
If you’re a new company, a new startup, that’s going to kill you. They are siding with the big special interests — surprise, surprise — and we’re trying to help the average people. The good news here is because this was a regulation that was passed in the last six months, we have the ability on our own with a couple of Republican votes to overturn it, then we’ll have to go to the House. But I think if we get people to rise up the way they did with SOPA/PIPA, there were two sides there too. There were the companies, the content providers and the tech community on one side versus the other. If we get people to rise up, we can have the same positive result. A lot of Republicans on SOPA and PIPA who never wanted to side with average folks were forced to.
KS: Can you walk us through, when it passes, what happens? If it passes, you get that extra senator, is there anyone you’re targeting? Then what happens?
Well, we’re targeting everybody right now because it’s just starting. We have 60 days from last Thursday, so we have a long time. We’re going to have days of action where we build things up. There’s a discharge petition, that’s a technical thing.
I just had a meeting of seven or eight senators, Senator Markey, Senator Wyden, Senator Cantwell. People have been very involved in this issue. We’ve divided up the heads of the big companies and calling them. I’m going to do calls with every New York college newspaper to get them to write about it. We’re just starting to rally here. And hey, Kara, it got me on your show.
KS: Yeah, that’s true. Fair point.
HR: You think the politics of this work for Democrats?
Absolutely. Here, I want to say something interesting here. It’s a little broader but it’s related. Our secret weapon to win back the House and Senate, we got a few, but one of the top ones, probably the top one is the millennials, the 18 to 35. These are the people who know tech the best. They’re going to be the largest voting cohort this year.
I’m a baby boomer. I was born in 1950. My children are the millennials. They’re 28 and 32. They’re the largest voting cohort. They’re overwhelmingly Democratic, all of a sudden. Four reasons I want to mention, and this is very nice. It gives me help. Oh, let me tell you, Hillary only won millennials by plus seven.
In the New Jersey governor race, millennials went by 41 points for the Democratic candidate, in Virginia 38 and in Alabama, where we won that senate race, the millennials and the African-Americans were our two secret weapons and we won by 20 points. Millennials in Alabama. This is a big deal.
Why are the millennials so for us? Four reasons in ascending order of importance, and this is going to give you faith in America. Fourth, college. They want help with all the burden of all these student loans they have. Third, environment, green. These folks are very green. Second, freedom. Net neutrality, decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, the freedom to do what you want, and net neutrality is way up on that list because it gives people freedom to pursue things on the internet without too much cost.
The No. 1 reason, bigger even than net neutrality and bigger than all the others, is this — and this one came as a surprise to me. The others are sort of intuitive. The younger people hate the bigotry, the smell of discrimination that’s coming out of Trump and the Republicans. The anti-women, anti-black, anti-LGBT, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim.
I thought about it after I learned this and, very interesting, at my wedding, 1980, to my wife, not a person of color was at our wedding. There were probably gay people but we didn’t know they were gay. They wouldn’t tell us in those days. My daughter’s wedding a year and a half ago was like the United Nations. Not because she was picking and choosing. That’s who she went to elementary school with, high school with, college with, works with, has friends with.
What we’ve learned, Kara, this is so interesting, on the coasts, they would call it bigotry. In the middle of the country, even high school educated kids, women more than men because they’re more sensitive to discrimination, would say, “We don’t like the way they’re dividing us.” When you think about it, almost every group of friends has a black, has a gay, has women. When Trump picks on them and the Republicans pick on them, they tell their friends, “I don’t like this,” and neither do their white male friends.
This is our future.
HR: That’s the “Netflix and chill” tweet that you’re ...
Yeah, that was Netflix and chill.
HR: We’re going to get some Netflix and chill and maybe slow this down.
I want to confess, I didn’t know what chill ... I knew what chill meant in my generation, which means the opposite of what Netflix and chill means today.
KS: In the #MeToo movement, let’s not go down that road. We can talk about #MeToo in a second. I want to touch on a couple things: Guns.
I have a great #MeToo story, okay?
KS: All right, go ahead.
