Sen. Dianne Feinstein Should Run for Re-Election

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

One Californian who is getting heavy press coverage these days is the venerable Democratic U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein—and for good reasons.

Feinstein came to the national stage in 1992—the so-called “Year of the Woman” when four were elected to the U.S. Senate, more than in any prior election or decade.

In doing so California became the first in the nation to have two female senators from the same state.

Joining her then was Barbara Boxer, now retired who was recently replaced by Kamala Harris—also a Democrat.

In this time of tumultuous change in the nation’s affairs the native San Franciscan is poised to play a major role.

It is becoming clear that she does not plan on shirking that responsibility.

Upon hearing that the president is considering firing Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, Feinstein thundered, “The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him.”

The female voice has been growing ever louder in the halls of government—-and Feinstein helped pave the way.

Since 1789, when the Senate came into existence, 50 women have served in the body—the first one being Rebecca Felton from Georgia in 1922– for a single day!

Next, ten years later, was Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, who served for 14 years.

In the current Congress there are 21 female including 16 Democrats and 5 Republicans—all are serving honorably and while small in numbers have brought perspectives and values to governing often wanting in their male counterparts.

Feinstein and Boxer were in many ways a unique duo with Feinstein—the Senior Senator—a reliable centrist whose constituency perhaps best reflected the dominant California electorate over the past three decades.

Boxer, an unabashed liberal, represented a more progressive wing of the party that is gaining momentum as a new generation of politicians comes to the fore.

The tug of war between these two wings is at the center of a growing debate as to whether Sen. Feinstein, who just turned 84, should give way to younger and very restless would-be contenders chomping at the bit to replace her.

The newly minted Senator from California, Kamala Harris, 32 years her junior, signals a new wave of leaders who are going to have a major and long lasting influence on our policies as this young century unfolds amidst turbulent events.

But those days are still well ahead of us as we sort out the historical clashes that are holding Washington and the nation in their grip and challenging our ability to conduct government in an orderly and civilized way.

There is some immediate business to take care of that will require careful treading, consummate rectitude and a rigid adherence to the facts as allegations of serious administration wrongdoing gather steam including the possibility of obstruction of justice by the president himself.

By these standards, no members of Congress are more qualified and few have claimed the respect that the imposing Senator gets on both sides of the aisle.

As the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee which is charged with the duty of investigating the reasons behind the abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director, James Comey by President Trump, Feinstein’s views have great sway.

She is also on the Intelligence Committee which is tasked with determining whether there was meddling by the Russians in the presidential election and possible collusion between Russian leaders and Trump campaign aides.

This puts Feinstein in a pivotal role that will test her considerable political acumen and cement her legacy perhaps as much as any of her other accomplishments in a long and distinguished career as both a Mayor and Senator.

Her retirement which is likely the only way she would lose her seat, is her personal decision to make. But it would deprive the state and the nation of a powerful voice and the institutional wisdom which will be increasingly relied upon as these proceedings come under laser focus.

If one’s age is a critical determinant to one’s fitness for office, perhaps we should be encouraging older people to keep running.

We are reminded of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s quip in the second presidential debate in 1984 with Vice President,Walter Mondale:

“I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Another Californian who turned 79 appears to be at the top of his game and Gov. Jerry Brown shows no signs of quit though that will become mandatory in 2018 as a result of term limits. Given the chance, who knows if he wouldn’t try again?

Fortunately there are no term limits on cranial functioning although many lawmakers (even some presidents) have aroused suspicion at far younger ages.

Feinstein needs to stay on the job as we enter the perilous days ahead where she brings to the debate a no-nonsense, battle-tested sensibility and a confident set of skills that her colleagues trust and her vast legion of supporters admire.

Furthermore we do not want to lose the advantages her seniority brings during an Administration that may not be looking too kindly on California.

Most importantly we need the breadth of knowledge and the calm wisdom of someone who has shown herself adept at avoiding the bitterly partisan confrontations which are good for getting headlines but do little to advance important legislation.

We are lucky to have in Feinstein a seasoned veteran unafraid to speak her mind but wary of the need to give all views a respectful hearing before making up her own.

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