Harry Reid endorses Chuck Schumer to succeed him as Democratic Senate leader

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX17GRH

Harry Reid (left) and Chuck Schumer

Harry Reid’s surprise retirement announcement has left a wide-open race to succeed him back home in Nevada, but his replacement as Democratic Senate leader looks a lot clearer. Reid quickly endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer for the post, while Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Schumer’s chief rival for the top job, reportedly has told colleagues he would not seek a promotion. (Durbin is currently number two in the Democratic caucus, Schumer number three.)
A couple of other names—Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet—surfaced as early possibilities, but with Schumer consolidating support, they’re unlikely to challenge him. (If anything, Murray, the fourth-ranking member of the caucus, might go after Durbin’s job as chief whip.) For good measure, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive favorite, has said that she, too, would not run.

Assuming Schumer does indeed take over for Reid, what does this mean for the Democratic Party? Matt Yglesias makes a convincing argument that the answer is “not a whole lot“:

Legislative leaders are important people. But especially in the US Senate, leadership is more like being captain of a rec league basketball team than like being a coach in the NCAA tournament. You can only lead the caucus in directions the members are willing to follow, and the imperatives of doing the job often mean the leader’s priorities change as much—if not more so—than the party’s. […]
There are real differences between Schumer and Reid. As a New York legislator, Schumer takes a kinder view of Wall Street as something of a hometown industry. He also is a genuinely passionate and fired-up hawk on Israel-related issues. But it would be a mistake to think his ascension would lead to a massive Democratic Party reorientation in favor of Bibi Netanyahu and Jamie Dimon. If anything, the opposite. If he becomes leader, Schumer will have to sand down the edges of his personal approach to politics in order to better fit the posture of generic Democratic leader. This is one reason the Warren idea is so ridiculous—if your passion in life is picking intra-party fights, a leadership job would be a disaster.

Yglesias offers a good illustration of how this exact process worked on Reid, who began his career declaring he was “pro-life.” But in his time in charge, he operated as a loyally partisan pro-choice leader because that’s where his caucus stood. This isn’t to say that Schumer will transform into a progressive hero overnight, but he’ll be beholden to his fellow Democrats—and in this case, that’s a good thing.
There’s also one definite positive here: Unlike Reid, Schumer will never have to worry about re-election, since he represents safely blue New York. Reid always faced difficult campaigns, and his role as party leader made him more vulnerable, perhaps to the point that he felt it necessary to shy away from some national battles in order to preserve his chances of victory back home.

Continue reading “Harry Reid endorses Chuck Schumer to succeed him as Democratic Senate leader”

The Fix: Elizabeth Warren: The id of the Democratic party

There is perhaps no other politician on the national scene right now who has a clearer identity than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She is the unvarnished id of her party, providing that gut check, that heart part of every issue that others can’t seem to muster. And she does it in what appears to be carefully planned exchanges and performances.  (Perhaps only Chris Christie rivals her YouTube greatest hits collection).Read full article >>

Hillary Clinton’s presidency is not inevitable, but it is as close to it as we’ve seen in years

Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally for Democratic challenger for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, October 9, 2014. The general election day in Pennsylvania will be held on November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mar

Hillary Clinton remains the frontrunner in primary and general election polling for president in 2016.

Depending on your stance on the presumptive Democratic frontrunner, many casual political observers are either confident or resigned when faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton avenging the narrow defeat of her 2008 campaign for president and sweeping her way both to the Democratic nomination and into the White House.
Which is why, it seems, those who are critical of the former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State seem very invested in crushing this creeping sense of inevitability about her 2016 prospects.

On the right, we have seen a lot of “she’s really not that popular, folks” (here is a nice little tweet in that vein).

And, now, we are seeing a similar pushback on the left. Late in January, a handful of wealthy Democrats still pining for an Elizabeth Warren candidacy financed a survey that had a battery of message-testing questions clearly designed to show that Clinton had vulnerabilities on a whole host of issues, ones that could hamstring her both in the primary and in the general election.

Make no mistake—there is potential merit in both efforts at pushback, on the right and the left. However, there are also substantial issues with both critiques, and the fact remains that Hillary Clinton is arguably in a more enviable position heading into a presidential election cycle than anyone in over a generation. Follow me past the fold to look at why these critiques of the “Clinton inevitability” are more nuanced than they appear, and why Clinton might be in a more commanding position than any of the “frontrunners” of the recent past.

The Fix: The chairwoman of the DNC just bashed MSNBC. What’s going on here?

In this day and age, every elected official should speak and act like every single thing they do and say is being recorded and at some point will become public. And that’s especially true if your tenure as the head of an organization has been as rocky as Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s at the Democratic National Committee.Read full article >>

Democrats saved the economy. Republicans tried to kill it.

Four years ago, Republicans led by then-new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) began taking credit for the economic progress made since the Bush recession began in December 2007. Just 19 days after the GOP had assumed control of the House, Cantor issued a statement declaring, “THERE ARE THE JOBS: Republicans Prevent Massive Tax Increase, Economy Begins to Improve.” In February 2012, then-Virginia governor and future convicted felon Bob McDonnell assumed the role of GOP mythmaker, explaining, “Look, I’m glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it’s because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president.”
Now, the arsonists are once again taking credit for putting out the fire. During his holiday break from drowning government in a bathtub, Grover Norquist comically demanded Republicans take credit for the strengthening Obama recovery. Less than 24 hours after he picked up the majority leader’s gavel, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dutifully complied:

After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.

Of course, McConnell isn’t just wrong about the timing of the accelerating Obama recovery, which in the second and third quarters of 2014 had ramped up long before a GOP takeover of the Senate seemed likely. As it turns, the Republican Party deserves zero credit for the improving American economy. Make that less than zero. After all, from their opposition to the stimulus, the auto industry rescue, and the fed’s “quantitative easing,” to their debt-ceiling hostage-taking and draconian austerity policies in Washington and the states, Republicans have been undermining the economic recovery from the moment Barack Obama first took the oath of office.

Continue reading about the Republicans’ economic sabotage below.

The Fix: Democrats are learning to loath themselves, just like Republicans

Republicans have been a party divided for a few years now, with the tea party feuding with the establishment in hopes of guiding the party down a more conservative path.A byproduct of this was that many Republicans decided they didn’t much like their own political party. And so, for years, the Republican Party’s image lagged behind the Democratic Party’s.Read full article >>

She may not want to, but we need Elizabeth Warren to run for president

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton

The country needs her to run. So does our party. And so does Hillary Clinton.

The midterms didn’t go so well. As I said about a week ago, the Democrats should have run on economic populism. They should have put forth a coherent vision of where they want to take our country, one that includes a frank assessment of our current problems, and a concrete set of proposals to address them. Instead they tried to run to the right of President Obama by distancing themselves from Obamacare and other administration priorities. One candidate even tried to keep “private” the fact that she voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.
Democrats will never win by running as what Harry Truman called “phony Democrats.” We can only win by contrasting what we believe and what we’ve done when in power with the beliefs and actions of our Republican opponents. There is no alternative. And there’s no one in our party better suited to make that contrast to the American people than the woman who said this:

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. […]
The Republican vision is clear: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.

[snip] Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.

That woman, of course, is Elizabeth Warren. And damn if those words don’t get me excited. Many people have said this before. I’m one of them. But I’m going to say it again, because it must be said after our losses in the midterms: We need Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Whether she wins or loses, no one else can more effectively reshape the message and policy agenda of the Democratic Party, and there’s no better way for her to do so than with the platform of a White House run.

Please join me for more discussion beyond the fold.