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In Defense Of Chuck Schumer


AKA- Little Chucky Schmucky


I'm going to guess that no one reading this has disliked Chuck Schumer longer than I have. Before you challenge me on that, keep in mind that a few years after Bernie graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn, Schumer and I were students there. He was basically the same prick then that he is now. It's not without reason that this song is the intro Nicole Sandler uses before my weekly segment on her radio show. New, that said... I want to say a couple of words about my two fellow Madison alums. (Tangent: Blue America is doing a contest next week and I'm putting it together now and it involves each congressional candidate telling me their favorite musician or group and as I sat down to write this, Ally Dalsimer, the progressive challenger to Gerry Connolly in Virginia, told me that another Madison alum, Carol King, is her all-time favorite artist.)


OK, now to Senate sausage-making and my first-ever defense of Chuck Schumer. I'm going to take it on face value that this morning's Politico piece by Rachel Bade and Tara Palmeri is actually based on something and not made up or planted by McConnell's press office. Their point is that Schumer's strategy-- to be fair, it was Bernie's strategy adopted by Schumer in a move much bolder than he usually is-- leaves conservative Democrats in a precarious position. Bade and Pameri say "frustration" among Senate Dems is "simmering," although they don't mention that that frustration is coming from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. They wrote that they talked with "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 and Kyrsten Sinema on Build Back Better and then voting rights has only set the party back in achieving its goals." Maybe they were too busy talking with staffers last night and missed Maddow's discussion about the grassroots reaction to Sinema in Arizona-- the Ezra Levin segment was like a political obituary for Sinema:



"Manchin remains furious at how he's been treated," they wrote, "and has yet to return to the negotiating table on BBB. Sinema, meanwhile, was censured by her state party over the weekend, and there’s growing talk of her facing a primary in 2024-- in the type of state Democrats have to win to have any hope of controlling the Senate. One [unnamed conservative] aide [to an unnamed conservative member] pointed out that Schumer is a 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."

1- Progressives don't need "permission" from Chuck Schumer to mount a primary campaign against Kyrsten Sinema. These Beltway reporters out to come visit America every now and then.


2- Schumer handpicked Sinema, the Democratic member of the House with the worst, most Republican voting record-- and chair of the Blue Dogs-- and cleared the field and helped finance her Senate campaign. If anyone in Congress has the right to feel betrayed by this psychopath, it's Schumer.

But Bade and Palmeri gave voice to the conservative interpretation of the situation, exactly what one would expect from Politico (or The Hill). Notice, they didn't interview anyone from the office of any progressive members.


"Leadership 101 is even if you don't get someone today, you’re going to need them tomorrow,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “The level of malpractice is stunning. BBB is a once-in-a-10-year opportunity, and we fucked it up.”
Another source of frustration [this is the Bernie strategy adopted by Schumer-- go Madison!]: 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.
Republicans, meanwhile, skirted any pressure over their opposition, another senior Democratic Senate staffer noted, as Democrats zeroed in on Sinema and Manchin instead: “The Republicans had a fine week last week … There was no contrast with Republicans. And it was a result of the fact that our party leader chose not to be the leader of the entire caucus.”
The impact isn't just on those two, however. A former longtime Senate staffer following Schumer’s strategy closely noted that last week’s vote also exposes vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2022. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), for example, will almost certainly be compared with Sinema and attacked by Republicans as a party pawn for backing an end run around the filibuster.
Other leaders from both parties have taken a starkly different approach. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is famous for saying she never brings a bill to the House floor that will fail. She’s also argued numerous times that the party should lay off Manchin and Sinema, defending the pair in a press conference last week just after Schumer refused to disavow primary challenges to the two.
Likewise, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not only tried to avoid allowing votes that would divide his conference, but also defended Republican moderates from attacks from the right. When [Señor Trumpanzee] came after Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for voting present on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, McConnell defended her. When Trump demanded revenge for Sen. Mitt Romney's impeachment vote, McConnell refused to oblige, saying he needed the senator for important votes down the line.
The Schumer defense: In interviews last week with Politico and other outlets, the Democratic leader said he had a moral obligation to hold a vote on voting rights because the issue is central to democracy. He predicted the intra-party damage of not doing so would have far outweighed the divisions he exposed.
"There was overwhelming, strong and vocal support throughout our caucus to hold the vote," a source close to Schumer said.
But Democrats we spoke with said there were others ways of handling the issue short of staging a losing vote that antagonized two senators he’s probably going to need to get anything else done. Some speculated that his leadership strategy has been driven more by his own personal political ambitions.
"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.
Will the strategy change going forward? Schumer promised around Christmas to force an up-or-down vote on BBB “very early in the new year” to put everyone on record. Notably he hasn’t followed through so far, and all of these sources hope he doesn’t.

Why? Are they ashamed of their votes? Why aren't they eager for the voters to know how they feel about such important issues? I could understand why they'd be pissed off if Schumer noted which special interests were paying them to vote against Build Back Better, but, unfortunately, he isn't.



No one has ever accused Priorities USA, a SuperPAC, being anything to the left of a Democratic establishment operation. I recall that it got started as a way to support Obama's reelection campaign and 4 years later became the top Hillary SuperPAC, spending more than $100 million of her disastrous campaign. For awhile there, it was even run by notorious grifter David Brock. Last cycle it spent tens of millions of dollars trying to help 4 conservative Democrats-- Biden, of course, but also Cal Cunningham (NC), Sara Gideon (ME), Mark Kelly (AZ). In the 2018 midterms are their big expenditures were for putrid conservative candidates: Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Bill Nelson (FL), Joe Donnelly (IN). The only one who won was Sinema, on whose cause they spent $4.2 million... and we've all seen how that worked out.


That said, Priorites USA just released a new study about Democratic policy messaging which notes that their "most recent poll found that both swing voters and Democratic-leaning voters ranked Democratic tax and health care policies as highly convincing reasons to vote for Democratic candidates."


Over the course of negotiations of the American Jobs Plan, and the infrastructure and reconciliation bills, Priorities USA and Data for Progress collaborated on a series of survey experiments to identify which messages increased support for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
The two messages that performed best highlighted the bill’s economic impact on Americans. For example, the Middle Class message argued that the plan will “grow our middle class, secure a future for our children, and make the American dream affordable again,” while the Jobs message stipulated that the plan will create “thousands of good paying, blue collar jobs that all American workers will benefit from.”
Messaging about health care and pandemic-related investments in the agenda ranked in the middle among those surveyed. For example, a message about reducing “burdensome healthcare costs, especially for aging parents” ranked fourth out of ten. Likewise, highlighting that ‘these investments will make sure that our nation is never unprepared again’ ranked sixth.
The worst messages focused on future dividends and global players. The two bottom performers argued that because of these investments, “America will continue to be a global leader,” and “will stop America from falling behind foreign competitors like China.” These were joined as a lower priority for voters by messages about tackling extreme weather events and averting climate emergencies. While these messages tested near or at the bottom, they still are likely to increase support for the bill, though by less than other messages.

Maybe they should have shared that info with Sinema, who they helped thrust on the rest of us.



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