WNYC: Chuck Schumer and the Art of Managing Democrats

I spoke with John O’Connor of WNYC for a segment on Schumer’s stewardship of a purple-tinged caucus in the age of Trump.

Liam Donovan, a former Senate GOP fundraiser who now works for a trade association, said Schumer has nothing to lose if Manchin or other Democrats occasionally break ranks.

“I think he’d gladly let them do whatever they needed to remain in the chamber.”

Donovan said the first eight months have been relatively easy for Schumer because Democrats are united against Trump’s immigration and health-care policies. Donovan said Schumer, who is not known for being camera-shy, has also helped himself by keeping a lower profile than expected.

“Schumer’s done what he needs to do, but he’s avoided becoming the boogeyman that Nancy Pelosi represents,” Donovan said.

But Schumer has also been pushed by activists eager to challenge Trump. Several times Schumer has been pushed by the left — to oppose more Trump nominees, to filibuster Gorsuch and to wage procedural warfare against the health-care bill in an effort to slow down the Senate. Jentleson said Schumer acted when he needed to.

“The measure of the leader is not whether they occasionally need to be pushed or not,” he said. “The measure is do they listen and do they respond?”

Donovan said that energy helps Schumer.

“The activist base of the Democratic Party is incredibly motivated right now and are holding everyone’s feet to the fire,” he said. “So staying together is not really optional at this point.”

Senate Democrats have raised nearly $29 million dollars for the 2018 elections so far — slightly more than Republicans. And neither side has ramped up their spending yet.

The votes will get harder  soon, Donovan said. When they come back,  Congress has things they have to get done — like passing spending bills and raising the debt ceiling. Tough negotiations require  party discipline. And that means Schumer may have  to ask red-state Democrats to stick with the team, even if people back home might not like it.

The full piece (and segment) can be found here.

What I tried to impress (but didn’t make the cut) was that Schumer’s chore would have been much more difficult if not for the President’s initial choices out of the gate. To wit:

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