I’ve been an advocate of #MeToo.
KS: I do want to get to guns, midterm elections and Russian bots. Go ahead.
We will. When #MeToo came out, my mom, I haven’t told this publicly yet, but I’m going to do it here. She’s 89. She told me just in October the following story after #MeToo started. She was 17 years old. It was 1945. She was on the diving board at a camp where she was a counselor, and a parent of one of the kids at the camp, who was a big deal in her neighborhood, he owned jewelry stores. I’m going to leave out his name, even though he’s dead now. He grabs her from behind and pushes her into him. She says, “What are you doing, Joe?” She jumps off the diving board.
She goes into the changing room, which is an open co-ed changing room. He comes behind her, takes down the straps of her bathing suit and says, “Turn around, Selma,” and she turns around, he’s naked. She runs out of the changing room and goes back up and she tells — this is the part that really was amazing to me, even worse or as bad as the previous part. She told her mother, she told her father, she told her grandma who she was close to. They said, “Don’t tell anyone. They’re going to blame you.”
That was in 1945. Just about every woman has had stories like this or a friend who has stories like this. I tried to explain this to my male friends, colleagues, that men just don’t understand it because they’ve never experienced this, but so many women have. It took the #MeToo movement for my mother to tell me this story, whatever it is, 44 years later.
HR: God bless her. And her voice.
Isn’t that amazing?
HR: God bless her.
KS: It’s not surprising to women, I think. Everybody has a story, especially in tech. Everywhere. Every sector. There’s not sector of the U.S. economy that it hasn’t affected, at work especially and everywhere in their personal lives.
We’re going to take another break for a word from our sponsors. We’ll turn to Hilary Rosen and my conversation with Senator Chuck Schumer after this.
I want to get to regulation in big tech, because one of the things people feel that tech has — especially social media — has become weaponized and coarsened our culture. Obviously Donald Trump is really talented at Twitter, whether you like it or not, but he’s good at it. A lot of people feel that there needs to be regulation of big tech on lots of issues, from tech addiction to fake news, antitrust, advertising and transparency. Democrats, which used to be the supporters of tech, are now much more negative on it. Do you feel that way or do you feel that the regulation’s necessary?
I think it’s a very difficult question. First, let me say this. The people who most want to undo tech is the hard right. Donald Trump and the hard right do not like anything stated against them. They all watch Fox News, which is totally biased. Any time there’s groups that can talk against them, agglomerate against them, they don’t like it. The left is mad at tech for reasons, but it’s not the same. I have no doubt that the hard right and Trump would like to undo tech as much as they could, even though he uses Twitter.
Now a broader issue. For a decade, tech was a great, great thing. It allowed people to agglomerate. It allowed people who had no power, who didn’t own a newspaper, who didn’t own a TV station, who didn’t have a megaphone, to get together and have power. We would not have the guns movement. I have some optimism on guns, but only because online we’re going to have, they have five million they hope to get in Washington on the 24th against the NRA.
KS: The gun march.
Wouldn’t have happened without the net and without a big, broad, powerful internet. That’s true on immigration. That’s true on the issues. We Democrats represent average folks. Tech gives us the advantage. We don’t have a Fox News. We don’t have Rush Limbaugh who gets 20 million people a day. It’s our antidote. I am sympathetic.
Now because it’s so open and so free, lots of dark forces have taken advantage, and I certainly think tech has to modulate itself. One easy example for us in politics, all ads should have to be made public, who’s paying for the ads when they’re political ads, just like you have to do on television or radio, and I don’t know why big tech resists that.
HR: The Warner Klobuchar.
It’s the Warner Klobuchar legislation. There are probably other changes, but I think you have to be careful. Government regulation of speech is a frightening thing, and often has a bigger downside than upside. I approach the issue with care, maybe moreso than some of my colleagues who would have similar politics to me.
HR: Some of the regulation of tech in the FCC net neutrality order ended up going over to the FTC. What they said was the FTC should be more active in antitrust and in consumer protection, and now the Senate is going to ...
