WASHINGTON – It’s five months before Election Day, but one prediction is safer than any other – Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is going to become majority leader of the U.S. Senate next year. In addition to all other elements, Donald Trump is making that possible, virtually inevitable.
Last year, Schumer was designated by Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to succeed Reid as top kick when he retires. A promise by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking leader, not to seek the job seemed to seal the deal.
No New Yorker ever held the job of majority leader since it was created in the 1920s. This column’s rash forecast also means the Democrats will seize the majority from the Republicans.
A shift of five seats, with 33 up for election this year, will give them that. The respected Charlie Cook Political Report now rates 10 Republicans as “vulnerable.” Even before the Trump phenomenon flared up, Republican prospects were endangered by the fact that a majority of this year’s crop of Senate elections are in Democratic blue or purple states.
Republican incumbents now are demoralized, disconsolate by Trump’s policy flips, by his erratic attacks on the adversary of the day, the event of the day and his attempts to exclude critical media from his events, such as BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Politico and the Washington Post.
Republican incumbents are newly despairing because last week Trump and his aides did something very predictable from the outset – considering his psychological profile. The Trumpsters declared if those Republican leaders, including the elected ones, don’t get with his program, they should just shut up.
In short, he is telling Republican House members and senators now enjoying comfortable majorities, who question his behavior, that he does not need them. Does he need anybody, other than his valet and his driver?
And yet, the GOP leadership can’t summon up the courage or the common sense to just dump this outrage of a candidate well in advance of next month’s national convention in Cleveland.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tried to distance himself from Trump’s wild accusations that President Obama is secretly a radical Islamist sympathizer. Trump tweeted a claimed citation of a secret memo that the Obama administration actually supported ISIS in Syria.
The Trump poison seeped into John McCain’s desperate Senate campaign for re-election when the onetime GOP presidential candidate accused Obama of being “directly responsible” for the Orlando attack that left at least 49 victims dead.
McCain said it many times, then tried walking it back, saying Obama’s “security decisions” were responsible. McCain already suffers from a 36 percent approval rating in Arizona. The irony of McCain’s retailing the innuendoes of Trump, who trashed McCain for being a loser because he was captured during the Vietnam War, will not be lost on anybody.
Whatever truths are in Trump’s and McCain’s criticisms of Obama are lost in a sea of Trump’s vulgarisms and overstatements like McCain’s. And so the 2016 congressional campaign will go. The GOP leadership can’t divorce Trump after nominating him, and this mess can result in an overwhelming Republican disaster.
The GOP should call Trump and tell him, “you’re fired.”
The nation will lose an important brake on the Democratic Party’s excesses, and there are plenty of them.
One benefit, though, will be the elevation of Schumer to Senate leadership. He can do a lot for our state. Schumer joined other Democrats in last week’s debate on the gun laws. Schumer said he supports the Second Amendment, upholding the right of law-abiding Americans to own a weapon while barring those on the terror watch list to do us harm.