Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority leader (D-NY), is a torn man. On one side, he faces a restless caucus, and a mob of manic groups funded by George Soros who want political blood, “scorched earth,” and demand he block eight Trump nominees. They style themselves a Resistance, presumably to the American electorate. On the other, sober voices in the Democratic caucus warn of a chill wind, suggesting Schumer tame the passions, slow the mob, and act responsibly.
But what will he do? This is why all eyes are on Schumer – his moment of truth. Will he lead his Democrat caucus into a media firestorm against good appointees, or work to restore order to a longstanding process, averting disaster? The Democrat paroxysm over Trump’s win has reached glass-cracking pitch. Think about what the Heartland sees – delayed concession speech, a recount farce, an attempt to subvert the Electoral College, and a plaintive cry “Russians did it!”
Now, America sees Senate Democrats – seven up for reelection from Trump-win States –opposing presidential appointments, no pretense of regular order or apology. Major news outlets are being spoon-fed attacks on nominees by Democrat-funded groups, while Democrat Senators offer outraged sound bites. It is all so easy, scratching matches for a media firestorm.
Only what will burn? The Democratic Party – if Schumer does not restore respect for process. Political theater has limits. When machinations grossly depart from reality, the party responsible invites disaster. The Democratic Party, on raw numbers, is at a life-changing fork in the road. Under Obama, Democrats have shed 1,042 governing seats, in Congress, State legislatures, governors and now the presidency. If they continue this wild lurch to the Left, they may soon be gathering in someone’s parlor, wondering what happened. That is how the Whig Party ended in the 1850’s.
If Schumer succumbs to his Radical Left, egged on by a promised media circus, the Democratic Party will end up in deep mud. America knows presidents have a right to their appointees. The confirmation process is about giving guidance, not staging an inquisition or stoning. The process involves honored traditions. America knows all this. Which puts Schumer in a bind – he can stop the antics or destroy the Democrat brand.
Americans do not subscribe to extremism, or radical responses to electoral loss. If sore-loser-ism leads to anti-democratic behavior, respect for Democrat leadership is over. Gone will be shared values, shared respect institutional prerogatives, and any hope of restoring a centrist Democrat Party.
If Schumer is not thinking hard, he should be. Radical politics and emotional volatility inside the Senate – extremism in anything’s name – sits poorly with America. Ask Joseph McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Michael Dukakis – figures whose personas were inextricably linked to extremism. That was it, game over. So, Schumer should think hard about those seven Senate Democrats up for reelection in Trump States, the 27 Democrat governors and 28 legislatures, not to mention the House Democrats who voted against Pelosi. They might counsel: Choose a different path.
Seasoned leadership is not about exacting vengeance or settling scores. Those paths lead into the wilderness. Leadership, especially in places like the Senate, must be about abiding history, demonstrating patience, respecting institutions, comity and high office. Senator Schumer may not have the mettle for this. Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Soros did not. But he has a chance. If he turns down the volume on this media madness, defangs his Radical Left, and restores propriety to the role of Minority Leader, all this talk of “scorched earth” will wane.
If not, results are predictable. President Trump will likely label Schumer’s Senate antics off-balance, out-of-touch with America, his party hijacked. Democratic defections will mount, and the die will be cast for 2018. Attempting to delegitimize qualified appointees will be seen for what it is – indefensible and extreme. The Democrat minority will accelerate to Whig status.
On one hand, this would be beneficial to the Republican majorities in both congressional chambers, generating wider sympathy for the appointees. The Democrat brand would connote dysfunction, irresponsibility, venality, capture by the Radical Left. Gone would be any hope of a centrist identity. But this would not be good for the Republic. Reflexive opposition to a President’s nominees mars the whole process, even if the result is Democrat losses in 2018 and 2020.
This low road is not inevitable. Schumer might recall New England’s Robert Frost. This is the time. Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” starts: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both …” Schumer faces such a choice. The path he chooses may decide the Democratic Party’s fate for years to come.
Schumer should assure that this president’s appointees are swiftly confirmed, without exception. That is what a real leader would do, not bluster for an anti-democratic “resistance” movement.
Americans are watching. They want a respectful, fair, and orderly confirmation process. Anything else smacks of extremism.
Like Frost, Schumer should want to say: “I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Robert Charles is a former assistant secretary of state for President George W. Bush, former naval intelligence officer and litigator. He served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.