Chuck Schumer Cannot Be Serious

Following the Senate’s vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered up some, er, fighting words for his Republican colleagues who bulldozed her nomination through.

Schumer has been in the Senate since 1999. He lived through the Bush years, the brief Obama majority, and the last decade under Republicans’ (and Mitch McConnell’s) rule. The Senate GOP has expertly run laps around the Democrats’ bizarre adherence to rules and norms over the past 10 years.

With all that time, it’s fair to wonder: is Chuck Schumer serious?

The question begs because no one with that much firsthand experience would actually think the Senate Republicans care about what the American people think. They thoroughly abused their Senate majority and somehow managed to maintain it. That’s not a coincidence. Republicans are better at playing politics than Democrats are. It doesn’t matter that it’s a politics of gridlock designed to grind Washington to a halt until the country (and courts) are rebuilt on Republican whims. If the opposition is busy referencing the rules while you break them, you can get away with just about anything—like, say, stealing three Supreme Court seats.

Schumer’s sentiment is only correct in theory, and that theory no longer connects to reality. If the Democrats ever win back a majority in the Senate—which could happen next week—the GOP has no right to tell them how to govern. But Republicans simply don’t care. And neither do the American people, apparently—a Morning Consult poll last week found that 51 percent of voters approved of Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court following her Senate Judiciary hearings, up 14 points from when Trump nominated her on Sept. 26. Even Democrats’ plans to follow the rules and use them to expose the sham of Barrett’s nomination backfired. No matter what the Democrats try doing with their power, Republicans will kick and scream and make it seem like the biggest political scandal in American history. That’s how Republicans play politics, and that’s what actually sways American voters’ opinions—not playing to invisible refs and whining about norms.

The only way Schumer’s words are actually “fighting” is if Democrats follow through. If they win the presidency and flip the Senate, they’ll have an opportunity to push an aggressive agenda that addresses the last four years and actually works to improve Americans’ lives. They could potentially add justices to the Supreme Court (or impeach justices), protect the ACA and expand it, address climate change, tackle income and racial inequality, and so much more. The thing is, they had that same opportunity in 2008, did almost nothing with it, and summarily lost their majorities. And after more than a decade of failure, Schumer’s words sound like nothing more than hollowed-out politispeak that cares more about rules than actually getting things done.