Perhaps nothing in the California political scene is more telling about the change state politics has seen over the last couple of decades than the attitude toward United States Senator Dianne Feinstein. She has gone from a position as the most respected California politician to one who is polarizing within her own majority party. Will Senator Feinstein’s intraparty troubles rob the senior California politician of an important and powerful post? 

The recent howls from Democrats on the left were occasioned when Feinstein in her role as ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded the hearings into the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the United States Supreme Court by thanking Republican Committee chairman Lindsay Graham for running a fair hearing then topped it off by hugging Graham. This outraged progressives who railed against the proceedings as hypocritical. 

Demands to remove Feinstein from the Judiciary Committee, indeed calls in some quarters that she just resign from the senate, have grown loud. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a “serious” conversation with the 87 year-old California senator. 

But count on that powerful seat on the Judiciary Committee to remain in the Californian’s hands for now. Feinstein will not yield on her own, and Democrats will not remove her if Joe Biden wins the presidency. 

California politically has dramatically changed since DiFi won her first senate race in 1992, but she hasn’t changed as swiftly as her party. Feinstein has clung to her relatively moderate perspective and her desire to be civil and work across the aisle. She indicated she hoped for a comeback of this kind of politics in her closing remarks to Graham when, after praising the hearings,  she said, “It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions and even some ideas — perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this great country even better.” 

Feinstein has kept to the path of holding to her cooperative and more middle-of-the-road perspective than the hardliners of her party for decades. In running for governor in 1990, Feinstein famously told a state Democratic convention audience she supported the death penalty– to a chorus of boos. Democrats booed her again and more recently when she said she hoped Trump would be a good president and again when she told an audience she was not for single payer health care. 

With the progressives on the ascent within the California Democratic Party, Feinstein withstood the challenge of progressive former state senator Kevin de León in 2018 but by a less than overwhelming 54% to 46% margin. (Some of the de León vote was attributed to Republicans who chose to vote against the incumbent Democrat.) 

Still, her brand of politics appeals to a broad band of Democratic voters in the state even if the far left thinks it is well past the time she should remain in office. 

While DiFi’s contemporaries who are familiar with her long record are dwindling, one contemporary is likely to become president.

Joe Biden is a long-time colleague of Feinstein in the U.S. Senate and in Democratic political circles. Feinstein endorsed Biden’s presidential run early on. And you can bet the former vice-president is an opponent of ageism. 

But perhaps more important is the tone Biden has struck as he tries to close the deal to become president. The Biden campaign is running ads about cooperating across the aisle and serving as a president for all Americans, not as a president for Democrats. An effort to remove Feinstein would fly in the face of this philosophy. You can count on Biden to make his feelings known about any attempt to remove Feinstein from her current post. 

The California senator, despite the recent backlash, will hold her powerful position if Biden wins the presidency.