Feinstein focused on work not ideology

Dianne Feinstein died Sept. 29 and left behind a legacy that focused on getting things done rather than party ideology.

Matt Lesenyie, Political Science instructional faculty member at California State University Long Beach said Feinstein was definitely a centrist and the politics she came up in were about delivering something. The something delivered, like the policies Feinstein was able to deliver, did not have to be ideological.

During Feinstein’s career, liberal Democrats had issues with her ability to remain detached from ideology. Lesenyie said despite the frustration, it was okay because those types, both liberal or conservatives, are focused on complaining about not being either liberal or conservative enough.

Paola Ulloa, Bob Murphy Access Center faculty member, said she found it interesting to know Feinstein was a centrist. She said Feinstein being able to manage a balancing act between both political sides gave her a great deal of power.

“It’s kind of hard to be able to be successful in politics now if you’re not able to speak your voice and be able to be heard by everyone,” Ulloa said.

Lesenyie said the governing space for many Democrats in the central coast is about winning over farmers and agri-business. These Conservative Democrats can not go all in on liberal social causes and have to be business friendly. This political space is one Feinstein had to work in.

“Her priorities were things that could be done and she wasn’t ideologically attached to a particular outcome,” Lesenyie said.

The Assault Weapons Ban she helped pass in Congress during her 1993-1994 tenure is a prime example of how Feinstein worked Lesenyie said. He said the reason the ban worked was due to the fact that it wasn’t permanent.

The fact the ban had a sunset, or end in sight, was what made it moderate. Lesenyie said currently both parties are trying to make permanent changes instead of taking the “half a loaf” approach like Feinstein did in the Assault Weapons Ban.

“The ‘half a loaf of bread,’ or split the baby approach is ‘let’s have it my way for the next eight years and then we’ll have this political fight again.’ I would say that pragmatism is what drove her style,” Lesenyie said.

He said the point was to focus on what can be done on the day. This is a different perspective than what is common today, where issues are tied to political ideology. Feinstein not being ideologically tied to a specific outcome on an issue, allowed for the opposing party to get a win as well. Lesenyie added there isn’t enough of this type of thinking done today.

Jose Sanchez, staff member in the Department of Film and Electronic Arts said the center has not changed, but that the far left and far right have expanded past their previous limits, which is why both sides find it hard to work together.

“Now you really have a far right and you really have a far left. It’s on both sides. So it’s hard to say as a centrist she could get the job done, but I think that you have to be able to maneuver along the party lines or else you’re not going to get anything done,” Sanchez said.

Lesenyie said Feinstein was emblematic of her generation when starting her political career in 1969, adding that fellow politicians like Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid had similar approaches. He said when this generation of politicians started out they did not lose their seats when they voted with the opposing party majority.

In today’s political arena, anyone who does something like voting with an opposing party majority is immediately afraid of losing their seat in a primary said Lesenyie. He said both parties, especially Republicans, are more concerned with winning their own primary elections and this leads to lack of work getting done.

“There’s just not an incentive structure for them to do literally anything,” Lesenyie said. “I mean that’s my biggest complaint is that the Senate hardly does anything and almost all of them will be re-elected.”

Akhila Bordhe, a third-year student at CSULB, said they just recently became aware of Feinstein due to conversations about her advanced age of 90 years old and she was having trouble getting around the Senate floor. They said they found it wild how old some politicians, including President Joe Biden, actually are.

Bordhe said everything they hear coming out of the Senate and House of Representatives seems trivial to everyday people’s situations. They said it was absurd the legislation politicians focused on and the detachment between that legislation and what the average person was focused on.

“I don’t really feel anybody in that building [Capitol Building] is working towards what actual people want in their day to day life,” Bordhe said.

As Feinstein’s story comes to an end, another one is about to begin.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Sunday in a release from the Office of Governor that Laphonza Butler will fill Feinstein’s empty seat in the Senate.

The release revealed Butler was senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and will be the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the Senate.

“Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.,” the press release noted Newsom saying.


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