U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s failure to receive the endorsement of the California Democratic Party in her re-election bid this year is a bigger deal than many media pundits are contending.
Context matters here. The 84-year Feinstein, a rich, centrist politician and a one-time apologizer for President Donald Trump, faces a unique electoral climate in California this year given the immoral and often bizarre presidency the country now endures. Her tepid politics of appeasement and her conservative positions are out of step among the left in a crucial election that may well determine the future of democracy in this country.
Over the weekend, Feinstein was only able to garner 37 percent of the endorsement votes cast by delegates at the state Democratic Party’s convention. Her main opponent, the progressive Kevin de León, received 54 percent of the vote. A candidate needs 60 percent of the vote for an endorsement under the state party’s rules.
The typical mainstream media response was encapsulated by this short report in The New York Times, which argued, “Ms. Feinstein’s lead in statewide polls, financial advantage and her good will with party leaders suggests she shouldn’t be sounding alarm bells. Yet.” In other words, she has the money to buy her seat so her impending victory is fairly clear. Under the mainstream media narrative, this symbiotic relationship between money and politics has become so normalized and mundane that we no longer live in a functioning democracy. Of course, it’s the mainstream media that benefits the most from campaign advertising dollars.
The larger story here then is how the deep capitalistic relationship between large sums of money and electoral success has tainted our elections and led to the control by the oligarchy and their surrogates of our government on the state and federal level. I think many California Democrats understand and lament this more than corporate media outlets want to concede, especially now that Trump has forever damaged the prevailing political culture. Trump represents a breaking point.
Feinstein, a multi-millionaire, will be self financing some of her campaign but she has accepted large campaign contributions from utility companies and political action committees. She is, in many ways, a Democratic Party parallel—one of many—to Trump under our current dysfunctional political system. She even once said of Trump that he could “be a good president.” Like Trump, she is in favor of the death penalty and opposes universal health care.
Feinstein has a net worth of approximately $50 million, according to reports. She has been a Senator since 1992. Her wealth and political legacy means she could serve in a myriad of ways to help her state and country. Instead, she wants to continue pushing centrist/conservative policies and argue for capitulation in a time of rising income inequality and the emergence of an authoritarian and compulsive liar as president. Her decision to run again is the definition of hubris.
It’s true that Feinstein, as a centrist Democrat, could benefit the most from California’s jungle primary system in which the two candidates earning the most voters move on to the general election no matter what their party affiliation. She would probably receive, for example, more Republican votes than any other Democratic candidate in a general election, and this defines her political career on the micro level.
But many California Democrats know the resistance to Trump begins in their state and, frankly, doesn’t include their senior U.S. Senator. Republicans here will not be as motivated to vote as Democrats in the 2018 elections, at least in California. It’s way too early to declare Feinstein the winner just because she has more money than any other candidate that she can use to buy herself another victory.