Getting to No

Taking a page out of Paul Ryan’s old D.A.R.E. notebooks

Image: marc falardeau

Senator Schumer’s staffers were all lazing around, playing Would You Rather. It had been a long day on the Hill, as usual. They were cracking open Bud heavies and happy, for once in a long time, because their boss had promised to do the right thing: filibuster Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Chuck Schumer barged in, cocky as Foghorn Leghorn. “I did it guys. I did what you wanted me to. I stood up to Mitch McConnell,” Chuck said.

“We got the New York Times alert!” The staffers clinked their bottles again. The one they all called Fuller knocked the bottom of his bottle against the mouth of Marnie’s bottle, so that beer flowed like a foam party.

“Now how are we going to do this?” Chuck Schumer asked, avoiding his temptation to set up Fuller and Marnie. “How are we going to get the fence sitters to no?”

“Leave that to me, boss. As a former Bernie Bro I know how to say no.”

“Yes, sure, Fuller. But we need a game plan. We need to actualize the nos. A step-by-step guide for my colleagues who aren’t used to saying the word.”

“I have an idea,” Marnie said. She whispered to Fuller, “Remember the D.A.R.E. program? Eight ways to say no to drugs? What where they…” Marnie was already Googling on her phone. “Here they are.” Marnie tilted her phone into Chuck Schumer’s face.

“These might work. Fuller, print this out.” Schumer handed Fuller Marnie’s phone. “Make enough copies for the caucus and have them laminated. Actually make hundreds. I want to wallpaper the Senate with these. In the dining room. When Senator Kaine is ironically slathering his burnt steak in ketchup I want him reading these. In the gym. When Senator Feinstein is walking her 10,000 steps on the treadmill I want her reading these.”

“Does it matter that Nancy Reagan probably came up with the list?” Marnie asked.

Chuck Schumer wasn’t listening. “Marnie, let’s go. Fuller, meet us in Senator Bennet’s office. President Obama said that Michael could lead us into the future. Well, here is his chance.”

Chuck Schumer and Marnie stood in the doorway of Michael Bennet’s Senate Office.

“Senator Bennet, where are you on Neil Gorsuch?” the Senator from New York asked.

“Chuck, you know he is from Colorado like I am. I have my staff out in the district this week, going to craft breweries and ski slopes to temp check my constituents. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

“Perfect. We came here to teach you how to vote no,” Chuck Schumer explained. “Marnie, pretend you’re Judge Gorsuch.”

“I am a judge who wants all truck drivers to work for free and in the blistering cold. Until, that is, they are replaced by self-driving trucks. Will you please put me on the Supreme Court?” Marnie asked, deepening her voice for effect.

Fuller arrived with the laminated print-outs. Chuck Schumer handed Senator Bennet a guide.

“It’s very simple. Just pick one of these strategies.” Senator Schumer handed a laminated guide to Senator Bennet. “You can do, let’s see.” Chuck Schumer fumbled for his glasses. “Marnie, can you read these for my colleague from Colorado?”

“Number one. Saying, ‘No thanks.’” Marnie said. “So that’s like — ”

“Do you guys think parroting Nancy Reagan is what we need to be doing right now?”

“Nancy was a dear friend,” Chuck Schumer lied. “Marnie, keep reading, please.”

“Number two. Giving a reason or excuse,” Marnie said, pointing to the list. “If someone asks you if you want a beer, you could say, I don’t drink beer. As your reason. But in our case, you could be like, no, I won’t vote for Gorsuch. And your reason could be, God, there are so many.”

“Because he hates disabled children,” Chuck Schumer offered.

“Chuck,” Senator Bennet said.

Chuck gestured to Marnie to keep reading.

“Number three is: repeat refusal, or keep saying no. This is also known as the Broken Record method.”

“We brought a special guest for this one. Senator Klobuchar, please, come in,” Chuck Schumer stage managed.

“I’m Judge Gorsuch. I’m a complete asshole. Would you vote to confirm me?” Fuller, live-action role playing Neil Gorsuch, asked.

“No,” Senator Klobuchar said.

“Come on!” Fuller urged like he was used to doing so.


“Just try it!”

“No.” Senator Klobuchar said, stamping her feet.

“That’s perfect, Senator Klobuchar,” Marnie continued. “Do you understand, Senator Bennet?”

Senator Bennet was typing out an email to his chief of staff to reschedule his fundraising calls because his colleagues were wasting his time again.

“Number four is walking away,” Marnie said. “Okay, this is a fun one. It’s where you say no and walk away while saying it.”

Senator Bennet rolled his eyes. “My issue isn’t so much how to say no as it is whether to.”

“That, conveniently enough, sounds like number five,” Marnie said, holding her ground. “Which is changing the subject. Senator Klobuchar, we need again you for this one.”

Fuller and Senator Klobuchar broke past Senator Bennet and then scuff jogged into the center of the room.

“Let’s smoke some marijuana and then why don’t you vote to confirm me.” Fuller said, larping Neil Gorsuch once again.

“No. Let’s watch my new video and vote to confirm Merrick Garland instead,” Senator Klobuchar said. “I’m not sure ‘video’ works here?” she whispered to Marnie and Chuck Schumer.

“It’s fine, Klobs,” Fuller said to Senator Klobuchar as he tried to bump her fist with his.

Marnie made a note to excise the word ‘video’ from the how-to-say-no guides.

“Number six is avoid the situation. D.A.R.E. says, if you know of places where people often use drugs, stay away from those places. If you pass those places on the way home, go another way.” Marnie paused. “How would that translate in the Senate?” she asked Chuck Schumer.

“That’s the easiest one! Don’t show up to vote!”

“I can’t avoid a Supreme Court nomination vote,” Senator Bennet said. “That’s like one of our basic responsibilities as Senators.”

“Okay, then how about number seven? Giving a cold shoulder,” Marnie offered. “Senator Klobuchar?”

Amy Klobuchar scooted to the center of the room again.

“Hey! Do you want to smoke and then vote to confirm me?” Fuller-as-Gorsuch asked.

Senator Klobuchar stood silently for several beats.

“This is me ignoring Neil Gorsuch,” Amy Klobuchar explained to Michael Bennet.

“I can’t do that,” Senator Bennet said. “We sometimes run into each other fly fishing or performing other rugged activities about Colorado. I can’t ignore him.”

Marnie furrowed her brow. “Last one, then. Number eight. Strength in numbers.” Marnie cued to Senator Schumer to open the door. “The idea, I think, is that there’s power to be derived from solidarity.”

Senators Sanders, Warren, Franken, Harris, Booker, Murphy, Brown, Gillibrand, Durbin, and Duckworth entered the office, clapping in unison.

“Okay, now this is me giving you all the cold shoulder,” Michael Bennet said as he walked away.

“No, that’s you walking away, Michael. Number four,” Chuck Schumer said. “The strategy you mocked.”

“Come on, Michael. We need this,” Cory Booker pleaded. He and Dick Durbin mock tackled Senator Bennet. Fuller jumped into the scrum. “Strength in numbers!” they chanted.

“Strength in numbers, Michael. Please join us,” Chuck Schumer begged, his hands raised as if in Christian prayer. Then he repeated, “Join us” another forty-eight times, like a very broken record.