'She represents the past': a Senate hug symbolizes California's Dianne Feinstein fatigue


It was a hug that would have shocked many, even in a year without social distancing: Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, ending a contentious week of supreme court confirmation hearings with a full-body embrace of Lindsey Graham, the committee’s Republican chair.

The act and her remarks about the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett – “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” – sparked calls among progressives for her retirement, and outcry that she had been in office for too long. Many of the California senator’s constituents and her more progressive Democratic party colleagues have been arguing that for years.

“There have been a number of us in San Francisco that for a long time felt that, without taking away from what she has accomplished, it has gotten to a point where she is out of touch with where San Francisco is and where California is,” said David Campos, chair of the San Francisco Democratic party. He was not speaking on behalf of the organization.

Related: Top Senate Republican says he has the votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett

“She represents the past of San Francisco and California,” Campos continued. “It’s not surprising that at a time when we’re facing a crisis, when we have a rightwing supremacist being rushed through the supreme court, she’s not up to the task. And it’s not because of her age. It’s just because of who she is.”

Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco in 1978, following the assassinations of the activist Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone, and moved city politics firmly back to center. Although her legacy in the city is one of respect, given her lengthy history of public service, her penchant for civility and not rocking the boat feels out of place in today’s politics, her critics say.

In 2018, the California Democratic party voted to endorse Feinstein’s opponent in the state’s US Senate race, with the four-term incumbent – Feinstein has served in the Senate since 1992 – winning just 7% of the endorsement vote.

A recent push to rename public schools honoring historical figures with racist or colonialist legacies has included an elementary school named after her. The school names advisory committee noted that when Feinstein was mayor of San Franci... (Read more)

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