Forget about both sexism and ageism as prime forces behind the highly vocal movement pressuring longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to retire early from the seat she has held since 1990.
Sure, these factors are present in varying degrees. So is the fact that Feinstein was absent from the Senate more than two months this spring, recovering from a painfully severe case of shingles. She returned just this week.
But the actual root purpose of this months-long campaign is an effort by the relentlessly uncompromising hard left of the California Democratic Party to take over a key post it could not win at the ballot box.
This real prime mover became obvious in an appeal the ultra-leftist California Courage Campaign emailed to all its members early this month, seeking to galvanize them against Feinstein.
That was because so-called “progressives” have long felt the moderate Feinstein deprived them of her seat when last reelected in 2018.
The hard left is dominant among this state’s Democrats because no other interest has lately turned out significant numbers for the 80 Assembly district caucuses where delegates to the party’s state conventions are chosen.
Back in 2018, ultra-leftist delegates led the party not to endorse Feinstein for a fifth full term, which she is about 18 months from finishing. Instead, they backed former Assembly Speaker Kevin de Leon.
He’s best known these days for his role in a secretly recorded racist conversation last fall with then-Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, then-Councilman Gil Cedillo and then-local labor federation chief Ron Herrera.
De Leon, unlike all others on the notorious tape, refuses to resign his prominent post, a high-paying city council seat he won after Feinstein beat him soundly. He insists he will serve out his term before leaving.
De Leon, shown by the audio to at least condone overt racism, was bitterly ageist in his run against Feinstein. He claimed her age (now 89) made her unfit for the job years before anyone noticed any problems with her health, physical or cognitive.
Despite the party endorsing against her in both the primary and the general elections that year, voters twice gave Feinstein huge margins.
That thwarted leftist ambitions to take over her seat as they strive for full political control of California.
Now the left wants shingles to award it via an appointment what it could not win at the polls. Leftists for two years have ripped Feinstein for supposed mental lapses and for having friendly exchanges with — gasp! — Republican senators.
More recently, they accused her of letting her shingles-induced absence hold up confirmation of dozens of President Biden’s judicial appointees.
Days before her return to the Capitol, Feinstein shot back in a press release that, “The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the…judiciary, including seven…this week.”
She noted eight judges were confirmed during her absence, while Republicans are holding up only “a few.”
With just a one-vote Judiciary Committee majority, Democrats need Feinstein’s vote to send those nominees to the Senate floor for final confirmation.
Who are the folks most active in trying to oust Feinstein, presumably in favor of the ultra-liberal Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee, who might be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom if Feinstein leaves?
That could happen because Newsom promised two years ago he would name a Black woman to the next Senate vacancy, and the African-American Lee wants the job so badly she’s already running against the far-better-funded Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine.
A quick Feinstein departure could give her seat to Lee for more than a year, allowing her to campaign as an incumbent.
The Courage Campaign lists just one Californian among the most prominent leftists attacking Feinstein: Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna, by odd coincidence Lee’s campaign co-chair.
Others include most of the congressional “squad”: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. These, with Lee, are among the least compromising leftists in the current House.
Which means this is at root not about age or inability or absenteeism; it’s about ideology, just like it was in 2018, when the leftists lost badly.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].