Members of an opposing political party are usually not focused on the internal affairs of their opponents, but Senator Chuck Schumer is riveted by the GOP “civil war.” Throughout the past few years, he has offered almost daily analysis and comments on the internal strife within the party, expressing his strong desire for the party elites to emerge victorious. He has finally poured out his heart in a New York Times op-ed, calling for an end to closed primaries, primarily because of the Republican civil war.
Is Chuck Schumer suddenly planning to become a Republican? Why is he so fascinated with Republican politics? Shouldn’t he be more concerned with Democrat internal affairs?
Upon further scrutiny of Schumer’s intent, his obsession with Republican politics makes a lot of sense. While it’s important to pick the players on your own team, it is even more effective to pick your opponents. In this op-ed Schumer clearly reveals that there is only one type of Republican he truly fears, and if he had the power to change the laws governing elections, he would make sure that Republicans only elect politicians who will serve as straw-men opposition to the liberal agenda.
Schumer is advocating for open primaries so that, in his own words, Democrats and Independents can prevent “extreme” candidates from winning the Republican primary:
“But primaries poison the health of that system and warp its natural balance, because the vast majority of Americans don’t typically vote in primaries. Instead, it is the “third of the third” most to the right or most to the left who come out to vote — the 10 percent at each of the two extremes of the political spectrum. Making things worse, in most states, laws prohibit independents — who are not registered with either party and who make up a growing proportion of the electorate — from voting in primaries at all.
The phenomenon of primaries’ pulling people to the extremes seems more prevalent in the Republican Party, where centrists and moderates are increasingly rare, as a result of a combination of factors since the 1970s — the shift of Southern states toward Republican control, the mobilization of evangelical voters around social issues, anti-tax movements in California and elsewhere, and the rise of conservative talk radio and other news media.
The inherent problem with Schumer’s logic is that if closed primaries are responsible for extreme candidates pervading the political process, what does he have to fear? After all, if they only represent 10% of the electorate, they will easily be defeated and repudiated. Moreover, is Schumer suddenly concerned about the electoral viability and political future of the Republican Party? As the lead partisan Democrat, wouldn’t he celebrate the self-destruction of his opposition?
All of these questions are obviously self-explanatory. Chuck Schumer would like to go back to the days when Republicans were exclusively controlled by the likes of Bob Michael and Bob Dole. He wants Republicans to continue bringing a Lamar Alexander or a Thad Cochran to a Chuck Schumer fight. He doesn’t want Republicans to actually fight his liberal agenda with equal and opposing force. That is why he wants to implement a system to preempt the election of conservatives like Ted Cruz or Chris McDaniel.
Implicit in this op-ed is the sense that Schumer doesn’t fear Republicans like Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, Mitch McConnell, and Pat Roberts. He knows that they stand for nothing, appeal to nobody, and will ultimately never pursue a conservative agenda in a meaningful way. They will continue to perpetuate their own power, and even grant vacuous gestures to their conservative voters when it is convenient, but they will never fundamentally undermine the growth of government. And Chuck Schumer would like to keep it that way.
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