Liz Peek: Schumer’s mistakes pile up, endangering Democrats’ prospects for 2018

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made a mistake shutting down the government. It isn’t his first. He made an even more egregious error when he convinced every single Democrat to vote against the GOP tax bill, which is gaining in popularity and impact, giving Republicans a mighty weapon in upcoming congressional races.

Schumer’s biggest error, though, is allowing progressives in his party to dominate his playbook. With Democratic Senators Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and – heaven help us – Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (among others) all eager to square off against President Trump in 2020, the Senate minority leader has his hands full.

But Schumer cannot allow Democrats’ most extreme voices – on immigration or other policies – to run the show. They may represent a fired-up wing of the Democratic Party, but they are not in tune with most of the country.

If Chuck Schumer had been paying better attention to voters, he might have noticed that most Americans actually do care about border security, in addition to the fate of the so-called Dreamers.

The extremism exhibited in the debate over immigration, in which progressives opposed any attempt to beef up border security, pushed Schumer to the untenable position of holding the U.S. government hostage to some 700,000 young people in the country illegally. That was a losing proposition.

More broadly, Democrats’ leftward lurch has contributed to the election of Donald Trump and to an unprecedented collapse of Democratic Party officeholders.

As Mara Liasson observed in a 2016 column posted by NPR: “During Obama's eight years in office, the Democrats have lost more House, Senate, state legislative and governors’ seats than under any other president.”

Liasson notes that President Obama’s legacy includes an unparalleled demolition of his own party: “Democrats currently hold fewer elected offices nationwide than at any time since the 1920s.”

Schumer and his colleagues appear unmoved by the long downward slide of their party. Liberals are so busy celebrating President Trump’s low approval ratings that they are blind to the popularity of much of the president’s agenda. This willful ignorance will not help Democrats regain their mojo, or gain control of Congress.

If Chuck Schumer had been paying better attention to voters, he might have noticed that most Americans actually do care about border security, in addition to the fate of the so-called Dreamers. 

A Washington Post-ABC poll that came out in September indicated that while 86 percent of respondents support President Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program to protect young people in the country illegally, 79 percent said that “employers must verify” that their workers are here legally and 65 percent wanted DACA approval tied to increased spending for border security.

These views should not come as a shock to Schumer since he himself, and well as many of his colleagues, have endorsed similar provisions in the past.

Schumer painted his party into a corner on DACA, just as he did by refusing to allow any of his caucus to vote in favor of the tax bill. He (and his colleagues in the liberal media) did an excellent job of misrepresenting the tax package to voters, even before it was written, memorably calling it a “punch in the gut” to the middle class.

Polling showed Schumer’s success, with the bill quite unpopular as it headed to passage. A Monmouth University poll on Dec. 18 showed half the country disapproved of it while only about one quarter favored the proposed legislation.

About the same time, a different survey from CNBC indicated that 70 percent of the country expected their taxes would either stay the same or increase in coming years.  That’s an amazing conclusion, given that some 80 percent of taxpayers will see their payments go down.

More recently, as more than 220 companies have announced bonuses or pay hikes for over 2 million employees – and as giant companies like Apple have announced significant new investments in the U.S., citing the tax bill – Americans are climbing aboard.

The most recent good news is from JP Morgan Chase, which just announced it would spend some $20 billion over the next five years to hand out bonuses, raise pay for 22,000 workers, add jobs and open 400 new branches in the U.S. These moves on the part of American corporations are gathering momentum, adding to the bright economic forecast.

In part because of such measures stemming from the GOP tax bill, Americans are feeling better about the economy and their prospects than they have in decades. They should.

The economy’s growth continues to accelerate, with economists across the board upbeat about the outlook for the next couple of years. The International Monetary Fund, for instance, has just lifted its forecast of U.S. growth to 2.7 percent this year, from an earlier forecast of 2.3 percent, citing the Republican tax plan. For next year the organization is estimating growth of 2.5 percent against an earlier forecast of 1.9 percent.

Will Schumer lead Democrats to endanger that optimism by uniformly blocking President Trump’s other agenda items, such as an infrastructure program? That will be another mistake.

As we entered the year, Democrats were gaining confidence that they would enjoy a blow-out victory in November. Polls showed them with a double-digit lead in the so-called generic ballot over the GOP, suggesting a “wave” election win. CNN’s polling shows that lead has now shrunk to five points, down from 18 points a month ago.

The improving economy and the success of the tax cuts are linked to that shift. Come the fall, every Republican will ask voters: do you like paying lower taxes? Elect a Democrat and kiss those tax cuts goodbye. They can thank Sen. Schumer for the opportunity.