2018 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: CHUCK SCHUMER

(Editor's note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)

medalOne of my goals with year-end stuff is to avoid low hanging fruit, choosing someone like Donald Trump (who, in an act bordering on prescience, I awarded the Lieberman back in 2015), Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or Dinesh D'Souza. It's so easy to make the case that such people are terrible that it doesn't even seem interesting or worthwhile to do. As a result, the Lieberman Award more often gravitates toward people like its namesake…sanctimonious Centrist Types who like to be lavished with Sunday talk show invites and talked about as a very important person in a town already crowded with big egos.

It was extremely tempting to give the award, for the first time ever, to a woman and choose Susan Collins, but in the end I could not think of a good reason to differentiate her from Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, or any of the other "Gosh, I sure am disappointed in Trump but I intend to do nothing whatsoever about it and I'll vote in lockstep for everything he wants" types. It was equally tempting to pick Georgia governor-elect Brian Kemp for his egregious attempts (as Secretary of State) to game his own election. Knowing Georgia politics, though, he could have been the nicest, most honest guy on Earth and he would have won that race anyway, which renders all his chicanery somewhat pointless in practice.

Instead, I think it's time to talk about how utterly terrible Chuck Schumer is at his job, and what a shame that someone holding a Senate seat in a state Democrats can't conceivably lose – someone who could be an actual liberal pushing actual left policy ideas without being punished at the ballot box – is held until death by such a ineffectual, stuck-in-2002 guy like him.

The final straw was that Nancy Pelosi gets a lot of criticism from the left for being too centrist and an uninspiring, ineffectual leader. Some of that criticism has come from me. Yet Schumer is demonstrably much worse at his job, and he's not getting leadership challenges or an equal amount of bad press. It's patently false to say "Well nobody criticizes Schumer, only Pelosi!" because people (again, including me) shit on Chuckie all the time. But watching him sail through another confirmation while Pelosi received an actual challenge (albeit from the center, as if being TOO LIBERAL is her problem) clinched it.

Chuck Schumer is forever performing for an audience that, with the possible exception of the national media, does not exist: the person whose primary interest in politics is to see everyone play nice. Outcomes are irrelevant, so long as everyone is nice to one another while the sausage is being made.

OK, that person does exist. I've had the misfortune of attracting some of them on occasion – people whose politics are somehow simultaneously "Donald Trump is the greatest monster who ever lived" and "I value bipartisanship and decorum so Democrats should work together with the monster." I no longer try to make sense of it other than to assume that West Wing melted their brains.

For that small portion of the electorate, though, Schumer is a godsend. The man has literally no spine. He could get shot and his last words when the police asked who shot him would be "Both sides did it." He "both sides-ed" someone yelling at Mitch McConnell in a restaurant the same week a lunatic was mailing bombs – literal bombs – to prominent Democrats. In advance of the Kavanaugh hearings, he agreed to fast-track a dozen Republican judicial appointees ostensibly so Democratic Senate candidates could have more time to campaign.

In the eyes of Chuck Schumer, twelve hardcore Federalist Society conservatives on the court for life is a good trade-off for Claire McCaskill to get an extra week at home for her obviously doomed re-election bid. It's as though he sees his job as caving to Mitch McConnell in the hopes that if he does it enough times, the Senate GOP will eventually play nice in return. It's beyond naive and well into delusional.

When McConnell was the minority leader, he did every single dirty trick, procedural or otherwise, to delay, obstruct, and derail the majority. Schumer is of the breed of centrist yahoos who think that the most important thing to do is to play nice and then score nonexistent electoral points from pointing out that the GOP is not being nice in return. The end result – the one we've been living in for nearly three decades now – is that the Republicans get what they want when in power and Democrats never do. Air Bud dunks the ball over and over again while Coach Schumer points at the rule book and shouts "But a dog isn't allowed to play basketball!"

Chuck Schumer doesn't get this award because he's the worst person. He gets it because he is so completely useless. If he is your negotiator, you don't have a negotiator. You have a guy who comes back to tell you what the other side wants and explains why you need to give it to them.

No, it's not solely his fault. This is an institutional problem in the Democratic Party, which since Bill Clinton's departure has internalized losing and defines victory as getting anything slightly better than the very worst possible outcome. But the guy is in a leadership position and has been for a not-insignificant amount of time. What does he have to show for it? What have been Chuck Schumer's legislative accomplishments? What has he done to make his GOP counterpart so much as break a sweat to enact his own agenda?

