Civil War: The Left Is Not Happy That Dianne Feinstein Is Running For Re-Election

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Posted: Oct 10, 2017 4:27 PM
Civil War: The Left Is Not Happy That Dianne Feinstein Is Running For Re-Election

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is running for re-election. After weeks of speculation, the California Democrat decided to come out of the bunker and announce her plans to run for anther term yesterday. The progressive Left is not happy about it. In fact, their reception has been ice cold. While Feinstein hails from deep blue California, she’s somewhat more centrist than where the progressive base is heading. Vox had a decent rundown of the situation on the ground. There is a question about whether the vocal left wing of the Democratic Party can oust an entrenched Democratic incumbent, like Feinstein. Bernie Sanders tried to boot Hillary Clinton; he lost:

Critics say Feinstein is staying on as a leader when her policies come from a previous time in the Democratic Party. "Her policies are completely out of touch with California Democrats, and we think she'd be more at home in a Republican primary,” said Corbin Trent of the Bernie Sanders-inspired group Justice Democrats, vowing to back a primary challenger. “Safe Democratic seats are the place we should be representing core Democratic values.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who has backed Justice Democrats, called Feinstein “out of touch with the grassroots” on economic and foreign policy. “The fact that the establishment is rallying around her re-election shows that DC insiders continue to privilege protecting one of their own over the voters' concerns,” added Khanna, who emphasized he is not considering a run for the seat.

But it’s far from clear if the left has the political muscle to topple the long-serving Democratic senator.

One huge obstacle when it comes to California elections: money. The state is notoriously expensive to run a successful campaign. NBC News noted how Sen. Kamala Harris had to drop $15 million in her race even though she faced no serious threat to her candidacy. Feinstein already has $3.5 million in the bank, which could balloon to a $15-20 million+ effort, especially if the left finds someone to challenge her next year. Part of the Left’s disappointment is that with Feinstein remaining, it makes it harder for younger talent to rise:

California Democrats have been anxiously circling Feinstein's seat, hoping she would create an opening for them by retiring. Up-and-coming Democrats have had little room to climb thanks to years of stable leadership from Gov. Jerry Brown, who served two previous terms in the 1970s, along with Feinstein and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, who were both first elected in 1992.

Besides money, there’s the polling. I know polls have not been the most accurate, but the 50 percent figure for Feinstein should be worrying to the senator. That’s how many voters in her own state do not wish her to seek a sixth term:

Half of likely California voters say Sen. Dianne Feinstein should not run for re-election, according to a new poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Forty-six percent of California adults and 50 percent of likely voters say Feinstein should not seek a sixth term, according to the poll. Yet the survey does not test Feinstein against any other potential candidate, and a majority of Democrats — 57 percent — say Feinstein should run again. Though Feinstein’s public approval rating has ticked down slightly from January, it stands at a relatively favorable 48 percent among California adults and 54 percent among likely voters.

And Public Policy Polling is a left-leaning firm. Still, the candidate search is on for the progressive left in this state. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has already asked Rep. Barbara Lee and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to primary Feinstein:

Arguing it’s time for Democrats “to move on” and better represent the progressive grassroots, freshman House Democrat Ro Khanna of Silicon Valley on Monday said he has contacted Rep. Barbara Lee, one of the most liberal members of Congress, and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich to urge them to challenge Feinstein's re-election in 2018.

Khanna reacted Monday to a tweet from Feinstein, the oldest member of the Senate, saying that she was "all in" and would seek a fifth full Senate term in 2018, when she will be 85. In an interview with POLITICO, the Silicon Valley Democrat said that while Californians can respect Feinstein’s “lifetime of public service,” she does not represent progressive grassroots on key issues that include privacy, “Medicare for All,” and the new innovation economy.

“She was totally out of touch when the whole debate happened on encryption,’’ that occurred between Apple and law enforcement officials in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist massacre, he said. “She didn’t even understand some of those issues."

Khanna later admitted to the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board that both Lee and Reich were “reluctant” to toss their hat into the ring. The LA Times went after those stressing Feinstein’s age, saying it’s not the best gauge for how someone will serve in office:

A birthdate alone can’t tell you much about a person. Nor is it a good guide for gauging fitness for public office. There are enough examples of stodgy young people and innovative senior citizens to throw the tired ageist tropes out the window. People of all ages drop dead every day. What matters are the qualities, ideas and energy that a candidate brings to the race and whether they are the same ones that voters want.  

It’s another example of how single-payer is being used as a litmus test among Democrats. Moreover, all of this drama is occurring in the same state where all-out civil war could erupt among Democrats. State Democrats shelved a single-payer initiative, which infuriated the far left. They’re still sour that a more establishment-like figure, Eric Bauman, is now the state party chair; the Sanders-supporting insurgent candidate Kimberly Ellis, hasn’t conceded after losing by a slim margin (60 votes). Or maybe Democrats are just mad that Feinstein admitted that Trump could be a good president. For all the faults among Republicans, and there are many—none compare to the foundational shakiness of the Democratic Party. Things are likely to get worse for the party before they get better.