By Michael Sainato
On October 9, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) formally announced plans to run for re-election in 2018, as progressives protested outside her Beverly Hill fundraiser. The activists urged her to either support single payer healthcare or retire from the Senate. A few weeks ago, the same group of activists used sidewalk chalk to vocalize their support for single payer in the streets and sidewalks surrounding Feinstein’s mansion in San Francisco. Feinstein, 84 years old, has served in the Senate since 1992. “I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare. I’m all in!” she tweeted. Progressives were not happy with the news, as Feinstein’s moderate views and status as one of the wealthiest members of congress have drawn criticism from the left.
Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) told Vox that Feinstein is “out of touch with the grassroots.” He added, “The fact that the establishment is rallying around her re-election shows that DC insiders continue to privilege protecting one of their own over the voters’ concerns.” Politico’s Carla Marinucci reported that Khanna has urged Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Robert Reich to challenge Feinstein for the seat. “I’m with Ro Khanna,” People For Bernie Founder Winnie Wong tweeted .
Earlier this year, Feinstein was booed by her constituents at a town hall for refusing to support single-payer in healthcare in California or on a nationwide scale. “If single-payer health care is going to mean complete takeover by the government of all health care,” she said, “I am not there.” Healthcare lobbyists whose interests are starkly opposed to a single-payer health care system are prolific fundraisers for Feinstein.
Progressives believe Feinstein’s centrist politics are outdated and no longer represent the people of California. At a discussion with former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher in August 2017, Feinstein vocally advocated for pragmatism when dealing with Trump. “The question is whether he can learn and change,” she said. “If so, I believe he can be a good president.”
“It’s sort of a political argument about how you feel, or a generational divide or whatever, I don’t really hear that and we don’t see it in polling, people approve of Senator Feinstein’s job out there,” Bill Carrick, a Feinstein campaign strategists, told a local CBS affiliate in response to the criticism.
Challengers to Feinstein have trickled in over the past year, with rumors that leader of the California State Senate, Kevin DeLeon will soon announce a challenge to Feinstein. New York Times’ Jonathan Martin tweeted on October 9, “A wired Calif Dem, roused from slumber, sez DiFi moved bc @kdeleon anncmt is imminent,she wanted to get out in front.” Billionaire Tom Steyer has yet to rule out challenging Feinstein himself. Other challengers include attorney Pat Harris and scientist Michael Eisen. Though Feinstein is currently expected to win re-election without much trouble, the recent announcement that she will continue serving is likely to increase opposition to her candidacy from the left.