And this is apparently the best leader the Senate Democrats are capable of imagining. They look at this guy and think, well this is the best we've got. It's not just a failure of politics; it's a failure of imagination. They've been without a leader for so long that none of them even recognizes that this isn't it.

27 thoughts on “2018 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: CHUCK SCHUMER”

  • The correct choice, and perfectly argued. I'm sure some fans of Crooks And Liars and other centrist Democrats will be very upset with you now. Bring the outrage. Your selection is correct.

  • The Republicans target the Democratic leader of the Senate. Everett Dirksen knocked off Scott Lucas. John Thune beat Tom Daschle. Are there other examples? These come to mind. Let's hope we can get McConnell in 2020.

    The Democrats don't give it all they've got. Didn't Wasserman-Schultz have a couple South Florida Republican friends that the DNC went easy on?

  • low-tech cyclist says:

    Like the saying says, "lead, follow, or get out of the way." Schumer doesn't lead, but by virtue of being Minority Leader, he stands in the doorway and blocks up the hall.

    Totally justified choice.

  • As a New Yorker, I wholeheartedly concur. Friends here have identified Chuck's problem for a long time. The business with the Federalist judgeship nominees was the absolute nadir. Calling him spineless is to malign invertibrates, some of whom undoubtedly have more smarts.

  • Was there ever a liberal senate leader? My recollection of Harry Reid is basically the same — every 'War on Terror' trampling of civil rights, bad Bush decision, etc. has him being the same 'lets surrender so they can never defeat us!' cowardice.

  • I do have to stand up and say one nice thing about Chuck Schumer (possibly the only time this year)…when judge Neil Gorsuch was up for a vote, the Senate had unanimous Democratic opposition and forced McConnell to nuke the filibuster (which had only ever worked in one direction anyway and was therefore useless). So there is a spine in there. Somewhere.

  • For all commenters like Ed complain about "both-sides-ism", he tends to be guilty of it when talking about the Democrats, in an indirect sort of way. There is an implicit assumption in articles like this that, because the Republicans tend to speak and act uncompromisingly and openly trash their opponents, the Democrats should respond symmetrically. This would be logical if the two parties were similar organizations with similar constituencies, but they really aren't.

    The GOP benefits from acting the way it does because its constituency is fairly homogenous. It's white, it self-identifies as Conservative, it isn't that interested in post-secondary education beyond technical subjects, it's pro-police and military, and it is predominantly at leas lower-middle class.

    The Dems, on the other hand, are a coalition that has to cater to pretty much everyone else to win. So that ranges from self-identified conservatives whose beliefs are fairly similar to republicans, to the majority of self-identified Liberals, to the left, and pretty much every minority.

    So, while the Republicans are best served by "my way or the highway" talking points, they are a risk for Democrats, who have a much more diverse coalition of constituencies to cater to.

    So Schumer might not be a great example of a Dem politician (he compares unfavorably to Pelosi, even), there are good reasons the Dems and GOP adopt the strategies they do, and why they don't respond symmetrically to the actions of their opponents.

  • "The GOP benefits from acting the way it does because its constituency is fairly homogenous."

    Wrong, they're fucking racists and wannabe Einsatz Kommando. But, yes, they are very NOTNICE people.

    Ed:

    R u serious? WTF–You couldn't find anyone worse–did you try looking at any, oh, I don't know republicans? No, I don't mean, "any" as in a sampling. I mean, "any" as in EVERY FUCKING LAST ONE OF THEM.

    I get that nobody likes Chuck Schumer or any other democrat that is currently in office, but, c'mon, man–he's the worst person in the world over the last 12 months.

    That's metastatic hyperbole gold, there, babe.

  • I'm not going to stand up for Schumer or tell Ed he's wrong about any of that, but you've got to realize that when it comes to U.S. Senators from New York, yeah, it's true that the Democratic nominee can't conceivably lose the general election — but it's every bit as inconceivable that a candidate can *become* the Democratic nominee without being a waffling, centrist tool of Wall Street. YOU just try building state-wide name recognition in a state that big without the campaign contributions of everyone in the financial industry. You won't. It's impossible.

    The New York Senators will not be the people pushing public policy to the left any time soon, they'll be Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Hillary Clinton… remember when Bank of America gave Harold Ford, Jr. a million dollar 'retainer', had him move to New York, and then started floating his name as a possible U.S. Senate candidate? Yeah. They buy these people off the shelf like so many jars of peanut butter. We say it happens everywhere, and it does, but New York, New York, it's a hell of a town. Erm, state.

