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- After shutdown surrender, why should progressives ever trust Chuck Schumer again?
After shutdown surrender, why should progressives ever trust Chuck Schumer again?
by Erich Pica, President
Environmentalists take note. When Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took a stand against Merrick Garland, it lasted 293 days. When Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took a stand for the Dreamers, it lasted less than 72 hours. How are progressives ever supposed to trust Chuck again?
As word leaked out that Minority Leader Schumer was about to cut practically the same deal with McConnell along roughly that he had rejected on Friday, a grim reality set in. The Democrats were trading their only piece of leverage and all Dreamers were getting was an empty promise from the GOP.
The surrender on Monday seemed to take place in a different political world from the one that most Americans saw over the weekend. The president spent his one-year anniversary in the White House sulking on Twitter. Fresh polling showed that the country was siding with Democrats on all the underlying policy issues and rightly blaming Republicans and Trump for the shutdown. Women’s Marches in dozens of cities reinforced the reality of Democrats taking action on issues that matter. Even the less scientific world of social media showed #TrumpShutdown trending decisively over #SchumerShutdown.The fact that the shutdown failed because moderate Senators were nervous has stark implications for progressive priorities across the board. Many of the same members who voted to abandon the Dreamers have waffled on environmental issues throughout their careers. The next time Trump announces an attack against the Environmental Protection Agency or our public lands, how can we expect Democratic leadership to hold fast and resist Trump? If they couldn’t stand on principle for the Dreamers when everything was at stake, why should we expect them to show up for anything else?
Skittishly changing positions between Friday and Monday communicates the worst possible signal to everyone. Why pick the fight if, as soon as the going gets tough, you plan to fold? Feigning a fight without the gumption to follow through announces to the world that you were never serious about playing hard-ball in the first place.
Progressives are ready to support actions that reflect our values. When our base and our leaders go all-in, as we did with health care, it means victory. But when Democrats take half-measures, like they did on tax reform and now DACA, it means defeat.
It is true that in exchange for three weeks of funding and CHIP, Democrats were promised a Senate vote on an unspecified fix for the Dreamers. But this puts an almost comical amount of trust in Majority Leader McConnell. In order for this strategy to work, a Dreamer bill would need to pass the Senate under the nose of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), survive a House Republican caucus whose first loyalty is to Fox News, and be signed into law by a president whose chief immigration guru is effectively a white nationalist.
When millions of Democrats are set to take action by writing and calling Congress, knocking doors and making phone calls for campaigns, and protesting hate across the country, how can we trust our Senate minority leader to back us up?
Monday morning was a betrayal, and it is stings. But most of the hurt comes from how short-sighted a political move this really was. This was a triumph of insider politics over movement politics. Consummate insider that he is, perhaps Senator Schumer thought he could negotiate a better deal if a shutdown was off the table. But good negotiations don’t win elections — movements do.
As they daydream about the wave that their base could deliver in November, Democrats need to understand: Activists aren’t going to stand up and fight for a party that doesn’t fight for them.