Senator Dianne Feinstein Deserves Better and so Does the Republican Party

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.

Some pundits have taken to demonizing Sen. Dianne Feinstein for losses that Democrats hope will not befall the party nationally in the upcoming elections.

Will she also be seen as the cause for losses in California House seats which the state’s Democrats are working overtime to capture?

As they story goes, they cite her role in standing up to the President’s bitterly contested nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a major reason that could work to the GOP’s benefit at the polls.

Those holding to this theory do not hide the fact that they would be happy with that result.

“Lock her up” is the refrain heard in states far from California as the crowds are worked into a frenzy by the shouter-in-chief.

Feinstein has now replaced Hillary Clinton as the favorite whipping girl of Trump partisans exulting in the confirmation of Kavanaugh and seem less dismayed at the mob-inciting pronouncements coming from the Oval office.

First let’s set the record straight about the role of the state’s senior Senator in this shameful episode that leaves a permanent blemish on the history of the Senate and the high Court.

This nomination did not succeed because Feinstein—in what some prefer to describe as deliberate obfuscation and what others saw as a commendable display of civility— initially withheld the information about Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accuser after she had pledged confidentiality.

Feinstein never left any doubt as to where she stood: she was appalled by the proceedings and whether she had chosen improperly to divulge the allegations against the new Justice sooner or later—the outcome was never in doubt.

The Senator, who is the ranking member of its Judiciary Committee, and in a tightening battle herself to win re-election, even said in a recent Bay Area appearance she would favor reopening of the investigation.

That doesn’t sound like someone who Republicans—particularly the most conservative ones— would prefer to see re-elected to the Senate—especially if majority control changes hands.

However, if that does occur—which would require the ousting of some entrenched Democrats in nominally Republican-leaning states such as Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia—-Feinstein’s treatment of Christine Blakey Ford will hardly be the reason.

In fact, by all indications the women’s vote could determine the outcome of the upcoming elections—-and the last time we looked, California had two women Senators.

A total of 256 women will be on the ballot in November—234 running for the House and 22 for the Senate—a record number! 197 are Democrats and 59 are Republicans.

Questioning Feinstein’s contributions to Democratic victories in this state over the years—who is arguably one of the most popular figures in California political history—makes as much sense as blaming her if Republicans score border-line wins here or anywhere else.

Do the math.

Out of California’s 19 million registered voters, today 27 percent call themselves independents and 44 percent Democrats.

In 2006, 34 percent were Republicans and the number has been steadily dropping.

Bashing Feinstein or any high visibility Democrat will not change the fact that not a single statewide GOP candidate has made it to the finals in the upcoming election.

And as a believer in a healthy two-party system, that is not necessarily good news.

The GOP tag has lost much of its currency in the Golden State even in those districts which historically have voted solidly Republican.

These GOP seats are now vulnerable and if four or five of them elect Democratic challengers, it could be enough to topple the leadership in the House where at least 23 seats are in play.

That’s reason enough for Republicans to be worried.

Staunch Republicans such as Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian, Ronald Reagan, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, were easily elected Governors even in this decidedly one-party state.

They had something to offer which millions of voters apparently liked. Their party affiliation did not have much to do with it.

But the declining GOP numbers are only one reason for the party’s ebbing fortunes.

Today, the albatross of Trumpism hangs heavily over GOP candidates everywhere in the nation.

Even so, if the “blue” surge does not materialize and the pollsters prove wrong again about Trump’s popularity, many who wear his party’s label could still be elected.

In California where the label carries less cache than in recent years his crowd-pleasing, demeaning language about women, immigrants, and any others who have gained his scorn is tarnishing its image further.

If there is damage being done to the party, its current leader can take much of the blame—and leading Republicans do not seem particularly interested in doing much about it.

When Trump’s tenure comes to an end—which it must one way or another—he will leave shambles in its wake—and that’s not a future any responsible citizen should relish.

The minority House leader, San Francisco’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is anathema to Republicans and an outspoken liberal with aspirations of regaining the Speakership.

Understanding this she has even urged Democratic candidates to disavow any support of her if it will help them win.

She has also admonished Democrats against joining in partisan bashing and talking impeachment, and focusing instead on getting out messages that will sway voters.

Sen. Feinstein hews to a somewhat more moderate course. This troubles some Democrats ready for a change and they can make their choice accordingly.

But she need not make apologies to anyone and in this writer’s opinion she is the better candidate to represent us at this pivotal moment in our history.

Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in this election though it will be very much a national referendum on his continuing fitness to serve.

That judgment could be rendered even before 2020 and regardless of one’s party affiliation, it will have momentous consequences.

Neither party is entirely guiltless of character assassination, but both have a vested interest in denouncing it.

These are the real stakes in the upcoming election and they will become higher regardless of who wins.

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