Many Californians, and not just Republicans, would like to see fresh faces representing the state in the United States Senate. At ages 81 and 73 respectively, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are not only some of the most senior senior citizens holding representative office in Washington, they appear somewhat incongruous given California’s culture of youth worship.
Boxer’s current term expires in 2016 and Feinstein in 2018. Polls that show Californians interested in replacing them with someone else may not mean much – after all, in many cases that would mean convincing lifelong Democrats to vote Republican – but the possibility that one or both groundbreaking women legislators might retire an array of boldface state political figures eyeing the possibility of a run in two to four years.
The Times’ Cathleen Decker reports:
By the middle of October, according to the last full report available, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had spent more than $544,000 on his campaign and had almost $3 million in the bank. And he was sending out none-too-subtle fundraising appeals with lines such as: “For us, it’s all about the day after Election Day, the day after that, and all the days ahead when we’ll make big decisions about California’s future.” Since the lieutenant governorship is a vast, responsibility-less black hole, those big decisions presumably center on Newsom’s future.
Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, had spent more than $2.2 million by mid-October, with almost $2.4 million in the bank. And she was blanketing the state with let-me-introduce-myself ads noting that she “aggressively prosecuted predators who victimize the vulnerable … cracked down on sex trafficking of women and children … took on the transnational gangs … prosecuted sexual assaults and enforced laws requiring equal pay for equal work.” No pushover, in other words.
Although I am in part persuaded by the seniority and experience argument in favor of returning Boxer and Feinstein to Washington – their tenure has earned them positions on key committees that allow them to leverage more power to the Golden State – I tilt more toward the belief that the term “career politician” ought to be considered an oxymoron, and the public service are not to be a career, but rather a chance to briefly give back to society before resuming private life.
Power has a tendency to become so entrenched that it is often hard for people who hold it to relate to the concerns of ordinary people – i.e. their constituents. In Feinstein’s case, for example, it was telling that after years of running interference for the national security agency and its massive infrastructure of illegal surveillance against the American people revealed by Edward Snowden – as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, which is actually charged with policing the NSA, not justifying its actions – Feinstein only took issue with spooks when they tapped into her own investigative committee’s computers. Plainly she had spent too much time with people like director of national intelligence James Clapper, who famously lied under oath by saying that the NSA didn’t “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans, to keep her ear to the ground.
I don’t think that the two senators are too old to serve effectively. I think they’ve been in office too long to serve us. Retiring soon in order to open up the field to a younger generation of public servants would be a classy move.