Losing ‘Your’ America When You’re an 87 Year-Old Senator

In Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York, one point he hammers home is the notion of losing your city. At some point, you look around and remember all the things that were, and then, it’s not really your city anymore. It still can be a great place to live and so on, but something has changed: what was the city of your present–or even your future–is now the past. So too with states and countries.

This, of course, is a post about California octogenarian senator Dianne Feinstein.

If Democrats retake the Senate, the 87 year-old senator is slated to head the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the appointment of judges, as well as civil rights legislation and statehood bills (though there are some ways, if Democrats choose, to remove statehood from her committee). Feinstein has indicated, and her long record supports this, that she will reinstate blue slips, giving Republicans de facto veto power over judicial appointments–at a time when many Democrats are calling for judicial reform by increasing the number of judges on various federal courts (including the Supreme Court). And her behavior during the recent judicial hearing could best be described as ‘gormless wet noodle’, which is to say, an exemplar of bipartisanship.

(hint: when your political opponents, after getting exactly what they want, are being nice to, it’s not because they’re your friends, but because you’re their mark).

After yesterday’s hearings, some of us dirty fucking hippies on the Twitterz didn’t like the idea of Feinstein chairing the committee anymore, and recommended she be rewarded for service with an ambassadorship or cabinet position. While Feinstein is clearly out of step, when she joined the Senate in 1992, at the age of 59, she defeated a Republican: for those keeping score at home, that’s six years away from used to be called retirement age. Her California was still a heavily Republican state and defeating Republicans was no small feat.

But a lot has changed since then. We don’t refer to states as bellwether states anymore either–now they’re ‘swing’ states. That’s not just a change in terminology for the kewl kidz, but bellwether states were indicators of how the rest of the country would vote. The old bellwethers are now swing states, but winning the swing state of Ohio doesn’t mean a Republican has a decent shot at carrying New Jersey–or California.

It’s a different America now, and if some of our elders, who won difficult elections have a hard time grasping that, it’s time to thank them for their service and move them on, so the rest of us can reach our America.

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