If Democrats are going to have a chance in hell of blocking any of the Trump administration (read: Steve Bannon)’s agenda, they’re going to need a leader with some serious backbone.
That’s why protesters have been rallying outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn apartment every Tuesday evening for a month now, in response to the New York senator’s tepid statement soon after the election that he was optimistic about Congress’s ability to strike a deal with President Trump about infrastructure.
The “What the F*ck Chuck?!” rallies are constituents’ way of showing Schumer that they expect (and need) him to lead the Senate’s opposition to Trump, to block his nominees and to be a bigger thorn in his side than Republicans were in Barack Obama’s. They’ve even brought him barbells and protein bars so “he can regain his strength.”
“Chuck Schumer, we, your constituents, are looking to you as Senate Minority Leader and our Senator, [to do] more, to do it stronger, and to keep up the tough fight ahead!” says the event’s Facebook page, where over 4,000 people have RSVP’d.
“He’s in a very tough place,” Elizabeth Zeldin, one of the rally’s organizers, told Slate. “I do not envy him right now. But as his constituents, we need to make sure he’s much more of a fighter than he’s been.”
Trump can’t fire Chuck Schumer.
“I don’t have a red representative who might change his mind, but I do have a blue representative that is actually super powerful and has a lot of say if he chooses to use it,” she said, explaining that it’s easy to feel like you can’t do as much if you live in a blue state, or what she called a “blue bubble.” But by urging our already blue elected officials to not play along, to stand up and fight, constituents of blue districts and states can, in fact, have an impact.
The rallies seem to be working. On January 26, Schumer posted on the “What the F*ck Chuck?!” Facebook page: “Appreciate hearing from everyone on this and on so many of the issues we will face in the weeks, months and years ahead. Wanted to share that on the upcoming vote confirming Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, I will vote no and I will do it proudly.”
Commenters responded that that’s not enough and that he needs to oppose every single one of Trump’s nominations and “not give him an inch.” New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has voted against more of Trump’s nominees than any other senator (all but one: Nikki Haley for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations). We need Schumer (and the rest of the Democrats in the Senate and the House) to be more like Gillibrand.
Democrats don’t seem to be aware of the political climate they’re operating in. They’re still trying to play by fair rules, aiming for cooperation, milling around uselessly while Trump fires judges who disagree with him and installs nationalists in high-level national security jobs for which they’re not qualified. The usual rules don’t apply here. And yes, we were all outraged by Republican obstructionism under Obama, but unfortunately the only option right now is to return the favor.
We need more Democrats like the newly ousted Attorney General Sally Yates, who will put up more than a nominal opposition when Trump flouts the Constitution. Trump’s firing of Yates for taking a stand against his unconstitutional, xenophobic and discriminatory Muslim ban shows just how important it is for elected officials to stand up to Trump; he can’t fire Schumer.
Tuesday morning, the Democrats of the Senate Finance Committee showed signs of waking up to reality by boycotting the planned confirmation votes on Trump appointees Tom Price (to lead the Department of Health and Human Services) and Steven Mnuchin (for Treasury Secretary). By not showing up, committee members blocked the vote, since at least one member from each party much be present for a vote to proceed. Yes, this kind of obstructionism is less than ideal—it’s not the way government should work—but right now it’s the only option the country has in sending Trump a sign he needs to consider the views of the entire country—not just his fanatic base.