DiFi vs. the Kids

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

There’s nothing quite as clarifying as being told that you’re being unrealistic by an 85-year-old.

That’s what made Dianne Feinstein’s videotaped and condescending dismissal of a push from teenagers on behalf of the “Green New Deal” so powerful. Yes, the first version of the tape was edited, unfairly to make California’s very senior senator look more out of touch than she really was, but the whole exchange is telling, and reminds us of some truths.

The first is that the American government is a government of the old, by the old, for the old. I’m not a fan of the Green New Deal, and its propagandistic nonsense, but the need for more urgent and smarter action on climate is real.

Feinstein, to her credit, offered some specific ideas on climate. But her attitude and bearing showed impatience and contempt. And her claims to being realistic are infuriating.

The realism that Feinstein defends, in telling the kids that their beloved Green New Deal can’t pass the Senate, is the realism of crackpots. When action is required—perhaps literally to save mankind from extinction—and your answer is that it can’t pass, the party being unrealistic is not the one explaining the politics of the U.S. Senate.

At one point, Feinstein suggested that the kids run for Senate. Of course, that’s impossible—they’re not old enough to serve. They’re not even old enough to vote, and the basic unfairness of that prohibition on kids voting was magnified by the exchange.

The kids have so much at stake in this debate. Feinstein, at 85, has very little. And yet, it’s the octogenarian who has the power, and the kids who have to beg for action from an elder who doesn’t really respect them.

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