On October 15, California State Senator Kevin de Leon formally announced his bid to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018. An advocate of single-payer health care who provides voters with a viable progressive alternative, de Leon is one of the most formidable challengers Feinstein has faced since she assumed office in 1992. “We’re overdue for a real debate on the issues, priorities and leadership voters want from their senator,” De Leon told The Los Angeles Times. “I think California needs a senator not just fully resistant to Trump’s presidency, but who understands the issues most Californians face every day.”
Last week, Feinstein announced her decision to run for re-election and held her campaign’s kick-off fundraiser in Beverly Hills. While progressives criticized her decision to run for re-election, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the fundraiser (which he co-hosted), “We cannot afford a primary—that would be the biggest gift we could give to the White House and the GOP.” With this claim, Garcetti is trying to manufacture support for Feinstein by denigrating any challenge to her incumbency. However, in addition to being undemocratic in his attempt to suppress voices on the left that don’t agree with Feinstein, Garcetti’s argument against having a primary exhibits poor strategy.
Feinstein represents the old guard of the Democratic Party. With a net worth of at least $52 million, she is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Additionally, despite the popularity of single-payer health care, Feinstein has dismissed the policy, calling it a “complete takeover by the government of all health care.” She sided with Republicans in support of raising the social security retirement age, and she voted in favor of the Patriot Act. That she is running for re-election suppresses opportunities for other Democrats to enter the Senate and keeps a moderate Democrat in what should be one of the most progressive seats.
Both California U.S. Senate seats are safe for the Democratic Party; Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in California by 30 percent in the 2016 election. It makes no sense for a moderate Democrat to hold a Senate seat of a state that prides itself as being one of the most progressive in the country. A progressive who leads the party should be serving in this seat, not one who shifts it toward the center. Feinstein makes the Democratic Party appear more conservative than it should be and offers a weak contrast to the Republican Party. She has called for patience with Donald Trump, voted for several of his cabinet appointees, and sided with Republicans on a variety of economic and foreign policy issues. A FiveThirtyEight analysis found she has the highest margin of supporting Trump’s policies out of any Democrat in the Senate with Trump’s support in her state taken into account. The Democratic Party already has too many elected officials who subvert its values and hurt working, middle class, and low income voters. There’s no reason why one should be representing the state of California.
Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, LiveScience, Buffalo News, the Plain Dealer, The Hill, Gainesville Sun, Tallahassee Democrat, Knoxville News Sentinel, and the Troy Record. He lives in Gainesville, FL. Follow him on twitter: @msainat1
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