Senator Feinstein is No Longer the Progressive We Need

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Nkechi Ikem

Senator Dianne Feinstein announced earlier this month her run for a sixth term in Congress. Feinstein has spent 25 years representing California in the Senate since she was elected in 1992.

If elected to another six-year term, Feinstein could spend up to a total of 31 years in Congress if she serves the rest of her term. Feinstein is not a horrible choice, but voters should reconsider voting her in as the Democratic Party needs new, progressive faces to counter the right.

In a tweet Feinstein posted earlier this month, she wrote that there was “more to do” and suggested that she planned to tackle “ending gun violence, combating climate change, and access to healthcare.”

In general, Democrats can appreciate the sentiment. However, we need to think about what another Feinstein term means for the party.

In another election cycle, with a more united Democratic party and a less rogue Republican party, electing Feinstein wouldn’t be a problem. Feinstein’s policy record leans mostly left, and she is known for being a strong Democratic voice in Congress.

Yet, in light of Bernie Sanders and progressivism’s revival, the Democrat Party cannot  acquiesce to farther-left members without electing younger, new people of color.

California has newcomer State Senator Kevin de León, who announced his bid to run for Senate on Sunday, Oct. 15. In his email announcement, de León wrote towards people who feel tired of moderate liberalism. 

“I am running for the U.S. Senate because you deserve a seat at the table,” de León wrote. He promised to “reunite this nation with a progressive agenda.”

Kevin de León, 50, is experienced enough to make a decent run. From 2006 to 2010, de León represented the 45th district, primarily the San Fernando Valley, in the California State Assembly.

Following 2010, de León was elected to the State Senate as a 24th District Representative, which comprises some Los Angeles neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, and Echo Park. He became California State Senate President in 2014.

De Leon’s progressive streak is clearly evident in his voting record. As a State Senator, de León sponsored SB54, a bill that would “prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”

SB54, signed and passed in September, has been described as a landmark bill for undocumented residents, making California one of the first sanctuary states.

Kevin de León co-authored a bill which passed earlier this month to add a non-binary gender option, distinct from male and female, on California driver licenses.

More recently, de León said in a campaign video released that if elected to Congress, he would back the Medicare-for-all bill, a universal health care piece of legislation which Senator Bernie Sanders championed.

Feinstein’s support of the same bill has wavered, and her reason is because “the cost of single-payer is enormous.”

While this comment is not necessarily wrong, Feinstein’s critique falls short. The bill aims to provide healthcare to all Americans especially when Trump’s administration is slowly gutting the current Affordable Care Act by recently deciding to end cost-sharing subsidies.

Noting de León’s progressive record does not dismiss Feinstein’s own. Feinstein has backed many causes such as environment preservation and gun control.

After Feinstein’s announcement to run again, several progressive organizations and Democratic figures have moved to back her campaign, including Senator Kamala Harris and the United Farm Workers.

For many, Feinstein represents what women breaking the glass ceiling looks like. Feinstein has been a pioneer in her own right by being San Francisco’s first female mayor, the first woman elected to Senate from California, and the first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But Feinstein is a moderate, especially given her past support of the death penalty and her national security stances. Today’s politics call for a different type of resistance, one that is more vocal and less establishment based.

One thing Feinstein prides herself on doing is reaching across the aisle.

However, by not acknowledging America’s varied interests, Feinstein alienates many voters who are young, progressive, people of color, undocumented immigrants, and/or younger women. 

Instead of fighting for progressive causes tooth and nail, Feinstein sometimes bargains too much on issues that do not move the party forward. An example is bipartisan legislation, like the Rapid DNA Act with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August, would increase the speed at which DNA can be processed; it’s an easy sell across the aisle.

Yet, Feinstein says and does little towards criminal justice reform to reduce drug sentencing disparity between people of color and white counterparts.

In theory, Feinstein’s bipartisan efforts are a good thing. But the current political dynamic is different than when she was a young senator.

To reach “across the aisle” to a party that is merely fiscally conservative is one thing. Ultimately, voters should no longer tolerate a party or president who is silent towards and opposes LGBTQIA+ rights and immigration reform.

Feinstein seems to be unaware of this change. At a San Francisco forum, she commented that Trump “can be a good president” and told the Democratic base to “have some patience,” this August.

When Feinstein said the “duty of the American president is to bring people together, not cater to one segment of a political base,” she ineffectively addressed backlash. 

Feinstein’s generally positive voting record is insufficent to gain approval from the Democratic far-left. At most, Feinstein is a continuation of an all too patient and slightly too moderate Democratic Party.

At worst, Feinstein is what we don’t want in politics: the same person who holds a position for years and is unaware of changing political dynamics. We don’t want or need someone who impedes new ideas from new people.

As Congress’ oldest member, Feinstein has had many chances to make progressive decisions. While she may lean more liberal on some fronts, Feinstein’s security policy and death penalty support makes her more moderate at heart.

For true Californian progressivism to have a chance, voters should give State Senator Kevin de Leon a chance.


  1. Because as she’s aged she’s less in line with the Communist Manifesto? Really folks, she’s looney tunes leftist to the normals. Now of course you snowflakes may be triggered by the realization.

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