Consumer protection I’m all for. That’s a different issue than regulating speech. That’s the worry I have here. Given tech is so new, we probably have to look at it, but we ought to approach it with caution.
HR: Do you think the FTC should do more?
I’d have to study it a little more. Any Trump-appointed agency, I’m dubious of.
KS: What about the responsibility of tech? Facebook, Twitter, other things?
That’s a different issue.
KS: Being used by Russia. Hillary Clinton, we interviewed her last year at the Code Conference, talked a lot about this. A lot of people made fun of her at the time. How do you come down right now and what should these tech companies do?
I think they should do more on their own for sure. That’s the antidote to government regulation and also the antidote to a lot of this stuff. Now they’ve had some successes. Facebook took off 50,000 fake accounts before the French election and it was relatively free. I’ve talked to the leaders of Facebook, Twitter, Google about this. I’ve told them, make efforts to figure out how to deal with this issue without doing too much impinging on free speech or the government’s going to come in and change you, and that will not be good. I think they get it, and their first big test will be the 2018 elections.
I don’t think the Trump administration will do a thing. The amount the Trump administration is doing against Russia is appallingly zero almost. It’s up to tech to do more, and I do think they’re making an effort not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because I think they know down the road their survival depends on it.
HR: That is the test, then, is the midterms, that you think that nothing is going to happen in Congress or in regulation before the midterms.
No. Oh, with these guys? No.
HR: Tech is essentially on the hook to make sure the election feels fair.
Yes. I think tech has to make sure. For instance, they should knock out all these fake accounts. They’re already, I forgot the word, but downgrading things they think are fake, so it comes up less on Twitter, less on your Facebook News Feed. If you got the Russians, let’s say they have 50 websites and they all do the same thing. First they’re talking about this and then an hour later they’re all talking about that. That’s suspect.
HR: Pretty good sign.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good sign. They should look into that. Maybe they can’t shut them down, but they can so downgrade them so it’s only one rather than 50 people bouncing around the same message so that it goes way down on their list.
HR: Do you see Facebook as a media company?
Well, it’s everything. Facebook’s a very powerful force. I think overall it’s been a very positive force. I think now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net, and Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it. I’ve talked to them. I truly believe they want to. I truly believe they know that their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.
And here’s another thing I worry about. They tried to deal with certain things in the past, and the hard right went and criticized them, because much of this, the left does very little of this. I mean, we don’t use bots the way the Russians would or the hard right people would, we meaning the left, not me. I think when they do that, the hard right criticizes them, they’re going to have to be a little more immune to that criticism and go after the fake stuff and separate it from the legitimate stuff, even if it’s a little bit crazy what legitimate people are saying and doing.
KS: When you talk about this power, you’re pretty kind to the tech companies. A lot of people are less thrilled with them.
Yeah, I am more sympathetic because I think they’re in very difficult position and I worry about government regulation.
KS: All right, but what about the power that they have and what’s coming down the pike? Automation, robotics, AI, all these very important technologies could make them more powerful than ever, almost like nation states themselves. Does that worry you at all?
Well, it’s something I’m concerned about, yes. Do I know what the consequences are, let alone the solutions? No.
HR: To Kara’s point, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how companies other than online communications companies, but companies like Amazon and what they’re doing to communities and retail and the like.
There’s another one. Now Amazon does great things for huge amounts of people, and they only have 3 percent to 4 percent of the retail market. Could it get greater? Yes, but again, I’d be careful. I’d be careful because they are creating cheaper better competition, people get better goods, cheaper goods.
I guess my feelings are a little more nuanced. Yes, they’re big, but big can do good things as well as bad things, and you got to separate the wheat from the chaff. Would the world be a better place or a worse place if there were no Amazon right now? My guess is a worse place. Yet, there is a lot of problems, for sure.
KS: You don’t see a Microsoft monopoly trial in any of the futures of these companies, or maybe? You were around for that.
When Microsoft was a big monopoly and I thought they were much more rapacious, I fought them. Back in the ’90s, they didn’t talk to me for 10 years.
HR: You’re not seeing that right now?
