Chuck Schumer may or may not be a good guy, but he's not a good Democrat. One of the themes I'm going to return to on this blog are what I call 'Benedict' Democrats. These are people who for whatever reason find it useful to cooperate with Republicans for their own personal gain, all the while undercutting the growth of a larger movement. No one exemplifies this better than Schumer. It's not just that he supports Republicans
New York's senior senator, a Democrat, defended Bloomberg's record fighting for the city's fair share of federal dollars - undercutting a central campaign theme among the Democrats seeking to boot Bloomberg, a Republican, from City Hall.
"I know the candidates don't like me to say this, but the facts are the facts," Schumer said, suggesting the city needs Republican leaders who can work on the inside.
"Whenever I call Michael Bloomberg and ask him to help in Washington, he has," Schumer said. "And even though I will support a Democratic candidate - there are a lot of things that I disagree with Mayor Bloomberg on - I am not going to take that away from him."
Chuck Schumer is lauded as a media genius, because he holds Sunday press conferences when no one else does. I've been in the meetings where people plan these events, and it's all about making sure that reporters show up. Will there be food? Is it too early for them? Will the place be convenient? The only question that does not come up is 'Do I have something to say?' Chuck Schumer rarely does, but he's always talking. And since he gets press coverage, he feels confident that this path of always looking good to the press and not really caring about principles is worthwhile.
The DSCC, of which Schumer is chair, is a great example. In the Pennsylvania contest to unseat Rick Santorum, Schumer picked pro-lifer Bob Casey as a challenger early, and has forced out everyone in the race except for Chuck Pennachio
. The marketed idea behind this choice is that pro-life conservative Democrat Casey, who is well-known in the state because of his Dad, is the most likely victor over Santorum. But that's only the glossy sheen. The real point of picking Casey is that it's not a risky pick. If Casey loses, it doesn't ding Schumer at all; he'll just say Santorum was too strong. At least he was in control and raised a lot of money, losing Democratic consultants will bleat. But if Schumer lets a primary happen, then he'll look like he wasn't in control of the process (even though letting a primary happen is being in control of a process, just not of the outcome). The single best way of generating press coverage and interest in a race is a primary, but that's not important to someone like Schumer. He doesn't care. He just wants to not look bad.
The DINO strategy is one of the dumbest strategies in modern political history - it depresses your base, which is especially important in off-year elections. And it doesn't convince the middle because it makes you look unprincipled. Does anyone really think that a social conservative will vote for Casey over Santorum?
There's a larger issue at stake here. I frequently hear bitching about Democrats don't stand for anything or have no message, usually with a remark thrown in about Kerry and nuance. This is fundamentally an observation about governance, not politics. What standing for something means is having a sense of where you want the country to go, and supporting political change that moves the country in that direction. And message and organization comes from that. I guarantee you that Bloomberg and Casey represent a very different path for this country than the one you believe in.
Yet, when push comes to shove and we actually have a choice of who to put in power, Democrats - base Democrats, like you and me - run squealing into the arms of the tactical fear-mongers
(like Schumer), which directly builds the lack of message inherent in our candidates.
The connections between the incentive Schumer plays to - building press for himself - and destroying progressivism, is something we need to work on. It's why we have Republican Governors in California, New York, Massachusetts, and a Republican Mayor crusing to reelection in New York City. It's a very very bad thing. And we need to start letting our elected officials know that we don't appreciate it.
Chuck Schumer is not going to start acting magnanimously, but if we can make it in his self-interest to stop fucking over Democrats, we can make a difference.
Let him know you don't appreciate his positive comments towards Mayor Bloomberg:
Send him an email here
. Or call his office at 212-486-7803.