It looks like Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t the only California Democrat who’s become dreadfully unpopular as of late.
New polling shows Sen. Dianne Feinstein sporting only a 35 percent approval rating compared with a 46 percent disapproval rating, the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found in a survey released on Thursday. According to the Daily Caller News Foundation, that’s tied for the lowest number since she entered the upper chamber in 1992.
So, sure, she’s been here before and bounced back, right?
Not entirely. The previous 11-point underwater number is from January, so her unpopularity could be classified as rather recent.
To make matters worse, she’s not doing well among the left flank of the party, either.
California’s “strongly liberal” voters approved of Feinstein’s performance to the tune of 45 percent while 40 percent disapproved. “Somewhat liberal” voters gave her a better rating, with 49 percent approval and 29 percent disapproval.
The survey, which was conducted April 29-May 5, polled 5,036 registered California voters online and had a margin of error of 2 percent.
Now, the question is how much this matters.
Even by the standards of the U.S. Senate, where half-embalmed figures can “Weekend at Bernie’s” their way through term after term, Feinstein, 87, is Methuselah-level old; while Congress doesn’t have term limits, Father Time does, and while those term limits aren’t set in stone, it’s clear Feinstein is running up against them.
Furthermore, the very senior senator from the Golden State doesn’t have to worry about re-election until 2024. She’s filed paperwork to run, although her communications director told SFGate that “all senators must maintain a campaign committee, whether they plan to run again or not,” that “[i]n order to keep that account active, the senator has to maintain current filings with the [Federal Elections Commission]” and that this “doesn’t speak to the senator’s future plans at all.”
And again, not to be grim, but unlike Democratic voters, it’s somewhat more difficult for dead liberal candidates to participate in elections.
So, why worry?
Feinstein’s unpopularity with the left flank of the party could make her move toward the door marked “Exit” a bit messier and more hasty than originally planned, and might complicate a major agenda item for President Joe Biden’s administration.
First, Feinstein’s unpopularity with the left. I know, it feels a bit surprising, given that you can mention her name in the company of conservatives and visibly watch people’s systolic blood pressure rise even without the aid of a sphygmomanometer. However, by the standards of the People’s Republic of California, the former mayor of San Francisco is considered a bit right-wing for their tastes.
In 2018, Feinstein faced a serious challenged from the left flank of the party from Kevin de León, currently a Los Angeles city councilor and the former president pro tempore of the California state Senate. According to Ballotpedia, Feinstein ended up winning by 8 points, but that’s not exactly a convincing victory when you considering Feinstein is one of the most visible Democrats in the entire caucus.
Then came the hearings on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court last autumn. Feinstein had already given Republicans their biggest talking point during the confirmation process; during Barrett’s 2017 confirmation to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Feinstein told the Catholic nominee that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
While one almost wants to praise Feinstein for her restraint in not calling Barrett a “treacherous papist,” the remark made any discussion of Barrett’s religious beliefs a minefield into which most Democrats weren’t willing to sally forth.
And then, after the hearings, she went in the opposite direction, praising then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, by saying it was the “best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”
She also managed to step on one of her own mines by saying on a hot mic that Barrett’s views on abortion were “deeply personal and comes with her religion,” according to the Daily Caller.
It was the former remark that alienated the left, however, particularly given Graham’s radioactivity among progressives; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he had a “long and serious talk” with Feinstein after the confirmation hearings, and presumably not about Francis Ford Coppola’s controversial decision to cast his daughter Sophia in “The Godfather III.”
Furthermore, it’s not that Californians are unusually aggravated with their senatorial representation.
“The poll showed California Sen. Alex Padilla, who was appointed in January to serve the remainder of Vice President Kamala Harris’s term and is up for reelection in 2022, having a relatively unknown profile in the state, with 46% of voters saying they had no opinion of him,” the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. “Despite his low profile, he had a 14-point positive rating, with 34% approving and 20% disapproving.”
To sum it up using the technical language of pollsters, it’s almost as if California’s leftists are telling Feinstein, “OK, boomer.”
“Feinstein’s decline among liberals and young voters suggest that core Democratic constituencies are now less likely to view her as an effective advocate,” Eric Schickler, co-director of the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, said in a news release.
Therein lies the bigger problem: Feinsten’s core competency as an effective advocate, gun control, is currently a hot-button issue. The Biden administration is pushing a suite of gun-grabbing measures, and Feinstein should be the one leading the charge, bringing her “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them [guns] all in” line out of mothballs and onto shirts and placards.
Feinstein is one of two senators who’ve introduced the Senate version of a bill that would ban so-called ghost guns, but she’s no longer leading the charge up Capitol Hill to get the administration’s agenda through the Senate.
Furthermore, she’s lost the plot when it comes to leading the left flank of the party; even in the Senate, legislators such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have taken up that mantle.
She’s now an aging establishment figurehead running out the clock — unless, of course, she decides she wants to run again as she hits 90.
If that’s the case, the numbers indicate she might be in for some well-deserved embarrassment.
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