Listen to the leaders of the Democratic Party, and it seems America is in some of its most dire straits in its history. In an interview with NPR regarding President Trump's assertion that he can break any law he wants, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: "We do not have a dictatorship. The Founding Fathers did not want a king." Sounds bad!
And he's not wrong. Even if Trump doesn't break the Constitution, his administration is going backwards on climate change — the most important problem facing America and the world — at a critical hinge point in the trajectory of world carbon dioxide emissions. He's got to go as soon as possible, and Democrats are the only ones who can make it happen.
But despite what he says, Schumer is neither treating Trump as the enormous crisis he in fact is, nor mounting a remotely effective opposition. He is just not up to the task history demands of him.
Probably Schumer's worst characteristic is that he is consistently using President Trump and Republican control of Congress as a handy opportunity to allow through a bunch of things rank-and-file Democrats hate.
As a fanatical Israel partisan, he has long disliked the Iran deal. He voted against it in 2015 despite the fact that it was widely popular among Democrats (and has only become more so) — oh, and also was President Obama's greatest foreign policy accomplishment. Schumer mustered limp at best opposition to Trump's decision to renege on the deal, arguing mainly that it hurt the ability to attack Iran for other actions (read: things Israel doesn't like). Schumer similarly advocated for and celebrated the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a wildly provocative move that was opposed by most of the Democratic Party.
Domestically, Schumer stood aside while quisling centrist Democrats helped pass bank deregulation — increasing the odds of another financial crisis, and eviscerating another milestone Obama accomplishment. Though Schumer voted against it himself, Harry Reid had kept similar legislation bottled up for years, and Schumer is legendary for his deference to Wall Street. It was obvious he let it through on purpose.
All of these actions harmed the opposition to Trump by splitting the party and stoking fury and despair among the party's activist base, which tended to conclude (logically enough) that Democrats are barely better than Republicans. Why bother voting for Democrats, if they're going to let a Trump enabler like Schumer run the show?
So what is Schumer doing to actually oppose Trump? Well … he did coordinate lockstep opposition to Trump on health care and taxes, which isn't nothing. And he goes on TV sometimes. Most recently, he's been trying to get media attention by loudly blaming the recent moderate spike in gas prices on Trump leaving the Iran deal and rolling back EPA efficiency standards. (While that might be somewhat true, the increase is not that large, and has already fallen considerably from late May.)
Worse, as Alex Pareene explains, this directly steps on Democratic messaging on climate change, the most important problem in the world. Liberals should rightly want higher gas prices, to help increase transportation efficiency, fund infrastructure through a higher gas tax, and cut carbon dioxide emissions. It's garbage politics, and worse still, it's so lame that nobody even pays attention. Schumer has been doing the exact same tired stunt for well over a decade, and it was exhausted even in 2005.
It's a perfect representation of why Schumer is such an inept opposition leader. The president is so good at dominating the news, with all his scandals and inflammatory rhetoric, that you need someone with energy, creativity, confidence, fighting spirit, and pizzazz to break through. Someone who is comfortable in the media spotlight, who can be funny and cutting — and maybe even someone who can think up an attention-grabbing stunt that doesn't come off like it was pulled out of a dusty three-ring binder from the 1980s.
I don't know if there even is such a person among the whole Democratic caucus, but I do know that what I have described is the exact opposite of Chuck Schumer.