LA Progressive

A Progressive Case for Senator Feinstein 

Have progressive Democrats in California turned on our senior stateswoman? One might get that impression from the party’s convention last month. Neither five-term Senator Dianne Feinstein nor any of her Democratic challengers earned the endorsement from party delegates for U.S. Senate. But in June and November, she is the best choice on the ballot.

More than a thousand Democratic delegates stood by our incumbent senator in that endorsement vote. We are pleased to support a woman with hard-earned authority in elected office when Democrats are championing the importance of more women with authority in elected office. We also value the progressive components of Senator Feinstein’s record, which helped lay the groundwork for the deep blue, and greener, state California has become.

Few issues showcase the results of Feinstein’s staying power, and her work to overcome opposition, than environmental protection. It was Feinstein who championed the safeguarding of millions of acres of wild lands in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, withstanding counterattacks by Senate Republicans, that led to creation of the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains national monuments by President Barack Obama in 2016. That built on her push to passage in 1994 of the California Desert Protection Act and the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, signed in 2006 by President George W. Bush.

Senator Feinstein has secured votes in an often closely divided Senate by courting conservative colleagues when she can. Unequivocal defiance, the posture du jour of the Trump era, is not her style. That has drawn criticism from some Democrats, including her main challenger, state Senator Kevin de Leon.

Senator Feinstein has secured votes in an often closely divided Senate by courting conservative colleagues when she can. Unequivocal defiance, the posture du jour of the Trump era, is not her style. That has drawn criticism from some Democrats, including her main challenger, state Senator Kevin de Leon.

But it is de Leon who recently earned applause from a company seeking to exploit the desert land put off limits by the work of Senator Feinstein and President Obama. Cadiz Inc. would like to drain a desert aquifer in the Mojave, an effort backed by the Trump Administration but opposed by most environmentalists. Last year de Leon assisted in blocking state legislation that would have stopped the profit-driven effort by Cadiz. The company’s president has contributed the maximum, more than $5,000, to de Leon’s campaign. These are inconvenient facts for his challenge premised on accusations that the incumbent puts corporate profits ahead of the people.

Two of Senator Feinstein’s top priorities, curbing gun deaths and extending equal rights to LGBT people, have a common root in tragedy forty years ago. The November 1978 assassinations of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the gay-rights trailblazer, helped to shape her devotion to both causes.

It was Senator Feinstein who stepped up in October 2008, when other Democrats demurred amid deadlocked poll numbers on Proposition 8, to record the closing television commercial asking voters to reject the measure. Put on the statewide ballot by religious-right groups, it passed and slammed shut the five-month window for legal same-sex marriages.

In 2015, the Supreme Court finally struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), vindicating two decades of advocacy and legal pressure mounted by Feinstein. She voted against DOMA in 1996, in contrast with “yes” votes from the likes of Joe Biden, Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, and Chuck Schumer.

It was Feinstein who pieced together votes in the Senate to ban the sale of assault weapons in the U.S. in 1994. When colleagues in both parties let that policy lapse in 2004, it was Feinstein who took up the grim duty of reciting the mounting toll of death and injury from high-capacity guns and ammunition, including in schools, to goad them to act. There she was again in the Oval Office last week, at Trump’s left, speaking up for curbing weapons and showing why some ardent fans of the National Rifle Association save their favorite slurs for her.

If Democrats gain a majority in the Senate this November, Feinstein could chair both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Her career-long support for church-state separation, reproductive healthcare, and women’s rights would be great assets in quizzing and, when needed, nixing extremist nominees for judges.

And if Democrats retake the House of Representatives? Feinstein’s seniority and track record of building majorities in a divided chamber could pay dividends for immigration reform and impeachment articles, just as her skills have for Californians throughout her five terms. As progressive Democrats we are proud to have her back. Because we need her back.

Hans Johnson and Karen K. Suarez

Hans Johnson is president of the East Area Progressive Democrats, with more than 800 members in L.A. County, who voted to endorse Sen. Feinstein. Karen Suarez, in Monrovia, is an elected member of the county Democratic Party, representing Pasadena and Foothills communities.

Note: LA Progressive is endorsing State Senator Kevin de Leon in this race.