Dianne Feinstein responded defensively to young environmentalists posing questions about the Green New Deal. Like other leading Democrats she has endured decades of being held responsible for conservative backlashes against progressive legislation like the Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Rights Acts, the environmental legislation and the ACA legislation from groups that also strongly support progressive legislation. This is how I believe she should have answered the question:
“Democrats have worked for the interests of all Americans throughout history, and that includes our environment that we all depend on. But we have an election system that is very complicated and quite undemocratic by modern standards. We can only accomplish as much as voters allow, and if we go too far or too fast, we are punished by conservative voters. Our electoral system gives undue power to small states with older, whiter, conservative voters so we need to have room for moderate voters from smaller, redder states. This is a result of our election system that was designed more than 200 years ago when blacks were slaves and women had very few rights”.
Dianne Feinstein likely would have been asked to clarify what she meant by our country being an imperfect democracy and this is how I would have said:
“One example is the U.S. Senate that has to approve almost all legislation, and alone judges. Since 2016 we have had dozens of appointments of very conservative federal judges, including two SCOTUS judges, by 51 or 52 Republican senators representing approximately 35-40 million fewer voters than the 48 or 49 Democratic senators that oppose these appointments. Wyoming with a population of just 600,000 people has the same power in the U.S. Senate as California with 40 million people. It is projected that future population changes by 2040 will result in 30% of American voters from smaller, whiter, more conservative states electing 70% of all our US senators”.
Quite possibly Diane Feinstein also would have been asked what she had meant by progressive voters causing great harm and I would use the 2000 election as a perfect example:
“Al Gore was not progressive enough for many hard-core environmentalists. Green Party Ralph Nader’s 3,000,000 voters nationwide and 100,000 Florida voters got George Bush elected. This led to the Iraq War, the Global Financial Meltdown of 2007-2008, and two conservative judges on the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, both later instrumental in the 2010 Citizens United decision and in the 2013 elimination of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This allowed Republican states to prevent many millions of voters in Democratic districts from voting and Donald Trump won. As a result, we now have two more very conservative justices on our Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, capable of further dismantling environmental, civil and voting rights, especially if we have another huge electoral win by the right wing.”
Democrats had very successful election victories in 2018 that show a path to stop the right- wing with a centrist message. Minority young women, Lauren Underwood in Illinois and Sharice Davids in Kansas, both beat entrenched four term Republican incumbents in deep red districts by emphasizing the need for affordable health care and more investments in education and other infrastructure in the face of increasing assaults from Republicans. Two out of three Americans believe in Democratic core programs, and by focusing on recent Republican efforts to dismantle our social safety net Democrats have a chance to win the presidency and gain the senate seats in red states necessary for more progressive legislation.
Left-wing Democrats won less than a handful races across the country, and Bernie Sanders was not invited to campaign on their behalf by the vast number of Democratic winners because they felt he would be the proverbial mill stone around their necks. Yet the left- wing of the Democratic Party is now hailing the results of these elections as a confirmation that this country is ready for radical legislative actions about background checks for gun owners, the New Green Deal, and Medicare-For-All.
Democrats need to work for the best obtainable environmental legislation and most affordable health care, along with the best possible voting rights and civil rights, but the reality of our flawed electoral system and the attitudes of many voter groups, often the ones that would most benefit from progressive legislation, has proved problematic throughout U.S. history.
By Richardt Stormsgaard