The Democrats on the Democrats’ Chuck Schumer Problem


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) listens as Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks to journalists after the beginning of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, January 16, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Last week, I wrote about the Democrats’ Chuck Schumer problem:

How could Chuck Schumer have been so reckless as to set up yet another public failure for his party? The answer, one suspects, lies just over his shoulder. Schumer is terrified that he’ll be challenged by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the decisions he’s making as majority leader reflect that fear.

Trouble is, what’s in Chuck Schumer’s best interests and what’s in the Democratic Party’s best interests do not always line up. The purpose of last night’s theater was for Schumer to say, “we tried.” But the costs of that “trying” were steep.

It seems that many Democrats agree. From today’s Politico Playbook:

Frustration with CHUCK SCHUMER’s leadership strategy is privately simmering among some Hill Democrats.

We talked to a half-dozen senior Democratic staffers in both chambers Monday night and heard a variation of the same complaint from each of them: that Schumer’s ploy to isolate Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) on Build Back Better and then voting rights has only set the party back in achieving its goals.


One aide pointed out that Schumer is majority leader only because both senators ran centrist campaigns and won. Another argued that it’s the job of any majority leader to protect every member of the caucus. All were particularly stunned by Schumer’s refusal last week to say that Manchin and Sinema should not be primaried. The comment, they said, effectively gave progressives permission to start talking about mounting Democratic campaigns to defeat them.

As for his strategy:

ANOTHER SOURCE OF FRUSTRATION: Schumer’s willingness to hold floor votes that he knew would fail — exposing party divisions — as he did last week during the debate on voting rights and the filibuster. The strategy resulted in a slew of negative headlines reminding the base that the party hasn’t delivered on a core promise.

Why? Because:

“It’s seemed clear for a while that the strategy Schumer is running has to do more with his fear of getting primaried than it did with actually achieving anything with the caucus he has or with protecting or expanding the majority,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide.


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