I am not seeing the same thing. I go to my small tech companies and say, “How does Google treat you in New York?” A lot of them say, “Much more fairly than we would have thought.”
KS: Not Yelp. I have just one more question.
No, Yelp, I’ve spoke to Jeremy Stoppelman. He does not feel that way.
HR: Yeah, they feel differently. Right.
KS: No. Just one more question from me and then Hilary might have a follow-up.
Kara, it’s more mixed. It’s more mixed in terms of the ...
KS: Mixed, I agree with you. I agree with you. There’s too many of them. There’s lots of them. I’m just curious, Hilary’s going to ask you a question I think about where you see the midterm elections going and what you’ll do if you’re the majority leader, but I’d like to know how do you involve yourself in tech? One of your daughters works in tech. Are you a techy? Would you call yourself that?
No. I’m interested in it. I read every article about it, but I am not a techy. In fact, I’ll tell you a funny story. I’m well known for my flip phone. I don’t have an iPhone because my chief of staff, Mike Lynch, in 2004, said, “You know what, someone’s going to hack into this down the road, and you’ll say on your phone, ‘Ugh, Senator so and so, what a moron,’ and that’ll be the end.” I use my cellphone, and I actually ... maybe I’m old fashioned.
HR: You don’t text either?
I don’t do texting. I get emails on my iPad. I get emails, but I don’t text. I don’t even know how to do it. I’m backward that way.
KS: You’re not on Snapchat?
Putin is not listening in to me, Kara. He can’t.
KS: You’re not Snapchatting then I’m guessing, right?
KS: Nothing? None of it? You could use Signal. There’s a thing called Signal. They are encrypted.
They will figure out how to capture your instantaneous Snapchats down the road or Signal or anything else.
HR: Communicate the old-fashioned way.
Old-fashioned. I like people. I like to talk to people. I sit on an airplane. I ask the person sitting next to me their life’s history. Wouldn’t be the same if we did it online.
KS: Okay. Hilary, why don’t you ask the election question, then we’ll let the Senator go.
HR: Two quick questions, lightning round then. When does the presidential campaign start, by the way?
It shouldn’t start until 2019. My attitude, who people ask. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let there be lots of candidates all over the lot and let them go through the crucible of the first year, year and a half. Now, the one thing I’d say is we shouldn’t beat the daylights out of each other. We have a far greater enemy in Donald Trump. Politically speaking, he’s the enemy.
HR: That’s some advice Democrats are not yet taking from you.
No, and I think the difference between a mainstream Democrat and a far left Democrat is about 2 percent of the difference between either of them and Donald Trump. We have an emergency here. We got to keep our eye on what we have to do, which is beat Trump.
Now in 2018, to preempt your question, I think we can take back the House and the Senate. Why? The millennials I mentioned. Second, Democrats are getting much better. This is a tech issue. As we all know, Donald Trump did a better job on the social media than we did. We have learned to do. We are getting advice from some of the biggest, the best smartest people in tech, a lot of them are very comfortable. They made money and they’re working for us full-time.
In Alabama, our social media helped turn out millennials. Our social media and learning how to do turnout, especially in the African-American community where for the first time it wasn’t a bunch of white guys telling the blacks how to turn out, but we had indigenous people running the whole show. Millennial turnout and African-American turnout was higher than in 2016, but also higher than 2008 and ’12. We’re using social media really well. We’re going to kick the pants off the Republicans on social media.
You also have swing voters. I’m going to conclude by giving you one little vignette here. We looked at our five most Republican states where we have Democratic senators: Montana, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia. We took out the people who always vote Republican, always vote Democrat, but looked at the broad middle, about 60 percent.
Here was the key question. These are Republican states. Do you prefer a Republican senator who had helped Donald Trump pass his agenda on jobs in the economy? That’s his strong suit. Or a Democratic senator who will serve as a check and balance on Donald Trump whenever appropriate? 72 percent, check and balance. 20 percent of the people who identified themselves as strong Trump supporters still wanted check and balance.
