Since long-serving U.S. Senator of California Dianne Feinstein died September 28, we have heard much praise for her career. She has been called a pioneer, a trailblazer, an icon. Her fight to ban semi-automatic weapons was praised, as was the report she helped bring to light about C.I.A. torture and intelligence gathering techniques in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks. She was praised for advocating to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
But Dianne Feinstein, who died at 90 years old after serving in the Senate for 31 years, exemplifies much of what is wrong with the U.S. political system.
She was a centrist Democrat, one of those who fully supported the neo-liberal policies of the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton, which meant less government help for the poor and left behind, and complete freedom for big business as it increased its exploitation of the U.S. and global working class. She supported gay rights, but with limitations, claimed to care about prisoners’ rights after being openly “law and order” as mayor in San Francisco, and supported the two U.S. military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. She was, in other words, a typical centrist politician, similar to today’s Senator Joe Manchin.
By the end of her life, she had become completely emblematic of the U.S. two-party system that represents the interests of the One Percent. How can wealthy politicians in Washington understand what working people and young people need or are concerned with. In a sickening scene caught on film a few years ago when a group of children went to her office to enlist her support for the Green New Deal, she treated them with condescension and contempt.
Now, California Governor Newsom has appointed Laphonza Butler to fill Feinstein’s seat. Despite her previous high-profile work advocating reproductive freedom reforms and as a leading union official in California, she’s found time to consult for Uber on legislation opposing drivers’ rights and have a paid position for Airbnb. And she’s still part of the same California Democratic machine that supported other centrist Democrats like Feinstein and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Newsom and Butler do not represent change any more than Feinstein did.