With Moveon.org and Credo reeling from Senator Schumer's (D-New York) announced opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, some grassroots Democratic Party activists are looking to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to put up his dukes to fight for the job as Senate Majority Leader, should the Democrats retake the Senate in 2016. Roll Call pundit Stuart Rothenberg predicts Democrats are likely to win control of the Senate because Republicans, who now enjoy a 54-46 edge, face an uphill battle defending 24 seats, including seven that twice cast their electoral votes for Obama and two (Indiana and North Carolina) that voted for Obama in 2008. Democrats, on the other hand, must only defend ten seats, eight of which are anchored in strong blue districts.
Former DC roommates, Durbin and Schumer have taken divergent stands on war and peace, with Schumer, former head of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, voting for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002 and opposing the Iran Nuclear Deal with mind-bending statements like, "… it seems to me when it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.”
Durbin, a former trial lawyer and now Senate Minority Whip, voted against the Iraq War Resolution and is mobilizing votes to thwart a Senate 2/3rd (67 votes) override of President Obama's anticipated veto of Senate efforts to block the nuclear deal. Durbin writes, "I commend our negotiators for this critical effort. Finding a diplomatic solution will make our country, our allies, and the world a safer place.”
Mobilizing to prevent Schumer's Senate ascendancy may be the most practical way grassroots Democrats can channel their anger at a perceived rush to war on Iran.
Initially, Durbin said he wanted the job of Majority Leader but then last spring Schumer leapt to the front of the line with retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s blessing. In the wee hours of the morning, Durbin reportedly shook Schumer's hand and wished him luck, but what happened next is unclear. The National Journal reports the Durbin camp claimed Schumer promised to endorse his former roomie to become Senate Majority Whip in exchange for Durbin's support for Schumer to become Senate Majority Leader. The Schumer camp denied such a deal was made, perhaps looking to Washington Senator Patty Murray (or Elizabeth Warren?) to become the Party's Whip when the Democrats make a comeback.
This rivalry over which Democrat becomes the next Senate Majority Leader is a fundamental fight over policy—diplomacy vs. war—albeit with political repercussions from the Party’s disciplinarians. This is not a playground mini-brawl between two overachievers looking to land on the last chair when the music stops.
In the latest challenge to this not-so-done-senate-leadership-deal, Moveon.org sent out an email blast and posted web announcements urging their 8-million subscribers to withhold campaign money from Democrats who oppose the Joint Comprehensive Agreement (Iran nuclear deal) and to lobby against committee leadership posts for the naysayers, as well.
MoveOn.org's Political Action Director Ilya Sheyman didn't mince words regarding Schumer's alignment with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Republicans in opposing the President. "Our country doesn't need another Joe Lieberman in the Senate, and it certainly doesn't need him as Democratic leader. No real Democratic leader does this." Sheyman was referencing the former Connecticut lawmaker, a Democrat-turned-Independent following a near-fatal Primary challenge, who often cozied up to Republicans.
Soon after Schumer announced his opposition to the agreement requiring increased UN inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, Credo posted a petition, now with over 152,000 signatures, urging Schumer and the Democratic leadership not to take us to war on Iran. The title of the petition reads, "Senator Chuck Schumer: Wrong on Iraq, wrong on Iran, wrong for Senate Democratic leadership."
A Daily Kos blogger (Warren 2016) threw a few tomatoes, as well, posting, "Schumer NO-Durbin YES; Harry's replacement should be Dick, not Chuck." In addition, a Daily Kos petition, signed by over 31,000 activists, reads, "If we want to stop another war, we need to say loud and clear right now what we think of Schumer's horrendous decision."
Mobilizing to prevent Schumer's Senate ascendancy may be the most practical way grassroots Democrats can channel their anger at a perceived rush to war on Iran, as well as challenge the seemingly invincible AIPAC and its slick $40 million campaign to kill the nuclear deal with a barrage of media ads, phone calls to constituents, and “free” lawmaker junkets to Israel.
On the Moveon.org website, next to the banner "Sixty Days to Stop a War" is the message, "We can't outspend the war-hawks who are trying to sabotage the historic agreement to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon—but we can out-organize them to prevent another costly war of choice in the Middle East."