'You didn't vote for me': Senator Dianne Feinstein responds to young green activists
Sunrise Movement says California senator reacted with 'smugness and disrespect' to their campaigning for New Green Deal
Duped by deceptively edited viral footage calculated to fuel outrage, media outlets have run with this irresistable story — despite its manifest falsehood.
Had reporters done their due diligence before publishing — by viewing the original, unedited livestreamed footage and doing a little background research — then they could have reported the encounter more accurately.
Here is what really happened:
- The youth activists showed up without an appointment. Senator Dianne Feinstein made time to see them, anyway.
- The activists asked her to support the Green New Deal. Feinstein said she had her own Green New Deal plan, and asked her staff to bring copies for them.
- Without waiting to see the Senator’s plan, the activists repeatedly demanded that she endorse the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey resolution.
- Despite incessant interruptions from the kids and their chaperone, Feinstein patiently imparted a practical civics lesson. After explaining her preference for viable bipartisan legislation, she noted, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and say, ‘It has to be my way or the highway.’ I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected. I just ran. I was elected by almost a million vote [margin] and I know what I’m doing. So… maybe people should listen a little bit.”
- Feinstein maintained a civil tone throughout the exchange, but made two vital strategic errors. First, after correctly noting that the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey resolution “will not pass,” she told the activists, “you can take that back to whoever sent you here.” Second, when a teen said, “We’re the people who voted you,” Feinstein contradicted her, noting she was too young to vote. After implying that kids cannot think for themselves, Feinstein fed the suspicion that elected officials only serve constituents who can vote. Unwise.
- Finally, Feinstein handed out copies of her plan. The activists asked to read aloud the letter they brought. Feinstein declined, as she needed to get to her next appointment, but agreed to read the letter later.
- The activists took turns thanking the Senator and reiterating their demand. Before leaving, the most vocal kid asked for an internship in the Senator’s office. Feinstein directed her staff to secure an internship for the young woman.
- Adult activists promptly posted footage on social media, slamming Feinstein for “smugness” and “condescension,” while praising the kids for going “toe-to-toe” with the Senator.
- Senator Feinstein tweeted the following:
So, the real story is: A prominent Senator graciously made time to meet with uninvited teen activists. They then punished Feinstein’s good deed and tried her patience by being disrespectful and confrontational — with encouragement from an adult chaperone. Aside from the two aforementioned gaffes, Feinstein remained professional and solicitous. Nevertheless, adults in the activist organization proceeded to flame the Senator on social media, igniting a firestorm of negative press coverage.
Why Does This Matter?
This is why Democrats keep losing winnable elections.
Because too many leftists can’t tell friend from foe.
Because leftists, liberals, and centrists keep forming circular firing squads and blasting each other to bits.
Because we all fall too readily for stories and memes that spark outrage, confirm our prejudices, and alienate us from logical allies.
And because too many activists remain addicted to confrontational, alliance-fracturing forms of protest.
The kids involved seem reasonably well-informed about climate change and the Green New Deal.
However, their adult chaperones should have advised them that Feinstein has a strong environmental record and a 90% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters.
They also should have warned the kids that it is unrealistic to expect elected officials to make a major policy commitment in an impromptu meeting with an unrepresentative group of constituents.
Moreover, the adult chaperones should have trained the students in basic etiquette:
- Make an appointment. Just showing up is rude. (Activists do it because if they get turned away, they can complain that indifferent, unresponsive politicians refused to see them. If, on the other hand, they get invited in, they can spring an ambush.)
- Be polite. Dianne Feinstein deserves respect as a human being, woman, mother, grandmother, and octogenarian. No decent person trains kids to be rude to the elderly.
- Respect elected officials and the voters who chose them. Feinstein has rendered a half-century of distinguished public service — including nearly 3 decades as a US Senator. Now in her sixth term, Feinstein represents 40 million Californians — roughly, 1 out of every 8 Americans. When you disrespect her, you disrespect them.
- Plan your presentation. “Everybody talk at the same time” is not a plan; it’s a recipe for chaos. In this case, a designated kid should have asked to read their letter at the beginning.
Instead, the adult chaperones modeled boorish behavior. The hypocrite who condemned the Senator as condescending at the end of the livestream twice interrupted Feinstein’s responses, and modeled condescension herself with this statement: “We need to be doing this to unite the Democratic Party. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but voters haven’t been particularly energized the last couple of years. We need something to fight for.”
There are few spectacles sadder than attempted condescension undermined by baffling ignorance:
- The chaperone evidently imagines that divisive demands unite political parties. Apparently, her definition of unity assumes centrists and liberals must unconditionally surrender to radicals.
- The chaperone presumes to question whether California’s senior Senator notices major political trends.
- The chaperone claims voters “haven’t been particularly energized the last couple of years.” Despite unprecedented GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression, Democrats produced the highest midterm turnout in a century, gained 40 seats in the US House, and flipped 7 governorships and 6 state legislatures.
- The chaperone thinks voters lack issues for which to fight — during the Trump Administration?
Here is everything anyone needs to know about the Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Green New Deal proposal at this point: Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Majority Leader, generally forbids votes on Democratic resolutions and legislation. In this instance, McConnell is delighted to schedule the vote— because he is sure it will fail, sow divisions among Democrats, and hurt their chances in 2020.
Why walk into McConnell’s trap?