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Letters to Schumer: Stop Resistance Theatre and Lead

Letters to Schumer #6

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Letters to Schumer is a series in which we’re publishing a collection of Natalie Holme Elsberg’s letters sent to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Find the previous letter here.

I started writing letters to Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, (and arguably most senior Democrat), shortly after I discovered Resistbot. I sit in a darkened room with my little ones as they fall asleep after story time. As I scroll through the news of the day, every story brings a new outrage.

Resistbot turns words you send it into a letter and faxes it off to Washington D.C. Much more cathartic than haranguing my neighbors, children, family, dinner companions, and fellow dog-walkers and strangers with my daily outrage! And *maybe* more effective. Sometimes I can’t resist SHOUTING at Senator Schumer IN ALL CAPS, because …. WTF CHUCK?! I think of it as putting Senator Chuckie on notice. Hey, at least he won’t be able to say: “Nobody told me!”

On the theory that our elected Democratic Party representatives may not actually have a clue, I have been employing my texting thumbs to complain, cajole, and educate them on their mistakes and also on what progressive policy looks like. (Resistbot will send your letter to all of your Senators and Congresspeople if you ask it to.) On their federal responsibilities, and their duty to coordinate and empower state and local government. The right wing and Tea Party activists together with ALEC successfully took over legislation and policy at the state and local level while the Democratic Party was asleep at the wheel. A group of us got together and formed LEAP, which is putting together progressive model legislation for the state and local level — watch this space.

So consider these templates and examples — you can do it too. Feel free to copy, paste, send, call, fax or scribble a postcard. Holding our reps accountable is an important part of the renaissance in democratic engagement we see going on in town halls and protests across the nation. Let’s push them in a progressive direction and promote the progressive narrative. It takes 5-10 minutes a day…and it’s better therapy than yelling at the Rachel Maddow Show.

Natalie Holme Elsberg



June 14, 2017

Senator Charles E. Schumer

322 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

(201) 224-6542



Dear Senator Schumer,


Saudi Arabia: When Are You Going To Stop Your Resistance Theatre and Lead on Human Rights And Terrorism?

Congratulations on finally coming around to disapproving Trump’s plan to ship over $500 million of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia.  What took you so long?

According to the Huffington Post you said, “The human rights and humanitarian concerns have been well documented and are important”.  In addition, you said: “Of equal concern to me is that the Saudi government continues to aid and abet terrorism via its relationship with Wahhabism and the funding of schools that spread extremist propaganda throughout the world.”  

The U.S.’s long standing support of Saudi Arabia has been detrimental to our security, our democracy and our standing in the world.  Why were you not concerned about human rights and the spread of extremest Wahhabi propaganda when you declined to table the weapons deal under President Obama in 2016?  Are we really to believe that your sudden concern for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has brought about your about-face?  Instead of grandstanding with Tweets mocking the President’s absurd cabinet meetings, why don’t you try actually leading on the issues of Saudi Arabia, Human Rights and Terrorism?  Leadership would involve a critical re-thinking of our long-standing alliance with, and support of the purveyor of “Wahhabism and the funding of schools that spread extremist propaganda” as you put it a mere two days ago (and several decades late, I might add).  Voters are justifiably skeptical of your bona fides.

For instance, the situation in Yemen has been a deteriorating disaster of violence and displacement in one of the region’s poorest countries since at least March of 2015..  More importantly, the Saudi air force has been using U.S. weapons to bomb schools, hospitals, plus food and water infrastructure since Houthi rebels toppled the Saudi-backed government – more than two years ago!  Where was your humanitarian concern then?  While I applaud your sudden empathy for the terrible crisis in Yemen, it seems to the casual observer that perhaps you are opportunely using the moment to theatrically oppose Trump, rather than advance a principled and defensible position on our engagement with that region.  

Senator McCain and others have tried to cast the Yemeni strife as the work of Iran.  Even if that were true, which many dispute, what business does the U.S. have essentially stoking and escalating yet another proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East?  Were the humanitarian disasters of the other proxy wars not sufficiently well-documented for you back in 2016?  Have the dangers of Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of the Taliban and various “charities” promoting international terrorism not been a sufficient reason to avoid arming the Saudis previously? Really?  Or were you previously just fine with selling weapons to Saudi Arabia’s repressive monarch, autocrats, and strongmen?  Was it not abundantly clear that further destabilization in the region could provide yet another a vacuum and haven for the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS to fill, and threaten U.S. security once again?  Has this geopolitical analysis (which is widely available to anybody who can read) suddenly struck you with a thunderbolt of moral clarity?  Or, are you just engaging in Resistance Theatre? Again, voters are skeptical.

Most sickening is the absolute moral bankruptcy with which American lawmakers (including you) have supported weapons deals and manufacture under the rubric of “jobs” for the U.S. weapons industry of death.  For example: “We need this,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said of the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. “We’re gonna sell arms to them.” He added, “Create jobs, but they’re also an ally.”  Not much different from when you asked for an extra $100 million for fighter jets to “support 150” jobs, upstate, is it?  (It’s interesting to note in this context, that Lockheed Martin was your fourth highest campaign donor for a total of $103,950.00.)  So, in the recent past you have been in the company of Senator Shelby, and equally guilty of peddling war, death, famine and with nary a word for Yemen’s “humanitarian concerns,” – when the world has not closely watching how well you oppose a President’s agenda, Senator Schumer.  It is disgraceful and hypocritical, and you ought to cut it out.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate progress on your part on progressive issues (albeit glacial and incremental).  And I do applaud principled opposition to Trump’s venal agenda.  May the catastrophe of this kleptocratic, incompetent Administration guide you to your best, and most consistently principled self!   Yet your previous voting history and the timing and justification of this recent, welcome about-face give your voters pause about the sincerity of your consistent commitment to these issues.

Now is the time for moral clarity, not political opportunism and grandstanding.  So I ask you, again, When Are You Actually Going To Lead on Saudi Arabia, Human Rights And Terrorism?


Sincerely yours,



Natalie Holme Elsberg

Former student anti-apartheid activist, extremely vetted immigrant, mom of three and devoted spouse, outraged citizen and Bernie bro, believer in shared prosperity and equal justice for all.

Follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieElsberg. She also works with LEAP , which you can follow on Twitter @advprogress.

Natalie is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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