Time comes for everyone, especially lawmakers. Some see it clearly—they understand their best days are behind them or realize their political capital has been spent up before leaving with some sense of grace, fading into retirement (or the corporate lobbying apparatus).
Others, however, are like Dianne Feinstein.
Dem @SenFeinstein doesn’t appear on board with punishing @SenTedCruz or @HawleyMO for role in challenging electoral college. “I think the Senate is a place of freedom, and people come here to speak their peace”
— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) January 19, 2021
The quote is no surprise coming from the California Senator, who has repeatedly displayed her reverence for the routines of governance rather than actually governing. But it’s sparked renewed calls for Feinstein to retire, especially after the bombshell New Yorker story from last month in which Jane Mayer detailed questions surrounding the senator’s noticeable cognitive decline.
Feinstein can’t step down soon enough. She’s had a number of bad moments over the past few years, most notably her ugly interaction with child activists from the Sunrise Movement and her bizarre compliments and embrace of Sen. Lindsey Graham during the pre-Election Day Supreme Court hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. And if that wasn’t enough, Netflix’s new serial killer series Night Stalker showcases one of Feinstein’s biggest political gaffes from way back when she served as San Francisco’s mayor—holding a news conference that unwittingly made key evidence public and nearly derailed the entire investigation.
It’s not enough that Feinstein keeps putting her foot in her mouth and providing bad optics. It’s that those words and optics are routine and that she might not even know what she’s doing.
Still, Feinstein’s ineptitude goes beyond her reported cognitive decline—she typifies the politics of a bygone era. She doesn’t just want to work with Republicans (which, as of now, seems to fall directly in line with the incoming Biden administration)—Feinstein wants to work with them in peace, unbothered by the worries of constituents or journalists or frankly anyone outside the federal government.
In her mind, Congress should be allowed to do its business because it’s been doing it forever and that’s just the way things are. Any disagreements between members won’t be carried outside the halls of Congress because what they’re doing inside isn’t real life to her. It’s the exact attitude she displayed toward those student activists. Feinstein didn’t mince words or waste breath telling the kids that she understood their concerns. Instead, she effectively is telling them she’s been doing this a long time, knows more than them, and should be left alone. It reflects how “impressed” she was with Barrett after offering up a rudimentary legal definition during her hearings.
It’s not all Feinstein’s fault, really. She’s been enabled by staff and aides who are either too afraid to confront the problem or happy to benefit from her power. She didn’t get to where she is now completely on her own. And she likely didn’t file the paperwork to run for a new term in 2024—when she’ll be 91 years old—on her own either.