A lesson Chuck Schumer is quickly learning, if he hadn’t already: He won’t be able to count on “centrist” (read: right-leaning) Democrats to help him sink Donald Trump’s newest nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
That much was made unduly clear in a Politico story published Friday morning, in which multiple red state Democrats, who are in a particularly vulnerable position ahead of the midterms, basically told the Senate minority leader to fuck off if he thinks he can “whip” them—that is, dictate how they should vote—on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“I’ll be 71 years old in August, you’re going to whip me? Kiss my you know what,” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told the site when asked if Schumer could influence which way he’ll vote.
Manchin, along with Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first selection for the high court, last year. All three also told Politico that there’s not a goddamn thing Schumer can do about their votes on Kavanaugh, with Donnelly saying, “My decision won’t have anything to do with Chuck Schumer,” and Heitkamp vowing “to vote the way I’m going to vote regardless of what the leader says.”
That rebellion in the ranks extends beyond the Gorsuch-supporting senators. Senator Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, who’s facing a tough re-election race, told Politico that “Chuck knows better” than to try to influence which way she’ll vote.
“He doesn’t come to me and say: ‘You’ve got to vote with us on this.’ He knows I’ll tell him to take a flyin’ leap,” McCaskill said. “I’m going to do what I think is right. It has nothing to do with the party.”
OK, great! No one can be counted on to do this simple correct thing, which is fighting this confirmation tool and nail, even if they don’t have the votes to stop it. (Schumer knows intimately what a thin margin for error he’s dealing with: To sink Kavanaugh, he needs all 49 of the Senate’s Democrats to vote “no” while also getting at least one moderate Republican to break rank.)
We already knew that making concessions to Republicans (which are made very politely but carry serious real-world implications for people who aren’t elected officials) is absolutely no assurance that they’ll be reasonable or do the right thing down the road.
So color me shocked that after years of scare tactics about the party being dragged too far to the left, Schumer finds that the rarest beast of all—the “centrist”—isn’t much help at all in his moment of need. It’s worth remembering who our fair-weather friends are in the months ahead, when we finally get the chance to pick our allies more wisely.