This morning, Senator Chuck Schumer is going to call my radio show and talk about taxes and infrastructure and the cleanup of a couple of recent storms.
He is going to talk and I am going to listen.
Part of me wishes it was the other way around.
Because I’ve got something I want to say to Chuck Schumer. Not about our politics, where we have big disagreements. But about his conduct as Senate minority leader, where I wish we could find some common ground.
First, here’s some background.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who lives in arguably the most liberal state in the nation. And Chuck Schumer is a very good senator for the most liberal state in the nation.
That means I’ve spent the last couple of decades being driven crazy by his reliable liberalism.
But, to be honest, over those years, I’ve also slowly been won over by his work ethic and the fact that he shows up. Though he arguably has the safest seat in the Senate, he relentlessly travels the state – most of which is rural and Republican and meaningless to his political prospects. But he shows up nonetheless. And after a while you start to think that he does it because he cares.
So, there are disagreements, but there is also respect.
Chuck Schumer is a liberal pain in the ass. But he’s our liberal pain in the ass, and a lot of us upstate conservatives give him his due.
(Lonsberry with Senator Schumer at Rochester's Park Ave Festival, August 2015)
But this is about what I want to say to him.
I want to give him advice on how to be Senate minority leader.
I understand how arrogant and audacious that is, but so be it.
I think that as the top Democrat in a closely divided Senate, Chuck Schumer has the opportunity to be hugely significant from a legislative standpoint. He could play an important role in the policy and lawmaking of the United States at a crucial time in our history.
Or he can keep on being a horse’s ass like he is now.
So far, Chuck Schumer has merely been a tall Nancy Pelosi. Shrill, partisan, over the top. Not engaging in anything more sincere or substantive than a protest chant.
Remember, “Dump Trump?”
He sits as arguably the most senior and important Democrat in the land and all that comes out of his mouth is partisanship and division. Every speech is a campaign rally. Every claim is hyperbole and excess, to such an extent that no honest person can take him seriously. It’s as if every Washington quote and appearance is intended as a fund-raising line for the base, or an attempt to whip up some sort of secession or revolution.
He’s using the minority leader’s office as a campaign commercial, instead of a legislative tool.
And that’s what I would suggest he change.
History doesn’t remember our nation’s best political operatives, it remembers statesmen who accomplish things.
And Chuck Schumer is well situated to accomplish things, if he would only try.
Here’s what I mean.
The weakness in the Republican control of Washington is the Senate, where a narrow 52-48 margin has empowered renegade Republicans who see their opportunity to lead Donald Trump around by the short hairs. John McCain and Lindsey Graham – and a handful of moderate-state Republicans shakily straddling the fence – find themselves able to dictate terms on anything Trump or the Republican Party want to do.
They will no doubt impose a high tariff of self-interest on any iffy Republican legislation.
And they will be able to do that because the 48-vote Democrat bloc will be united and immovable in its opposition. United and immovable and, consequently, irrelevant.
A smart legislator would recognize that and turn it to his advantage.
I hope Chuck Schumer would be that smart legislator.
I hope Chuck Schumer would recognize that courting and manipulating Donald Trump is going to work out a lot better for him – and his constituents – than mocking and attacking him. Trump is a guy who likes to deal. He is a guy who values relationships. He is a powerful achiever who respects other powerful achievers. Schumer should cozy up to him, open good communication with him, and talk about legislative priorities with him.
And Chuck Schumer should have a variety of Democrats in his back pocket, from states where Trump did OK, and when Trump has a Republican hurdle to get over in the Senate, Schumer should make a deal.
If your enemy is always your enemy, that static relationship will go nowhere. But if your enemy can occasionally be your friend, endless possibilities open up.
Instead of obstruction and mockery, Schumer should occasionally try cooperation and partnership. Not in the compromise of his constituents’ values, but in the furtherance of their interests. He would thereby make himself relevant in the governance of the country, and he would be able to impact the actual content of legislation in a way his current course of action would never allow.
Basically put, he can either bitch or work.
Bitching is easier, but working is more meaningful.
And basically it comes down to who he’s there for. If he’s there for the Democratic Party, then he’s doing just fine. But if he hopes to truly be there for the American people, he’s got to change.
As a New Yorker, I am glad my senator has such a position in the Senate. But as a New Yorker, I recognize that without positively engaging that position, it will mean nothing to residents of the Empire State.
Chuck Schumer can be shrill or wise.
I hope in his new position he soon chooses wise.
That’s what I would tell him on the radio this morning, if it was me doing the talking instead of him.