  • There's "worst" in the sense of "most evil," and then there's "worst" in the sense of "poorest quality." Mitch McConnell (my immediate "shoulda been THAT guy" choice) is an evil motherfucker, but one cannot deny that, as Richard Dreyfuss says of the shark in JAWS, he's "a miracle of evolution"–that is, a soullessly efficient device, the sole purpose of which is enforcing an agenda. McConnell gets shit done. ("Shit" being very much the operative word.) Is he "worse" than Chuck Schumer? Well, he's eviller. But in terms of the quality of the product, Schumer is SO feckless that you almost have to step back and wonder whether at some point he's not just an enabler of McConnell's evil–he's a partner. There's an argument to be made, in other words–and that fact alone, makes him a valid choice.

    I'd still rather see McConnell struck down by a clump of blue ice, though.

  • @ J. Dryden:

    I'm thinking kindathesameshit.

    Schumer is lucky he wasn't around when the douchebag was invented, just saying.

    OTOH, NY, for all of it's faults is an infinitely better place to live than any state in the South and much of the wild west. Well, unless you've already used a state like NY to care for your elderly parents until they shuffle off and sent your kids to mostly well equipped and staffed schools K–12 and then got them a college education in a somewhat well funded state college system.

    Yeah, other than that who the fuck wouldn't want to live in someplace like the Caroilinas, Floribama or Missishithole where social safety nets are for pussies. Those places are all, btw, run by the great grandsons of the confederacy and wannabes.

    Thanks, but no thanks; as fucked up as Schumer might be, he's infinitely better than some asshole like McConnell.

  • I spent five years of my Air Force career in Mississippi. When I transferred out of there, I stopoed my car at the state line and burned rubber across it.

  • Chuckie refuses to wear bifocals, just like he refuses to facilitate any intrepid political intervention. Accommodating a nest of sociopolitical, saw-scaled vipers only introduces more hemotoxins and cytotoxins into our nation's already compromised immune system.

  • I think @Z has nailed it on this one, meaning that the problem is (a)structural and (b)not fixable by NY itself. Shit like this is why we need a wealth tax: suck enough money out of Wall Street (and the NJ pharmas) that they can't dump losers like this on the rest of us.

  • I'm sure some fans of Crooks And Liars and other centrist Democrats will be very upset with you now

    [crickets]

    No outrage ensued. No one likes Lieberman.
    The notional "Democrats who admire Lieberman" are like the Democrats who actually don't want progressive policies: mostly all in the heads of people who need someone to despise.
    People with political experience tend to pursue the art of the possible.
    This often seems insufficient or weak to those who desire a more aspirational politics but don't themselves have to do the footwork or find the votes to make those policies a reality.

  • We could nominate the most boring, centrist, bluest of blue-dog Democrats and they would still paint them as the second coming of Karl Marx.

    It's what they do.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Great rant!

    And yeah, (Up)Chuck Schumer is about as useful as mammaries on a male bovine, and as tough as a "comfy chair!"

    But he knows how to count!
    Money, silly!!!
    What did you think?
    Votes?
    Silly you.

    Happy New Year, all!

  • centrist … appeared

    Let's see: I donated substantial sums to the campaigns of AOC, Sharice Davids, Deb Haaland, Ted Lieu, Tammy Baldwin, Jacky Rozen, Stacy Abrams, Harley Rouda, and very little to the DCCC.
    I have nothing good to say about Joe Biden or Steny Hoyer, and wish Chuck Schumer would wake up and realize that the Senate he remembers actually died with Gingrich. I spent years pointing out that Wasserman-Schulz was a bad Dem and a bad legislator. I despise Lieberman.

    I don't really care what label you paste on me, since my secondary point is that your habit of preemptive labeling obscures reality from your view. (My primary point is your prediction that centrists would hasten to defend Lieberman turned out completely false: no one yet has defended that indefensible sack of sanctimony and self-regard).

    Bless your heart.

  • joel hanes:

    Reading comprehension much?

    The fervid centrist defense (which you provided) is of Chuck Schumer, not Lieberman himself. Lieberman is only the name of the Award. Proving Mister Sterling's point precisely.

  • Alaska's Senator "Ohio Dan" Sullivan, R-Koch Sockpuppet, is using Schumer as an excuse.

    A friend posted to Facebook:
    "When I called Sullivan this morning, his very polite staff read me his statement from a few days ago, bemoaning the shutdown but also saying that there shouldn't be a fight over just $5B when (he says) Democrats were offering $25B some time ago."

    Another friend fact-checked:
    "Schumer offered, then quickly withdrew that $25billion with shutdown in January 2018 following criticism from Dems."

    And now, back to thinking unprintable thoughts…

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