As the California Senate’s president pro Tempore, Kevin de León sets out to challenge Dianne Feinstein in the 2018 midterm election, he does so guns a-blazing for another ultra-progressive path. He will almost certainly target the young voters traversing California’s college campuses. He will accuse old stick-in-the-mud Feinstein of being a humorless centrist; he will attempt to persuade you that she represents some ethereal “establishment” fighting the wishes of “real Americans,” and hope those dog whistles mean something to you. He will make promises of free college in a time we are fighting tooth and nail to preserve basic health care: While congressional Democrats battle for the nation’s bare necessities, he will launch a deeply ill-considered and unnecessary anti-establishment tirade. He jeopardizes the party, he jeopardizes the future of the country and he sacrifices Democratic solidarity for personal gain.
It’s all good and well to consider the problems inherent in radical progressivism — we’ll get to it. First, prudence demands we take a moment to address the very thing that we’re actually talking about: The U.S. Senate. This election is not simply a referendum on Californian progressivism. This election will deeply affect a tangible governing body responsible for the foreseeable national future.
We approach de León’s challenge at a time when Democrats are hanging on by slim victories in the protection of former President Barack Obama’s legacy, legislation formative and foundational to the future of American life, as well as seminal protections for vulnerable groups. Senate Democrats are closing ranks and leaning on the full force of their experience and expertise to do so — and succeeding because of the bravery of a few upstanding, principled Republicans. If ever there were a time to dedicate concerted energy to supporting our Democratic senators, it’s now. This is the time to ensure the Democratic Party in the Senate remains as strong as it can possibly be.
I balk at the thought that we are actually considering replacing a senior Democratic senator who was one of the only two to directly receive former FBI Director James Comey’s intelligence briefing on Russian electoral interference; the ranking member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees; a public servant with experience, relationships, networks, expertise and influence in Washington at a time when we need those assets most.
But she’s old, you might claim. Sure, that’s true. She turned 84 years old this year. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also happens to be 84. Funny enough, Democrats aren’t calling for her resignation. Shall we ask Ginsburg to step down, too? Someone as weathered as Feinstein has decided to seek re-election when all other signs point to the fact that she has been very willing, and perhaps even waiting, to retire. She has forged a lasting legacy; she is well within her rights to pass the baton. So why forge on — Hubris? Please.
Feinstein is sticking around because she feels she must; it is imperative that California voters come to the same conclusion. To be sure, de León’s track record in the state Senate is admirable; his work on environmental and economic policy is commendable. But there is certainly some degree of ease in passing legislation through a governing body eternally comprised of a blue supermajority. The U.S. Senate, as it stands, is far different. Replacing Feinstein plays into a dangerous game, one in which it seems Republicans are already engaging — the slow and steady replacement of centrists with extremist representatives, the phasing out of moderates to make way for the reactionaries and radicals.
An ultra-progressive congressional left will not result in free college and universal smiles; it will mean continued gridlock. We can’t demand reasonability from the other party and refuse to offer it ourselves. Into the future, the kicking and screaming of radicals and ultra-progressives is only making it more difficult for Democrats to muster the unified front and single, persuasive message they so desperately need to succeed in 2018 and 2020. Kevin de León did not create this rift; but he seems all too willing to twist the knife for personal political gain, and this time, we simply cannot afford it.
Don’t sacrifice the party of the people — the party of the working class and the party of the working government, the party of equity and the party of progress, the party of Stronger Together and Yes We Can, the party of John F. Kennedy and Harvey Milk and Ann Richards and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Don’t jeopardize its future to advance Kevin de León’s career. Now is not the time. Reaffirm support for Diane Feinstein. Reaffirm support for a better future and a united front.
Kevin de León, put country before career. Affirm your support for the issues that count, for Obama’s legacy and an equitable, sensible American future. End this petulant challenge honorably. Support Dianne Feinstein.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.