Just this morning I was writing about the mobs of
adoring fans angry protesters outside of Chuck Schumer’s apartment building in Brooklyn last night. The natives are clearly restless and demanding a stiffer spine from the top Senate Democrat and that may well have an impact on the coming DACA negotiations. But in terms of calculating how this might play out I was basing everything on one key assumption… that Chuck Schumer was still going to be the Minority Leader.
Could that change? He’s drawing heat from his base and losing votes from the gaggle of Senators in his party who are currently looking very much like 2020 presidential primary candidates. Are temperatures in the Democratic caucus running high enough right now that they might consider removing him? That’s one question that our friend Jim Geraghty is looking at in today’s Morning Jolt. Could the Dems actually, er… chuck Chuck?
There’s a logjam of Democratic senators who either want to run for president in 2020 or are thinking about it: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sanders, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York . . .
Maybe if you’re an ambitious Democratic senator, you don’t want to be one of a half-dozen or so senators competing for two minutes of nationally-televised debate time and praying Oprah doesn’t jump in and make you look boring. Maybe it would be more rewarding to be leader of your party in the Senate.
Geraghty isn’t the first one to suggest the possibility and it’s not just conservatives talking about it. There’s already a petition going at change.org to force out Schumer and replace him with Corey Booker. (I’ll leave you to read the wild-eyed descriptions of his leadership qualities for yourself at the link.) But wait… can they even do that?
Well, technically they could. Assuming they could find a volunteer to put on the blindfold and stand at the head of the minority army, it could be done. Normally they only hold caucus leadership elections every two years after the new class is seated. But, at least in theory, they could reopen that order of business next week if they really wanted to. Odds are it would never have to happen though. If talk of this seriously picks up a head of steam, Schumer will be whipping the votes on a regular basis. If he bleeds out enough support to the point where he could lose the vote, he would almost surely resign as Minority Leader (though not from the Senate) rather than face the embarrassment of being forced out.
If that happened, one of these up and coming POTUS hopefuls could step into the void. That could be Booker, Warren, Harris, Gillibrand, or one of a couple others. (Not so much Bernie Sanders since he actually quit the party again after he lost the primary.) But they might not want to. Being one voice out of nearly fifty, albeit one of the ones who get the most face time on cable news, is actually a much safer position than taking control yourself. If you become Minority Leader, people will actually expect you to do things. That’s what’s weighing down Chuck Schumer right now. But as long as you leave the burden on his shoulders and make a point of voting against any sort of deal, you get to play the hero while suffering none of the consequences.
I’d still be surprised to see it happen, but I couldn’t rule it out entirely. It would take some serious cojones to knock Schumer off his perch and then honestly believe that you could make some sort of deal with Trump and McConnell that would satisfy the base while simultaneously raising your profile for a presidential run. The risk is high, and so are the potential rewards. But the penalty for failure could be even more severe, as Chuck Schumer is currently learning.