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How The Left Quit Worrying and Learned to Love Chuck Schumer


How The Left Quit Worrying and Learned to Love Chuck Schumer

As the leader of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer quite literally has 99 problems. But the New York Democrat has managed to completely eliminate one: a primary challenge in his home state this year.

Even before he took the reins as Senate majority leader last January, Schumer was stalked by chatter that a prominent progressive New Yorker might run against him in 2022. And Democrats’ disappointment with Schumer’s Senate has only grown as the party’s agenda on everything from climate change to voting rights dies a slow and painful death in the chamber.

Furious Democrats, especially in progressive hubs like New York, haven’t been in the mood to let their leaders off the hook. But when it comes to Schumer, a funny thing happened: There may not be a worse time to be him in Washington—or a better time to be him in New York.

With the primary six months away, Schumer is cruising to a fifth term without so much as a symbolic challenge. It’s not an accident.

Even while he’s been consumed with the Democratic agenda in Washington, Schumer has been almost impossible to escape in New York. He has crashed Brooklyn stoop parties on his bike, ridden along with striking taxi cab drivers, rallied for bike delivery workers, and Merengue’d with the city’s Puerto Rican political elite in San Juan. During the pandemic, he has constantly popped up, New Yorkers say, on the most obscure of Zoom meetings.

It’s all vintage Schumer, whose appetite and aptitude for flooding the zone in New York borders on the legendary and, sometimes, the absurd. Many longtime observers believe he’s somehow found a new gear back home.

“Chuck defies the laws of political gravity,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). “Even as he’s risen to Majority Leader, he’s become more visible locally than ever before.”

A distant incumbent is a common ingredient for a successful primary. That was never going to be Schumer. But in parsing the senator’s frenetic schedule, a newer trend is clear: A heightened strategic outreach to the left-wing constituencies that would be most inclined to support a primary challenge.

Schumer’s charm…

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