Thursday, January 25, 2018


To their credit, Democrats in the U.S. senate have kept
routinely a solid front for most of the past decade, both
when they had a majority and when they were in the
minority, as they are now.

The architect of this solid front was former Senator Harry
Reid of Nevada who often applied Draconian methods to
senate rules and procedures. He was succeeded as party
senate leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who
in the minority has faced new challenges as Democrats
attempt to recover from their shocking upset defeat in the
2016 presidential election --- and in the prospect of
defending many more vulnerable senate seats than
the Republicans will in this year’s mid-term elections.

That solid front more or less collapsed recently when the
Democrats abandoned a brief government funding
shutdown. Realizing that the  party held responsible for a
shutdown invariably takes a big hit in public opinion,
almost all the vulnerable liberal senators, and many not
even running this year for re-election, voted to pass a
continuing funding resolution. It will be necessary to vote
again in February, but it seems clear that the Democrats
now realize that shutting down the government is not a
winning strategy.

Minority Leader Schumer is now a man in the middle of
two opposite directions pulling his party apart. On the one
hand, the Democratic Party’s left wing, led by Senators
Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts, as well as more radical groups want to
insist on policies and programs which cannot now become
law. On the other hand, the mainstream Democrats, who
range from former vice president Joe Biden to Senator Joe
Manchin of West Virginia, want to appeal to moderate
and independent voters with a message that might compete
successfully with the one now advocated by President Donald
Trump and his party.

There is a lot at political stake in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Democrats have recently been optimistic that a “blue wave”
will bring them back control of the U.S. house and keep most
of their vulnerable senate seats.

But the brief government shutdown, forced by senate
Democrats, highlights how fragile this optimism might be.
Faced with a challenge to their political survival, most of the
vulnerable liberal senators chose prudence over a “solid
front.” Senator Manchin now has also declared that he
agrees with President Trump about building a wall. Another
shutdown confrontation is unlikely.

Like his fellow New Yorker, President Trump, Senator
Schumer is someone who can make a deal. Beginning with
the tax cut legislation at the end of the year, Mr. Trump has
begun to unite his party in Congress behind his programs.
Mr. Schumer must now do the same for his party, but the
presidential ambitions of some of his senate colleagues,
and the pull to the left by groups and individuals in the
party’s radical base, has loosed a "conflict genie" into the
Democratic political conversation, and made his job much
more difficult.

Liberals and their media friends chuckled and smiled
when  conservatives broke into factions (as the GOP has
done so often in recent years). Now division has broken out
in their own camp, and no one is laughing.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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