Some loves are so deep and passionate that the lovers can’t admit their true feelings, even to themselves.

This describes the love between California progressives and Dianne Feinstein.

Yes, I know, progressives and Dianne Feinstein seem to be in constant quarrel. Progressives blast her as a sellout; she tells them they’re unrealistic and impatient and don’t get anything done.

But they say these things only because they love each other so much.

From any perspective broader than the skinny-jeans narrow world of California politics, California progressives and Feinstein have much in common. Like agreement on a political party and almost every social and economic issue. You have to look at very specific pieces of legislation to find any real divide, and those differences were more often about tactics (Feinstein is compromising and conciliatory, while progressives want to fight), than ideology.

But neither the leftists nor Feinstein would ever admit that. Because they love to define themselves in relation to each other.

Feinstein means so much to the left. Progressives have a hard time articulating agenda that makes much sense. But they have no trouble articulating their antipathy to Feinstein. Indeed, she has come to define the California left. Feinstein is their right flank; they only know where they stand on the map in relation to her. And by criticizing her, they can avoid the very uncomfortable conversation about how little they’ve achieved for Californians after many years in power.

And Feinstein has made a career of creating at least a rhetorical distance from the left. She is forever telling us she’s not quite one of them. Not as liberal as them on criminal justice or taxation or war and peace. By defining herself in relation to the left, she’s been able to avoid defining what she actually is. And it avoids the far more uncomfortable conversation about how little she has accomplished in 25 years in the U.S. Senate.

Feinstein and the left—at some unconscious level – love each other. And need each other.

But now the left says they are finally through. It seeks a candidate to run against her. And maybe the left will find one, in Tom Steyer or Kevin de León. And maybe they will defeat Feinstein.

But if they do, they will miss her.

That’s because the narratives are wrong. Neither Steyer nor De León is as left as the leftists. In the state legislature, De León, who would be a good U.S. Senator, has mixed a healthy dose of pragmatism and compromise with his progressivism.

In time, the left would almost certainly complain about him, just as they complain about Feinstein, and are starting to complain about Kamala Harris. Because no one can ever be as pure as the California left.

But since De León will be seen as their man, that opposition won’t give them the same joy and self-defining satisfaction of hurting Feinstein. Because you only hurt the ones you love.