People want a check and balance on Trump, and we are now ahead on our polling in all 10 Senate races where Democrats are running in states that Trump carried. We’re ahead in three of the challenger states, and I’ll tell you this, if we take back the Senate, when I have the right to put things on the floor, we can stop Donald Trump from doing bad things and we can actually start doing some really good things. It’s an imperative.
HR: Even though voters generally like the tax cuts, they generally actually like a president who’s fighting for them on trade, as sloppy as he’s been this week, you think that the check and balance is the message?
People, swing voters, suburban voters, women voters, people of color, just lots of folks are worried about Trump and want a check and balance. Some of them like Trump, but still want a check and balance. Many of them don’t like Trump, and my prediction, now that his tax bill has been ...
You know, the first month he got a big boost on that tax bill. Why? They just passed it. He had all these companies announcing bonuses, and the stock market went way up. All three are gone. A) It’s no longer just announced and Trump has screwed up on so many things between then and now. Second, people are realizing three things. One, that 80 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest permanently while their benefits are smaller and temporary. Second, that there’s a huge deficit and third, they’re using that deficit to cut health care, Medicare, Medicaid.
The Koch brothers, with their huge money machine, put ads against McCaskill in Missouri and Donnelly in Indiana. The Senate super PAC answered back on taxes. They put ads on taxes. We answered back with the answer I told you, we won the argument. The tax issue is not going to be the panacea the Republicans think it is.
KS: Can I ask one final question?
You know what’s a bigger issue to people? Health care costs than taxes. Health care costs.
HR: Now Trump owns them.
KS: Being anti-Donald Trump, does that work? It doesn’t seem to. No matter what low he goes to, it doesn’t seem to.
HR: If you’re a Senator in a state, I think Kara’s asking if you’re a Senator in a state, a Democrat in a state that Donald Trump won, are you running against Donald Trump?
Yeah, you are in terms of check and balance and saying when I disagree with Trump I will fight him. When I agree with him, I’m not going to just go against him for its own sake. In reference to the question that Kara asked, 2018 election with Trump at 40 percent, that’s a huge advantage for us. That doesn’t mean we can’t have our own positive program, and we have some of it and we’re going to have more. We just announced an infrastructure program, $1 trillion of real jobs. You know what we did? We took the tax cuts on the rich, some of them, $1 trillion worth, and put it into infrastructure. What do people prefer? Tax cuts on the wealthiest people and biggest corporations or millions of middle-class jobs on infrastructure?
In that bill, we proposed something that’s going to really help us in rural areas. In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt said every rural home should get electricity. It was a necessity. We say in the 21st century every rural home should get broadband. High-speed internet. Right now, one third of all rural homes have almost none. We will propose it. We’re proposing a job training program, like the apprentice program in Germany, where people can get good paying jobs after a company gets a tax incentive to train them. We realize that in 2016, Democrats did not focus positively enough on people. We are. Remember, fighting Trump is also going to be very important. You need both.
KS: Perfect. Senator Schumer, this has been great. I like all your stories. I wish you would tweet, honestly. You can’t on your flip phone, but it’d be nice.
I’ve tried to make a deal with Donald Trump, “You don’t tweet, I won’t tweet.”
KS: Yeah, he likes to tweet.
HR: He’s tweeting but he doesn’t seem to do the same on taxes.
Tweeting is doing him more harm than good.
KS: I don’t know. He’s good at it, I’ll tell you that.
No, you see, you sound like Donald Trump. I tell him this. It’s good for his 35 percent. It turns off 65 percent. We’re upset because even 35 percent would go for him, but count your blessings.
KS: Well, thank you so much. It was great talking to you, and Hilary Rosen ...
HR: Thank you.
KS: ... who was also on as my co-host, thank you so much. Thank you for coming on the show. I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot more in the future.
Hey, make sure you write and call, email your Senators on net neutrality, audience.
KS: I’ve already done it.
Good. Thank you.
KS: While I’m sitting here. Thank you so much, Senator. Thanks again to Hilary Rosen for co-hosting this episode with me.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.