Former congressman, Northwestern alum Schneider talks future plans


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Former congressman and Northwestern alumnus, Brad Schneider discusses foreign policy, security issues in the United States and the 2016 presidential elections. The event took place in the McCormick Foundation Center on Thursday and was attended by students as well as community members.

Hal Jin, Reporter

Former U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), a Northwestern alumnus, hosted a Q&A session Thursday about foreign policy, his experience as a congressman and the state of U.S. politics.

Schneider (McCormick ’83, Kellogg ’88)  represented Illinois’ 10th congressional district from 2013 to 2015. The self-identified liberal Democrat spoke to about 30 people at the McCormick Foundation Center.

The event was sponsored by Wildcats for Israel, College Democrats and Fiedler Hillel.

“NU personifies the Midwest values of hard work. There’s a certain humility here,” Schneider said. “I’m not so confident that I don’t know I can be wrong, but I’m confident enough to not have to prove you wrong.”

That enabled him to work with people toward finding a middle ground, he said.

Schneider received a B.S. in industrial engineering from NU, which Quentin Heilbroner, president of College Democrats, joked was “a natural path to Congress.”

Heilbroner said he invited Schneider because many members of College Democrats worked with Schneider during his campaign. Schneider lost a bid for re-election in 2014 to Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.). Heilbroner said he finds Schneider’s transition out of Congress interesting.

“He served a very successful term and lost by almost nothing,” Heilbroner said. “Where do you go from there?”

November’s midterm election saw the Republican Party extend its majority in the House of Representatives and take control of the Senate. Schneider was a member of the Frontline Program, enacted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help vulnerable incumbent Democrats.

“I loved the job, but hated the campaign,” Schneider said. “If we had done everything we had done well twice as well, eliminated all mistakes, we still would’ve lost.”

Schneider said he has not decided whether to run in 2016 and currently does not have plans for the near future.

This news disappointed Des Plaines resident Wayne Serbin, who came to see the former congressman.

Although Serbin is a Republican from a conservative area, he said he was interested in learning whether Schneider would run in 2016.

During the discussion, Schneider expressed dismay at the influence of money in politics, and said Citizens United was “destroying” the campaign process. He was referring to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, in which the Supreme Court decided that political spending limits are unconstitutional.

“If I could lead one message, don’t get frustrated by the process, change the process,” Schneider said. “It’s too important not to.”

When asked how best to deal with Iran, Schneider advocated for well-structured sanctions. The U.S. government needs to ensure Iran never gets nuclear weapons, Schneider said, and there are many tools to do that.

Schneider acknowledged the risk of sanctions turning Iran away from talks, using a metaphor of cats and dogs to explain his stance.

“If there’s a stray cat at the door, you’re quiet, you put out milk at the door, that’s an approach,” Schneider said. “Some think Iran is like a cat, and we have to be ginger. I think Iran’s a dog — a pit bull at that — and we have to be stern.”

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