Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced on October 9 that she is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. She tweeted an agenda: “Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to health care. I’m all in!”
Feinstein is the oldest Senator (at 84) and is the ranking minority member on the Judiciary Committee. She first arrived in the Senate after winning a special election for Pete Wilson’s unexpired term in 1992. There was some irony in this: the reason Wilson left the Senate was that he had defeated Feinstein in a campaign to become the state’s Governor.
Feinstein won her first full term two years after that special election. Thus, next year she will be running for a fifth full term.
She is known as a supporter and defender of Obamacare. She has never supported single-payer health insurance, of the sort advocated in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Indeed, at a town hall in April 2017 she said, “If single-payer health care is going to mean the complete takeover by the government of all health care, I am not there.”
As a generalization, one finds Feinstein on the center left of U.S. politics, just where one finds the Clintons.
Left Wing View
On Sunday, October 15, Kevin de León announced that he, too, is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for what is now Feinstein’s seat in the Senate. CNN described this as setting up “an internecine battle within the Democratic Party that some fear could draw attention and resources away from” certain Congressional races where that party wants to take seats away from Republicans.
De León represents voices to Feinstein’s left: the Sanders wing, so to speak.
Even before he announced there were many on social media calling for some sort of challenge. DSA_LosAngeles, for example, complained that Feinstein would only speak up for “access” to health care. In his view, that is not enough. Access to health care “is not health care,” it is not “Medicare for all,” so it is not enough for a Democratic candidate in 2018.
Dan Kauder, writing more generally, said: “Every incumbent should face a legitimate Leftist challenge. Keeps the party healthy, clears out-of-touch dinosaurs.”
Kauder, on his twitter wall, describes his own political agenda as “reforging the disparate left to club Fascists over the head with it.”
Right Wing View
In the conservative blog RedState, Feinstein shows up surprisingly often in sympathetic contexts. She is the leftist they use for statements like, “even the leftist Feinstein agrees that ….”
For example, RedState’s Joe Cunningham, in September, wrote a piece about how Feinstein was reluctant to say that former President Obama’s “Dreamers” program, protecting certain undocumented aliens from deportation, was legal. She told an interviewer on MSNBC that she couldn’t apply that word because it was only an executive order whereas “legal is the law of passage of something.”
Cunningham said that it is appropriate for conservatives to give her some credit they wouldn’t give to less equivocal defenders of DACA, because Feinstein plainly knows “that we have a separation of powers.”
Likewise, even more recently, Brandon Morse wrote a piece, also for RedState, that was headlined, “Even Dianne Feinstein Agrees that Extra Laws Wouldn’t Have Stopped Las Vegas Shooter.” In this instance, the praiseworthy observation came in a Face the Nation interview, in which Feinstein observed that the Las Vegas sniper, Stephen Paddock, “passed background checks registering for handguns and other weapons on multiple occasions.” Morse expressed surprise that Feinstein “actually took a common sense approach here.”
With sometime-friends like this on the right, it is unsurprising Feinstein has drawn a challenge from her left. Still, it must be noted that Feinstein has always taken a very pro-regulatory view of civilian ownership of weapons. When it isn’t using her to score points, the right understands this and has been willing to take her to task for it.