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Dianne Feinstein (1933-2033): A Liberal, Left Behind by Her Party

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Joel B. Pollak

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) passed away on Friday at the age of 90, after serving in public office for decades.

She was, as Los Angeles-area ABC 7 put it: “the first woman president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco, and one of two of the first women elected to the U.S. Senate from California.”

A liberal to the core, she was rejected in recent years as too moderate by an increasingly left-wing Democratic Party.

Feinstein rose to national prominence after San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians in America, was assassinated, together wit Mayor George Moscone, by a disgruntled former city employee.

The issue of gun control would remain important to Feinstein for the rest of her career, and she co-sponsored the so-called “assault weapons ban” of 1994, which was in effect for ten years, but had little effect.

She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, alongside fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer, in a rare circumstance that saw both of California’s seats open at the same time, due to retirements.

It was the “Year of the Woman,” as female voters, inspired by Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee (later Justice) Clarence Thomas, and furious at Hill’s treatment by men like Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), went to the polls to demand their share of power.

Feinstein was regarded as a reliable liberal vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a particularly partisan turn, she introduced unsubstantiated claims of past sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee (later Justice) Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

But she was more than just a partisan crusader: she also drew respect for her expertise on national security issues, and was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2015.

In that role, Feinstein encountered several controversies.

One was when she accused the Central Intelligence Agency — then under the direction of John Brennan — of spying on her committee’s staffers. The CIA denied the allegations, but later admitted that some of its employees had acted improperly. Another controversy erupted in 2018, when it emerged that a man who had been her driver for two decades was accused of being a Chinese spy.

Though she faced allegations of using her power to enrich her husband, Feinstein was easily reelected to five terms , even after critics wondered openly about her age. In 2018, she sought and won a fifth term.

But she had already begun to encounter opposition from the left. In 2017, she faced protests after voting to confirm some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, and she was heckled at a town hall meeting for criticizing the idea of “Medicare for All.”

Opposition to Feinstein grew even more intense after 2020, when she was friendly to Supreme Court nominee (later Justice) Amy Coney Barrett, and was seen giving Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) a hug.

After furious Democrats called on Feinstein to retire for showing civility to Republicans, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed her to step down as the ranking member on the committee.

Feinstein’s health began to fail in recent months. In February, she seemed surprised to learn that her staff had announced her retirement at the end of her term in 2025. In May, after a bout of shingles, she seemed not to remember having been away from the Senate.

Democrat Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Katie Porter have been running for her seat; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) promised in 2021 to appoint a black woman to replace her, if necessary.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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