It’s pretty safe to say that Chuck Schumer is going to be reelected to his New York Senate seat on Tuesday. He’s leading his Republican opponent Wendy Long by an average of 39 points in all the major polls.
But polls don’t reveal the history that Schumer may soon make: If the Democrats regain control of the Senate, the Brooklyn native is set to become the first Jewish Senate majority leader in U.S. history.
The races for Senate seats in several states (such as Missouri and Indiana) remain very close as of Tuesday afternoon.
If Democrats can’t pull out a victory, Schumer will succeed outgoing Sen. Harry Reid as Senate minority leader. (Reid picked Schumer to succeed him when he announced his retirement in March.)
Liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out the Jewish history to be made on his MSNBC show “The Last Word” on Monday night.
“That no one has seemed to notice that we are about to elect the first Jewish leader of the Senate is proof of how much ground has been won in the centuries of the American war against anti-Semitism,” O’Donnell said in a segment contrasting Schumer’s upbringing to that of fellow New Yorker Donald Trump.
“The once unimaginable is now unremarkable. That’s what progress feels like. That’s what the 21st century is supposed to feel like,” O’Donnell added.
In speaking about the Schumer and Trump families, O’Donnell explained that Trump’s father, Fred, was once arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally. Schumer’s Jewish family would have been a target of the KKK while Chuck was growing up in Brooklyn, O’Donnell noted.
Schumer’s outgoing public persona — Politico calls him an “expert schmoozer” — stands in sharp contrast to Reid’s buttoned-down manner, and observers are already noting the contrast.
“Senator Schumer has much more interest in trying to massage a message and drive a story than Senator Reid ever cared about,” Jim Manley, a former senior adviser to Reid, told The Daily News of New York. “[Reid] was always a backroom mechanics kind of guy who never claimed to want to be a spokesman for the party.”
Since there has never been a Jewish speaker of the House, Schumer on paper will become the most powerful Jewish politician in American history.
It’s another milestone in what has been a banner year for American Jews, who saw Bernie Sanders become the first Jewish politician to win a major party presidential primary.