LA Times editor to Feinstein: Be "selfless" so Newsom doesn't have to choose between a Black or Latino replacement for Harris

“Selfless,” in this case, means “get out of our way so we can indulge our identity-politics wishes.” This plea from LA Times editor Erika Smith coincidentally comes at the same time as today’s big New Yorker piece about Dianne Feinstein’s alleged mental-acuity decline. One has to wonder whether this might be motivating the Capitol Hill sources who talked with Jane Mayer, too.


The headline speaks volumes:

Should California’s next U.S. senator be Black or Latino? There’s a third option

The problem, as Smith sees it, is that Gavin Newsom has to pick someone to fill out Kamala Harris’ remaining Senate term. The opening has created a food fight between the two key ethnic demographics of the Democratic Party in California. Black party leaders see the Harris seat as theirs, while Latino leaders have grown tired of waiting for their turn at California’s Senate representation.

Rather than questioning the assumptions underlying these arguments, Smith proposes that Feinstein resign in order to make Newsom’s life easier:

So what’s a governor who loves to talk about equity to do when faced with this phalanx of qualified candidates of color?

Here’s a thought: We should help him out by urging Dianne Feinstein to step down early — preferably before the next Congress — so that California will have two open seats in the U.S. Senate instead of just one.

While it’s not the easiest solution to Newsom’s political problem, it is the right solution. Representation does matter, and the more I listen to Black and Latino leaders demand it on behalf of a state that is becoming more diverse every year, the less I understand why our senior senator is still in office, blocking progress.

Ahem. Could the answer be that the people of California elected her to that office for a six-year term? It’s not as if they didn’t have a choice in 2018, including a demographic choice. Feinstein’s main opponent was fellow Democrat Kevin de León, who lost by a little over eight points in the general election. (California has an all-in primary, and the two Democrats got the most votes in it.)


Smith gripes that she never understood Feinstein’s argument for wanting to go back to the Senate, but … so what? Voters clearly did, and chose her over de León. Smith argues that Feinstein doesn’t represent the values of the state of California, but again, 53% of voters certainly thought she did two years ago and sent her back for another six-year term. Feinstein doesn’t appear to be that far out of the mainstream as Smith thinks, regardless of the upheavals of this year. That’s why we have elections — so voters get to make that choice, and not newspaper editors or the stewards of “progress.”

Smith also cites Feinstein’s alleged mental-acuity issues and then makes her plea. If she wants to be seen as an ally to “communities of color,” Feinstein has to surrender to them:

Given all of this, it would make perfect sense for Feinstein to be selfless and retire early with California’s gratitude for a distinguished career. Now is absolutely the time to be an ally to communities of color and let another younger lawmaker represent the evolving values of this state. For to adequately address the many long-standing, race-based disparities in everything from healthcare to housing, California needs a Black senator and a Latino senator.

Or maybe they just need a governor with the intestinal fortitude to make a decision. After that, Democrats can basically choose their senator in California, thanks to the overwhelming registration advantage they have. If one group ends up on the losing end this time, they can push forward in 2024 to win Feinstein’s seat at that time by, y’know, convincing voters to support that candidate. That’s how democracy is supposed to work, even in California.


One has to wonder if all the talk about Feinstein’s mental acuity isn’t an attempt to shame her into retirement so that California Democrats don’t have to endure an identity-politics food fight. However, the lack of pushback against Mayer’s article today seems to suggest that the concerns about Feinstein might be at least somewhat legit. Maybe Smith — and the pusillanimous Newsom — will get their wish after all.

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