Oh hey, apparently it’s finger-wag Friday, people.
In a video that’s already garnered 1.4 million views for its complete reality-bending wackiness, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, our former mayor, essentially just told a bunch of kids asking her to back the much-vaunted Green New Deal to stuff it.
And yes, there is a counter-argument to be made that this was a bunch of cute kids brought to Feinstein’s San Francisco office to garner sympathy — sure, OK — but that’s actually another reason she should’ve handled the kid-confrontation even better.
This is standard fare political theater, and Feinstein should be professional enough not to get her hackles up about it. Pat ‘em on the head, give ‘em a lollipop and send them packing. Easy.
Her condescension was a doubly strange way to talk to a bunch of kids, aged 7-16. Aren’t we supposed to want our young people to be politically engaged? Helluva way to encourage it.
Roughly a dozen children and teens from three advocacy groups, Sunrise Bay Area, Youth Versus the Apocalypse and Earth Guardians San Francisco visited Feinstein’s San Francisco office Friday to deliver a letter asking the senator to back the Green New Deal, a resolution to back ending carbon dioxide emissions, guarantee low-cost healthcare for all, and to make colleges and vocational schools affordable for all, which was introduced by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey this week.
It was there that the youngins’ were met by some truly wacky rebuttals from Feinstein.
“We are trying to ask you to vote yes on the Green New Deal,” one kid said. “Please,” another added. “Some scientists say we have 12 years to turn this around,” another said.
“Well,” Feinstein clapped back, “it’s not going to get turned around in ten years.”
Looking a little shocked, one kid rebuffed, in protest, “the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people …” until she was cut off.
“You know what’s interesting about this group?” Feinstein answered back, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, I know what I’m doing.”
“You come in here and say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected, I just ran, I was elected by a million vote plurality. I know what I’m doing.”
“So maybe, people should listen a little bit.”
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) February 22, 2019
I’m sorry senator, but what? Some kids just came to convince you to back a political cause, and you rebuff them based on how many votes you got? One teen there wasn’t having it.
She told Feinstein, “I hear what you’re saying, but we’re the people who voted for you. You’re supposed to listen to us.”
To which the senator answered, “How old are you? Well you didn’t vote for me. Words mean something.”
Yowch. I’m sorry senator — but whether or not that young girl was able to, and did, vote for you, is immaterial. She matters. Her voice should be treated with respect.
This of course is not a new look for Feinstein. Locals may recall in 2017 at one of her few — extremely rare — public town hall meetings at the Scottish Rites Masonic Center drew many-a-jeer.
Morissa Zuckerman, a 24-year-old coordinator with Sunrise Bay Area, accompanied the kids on their trip to Feinstein’s office Friday, and can be heard speaking in the video.
“I was shocked to hear her say to a room full of children that she doesn’t support the only plan that will provide our children with a livable future,” she told me by phone, Friday.
Well, I’m not shocked, but for me, it was the delivery that had my jaw on the floor. Zuckerman agreed on that point.
“I think it’s another example of why young people are disillusioned with politics,” she said. “It’s showing that she doesn’t care about us if it doesn’t affect where or not she’s going to be elected.”
The public response condemning Feinstein was swift.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” tweeted Addam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid.
“This is painful to watch. I alternated between cringing or putting my hands over my eyes,” tweeted Julia Rosen, a principal with outreach firm GPS Impact.
On my own Twitter timeline, San Franciscans and others were, understandably, going nuts. I’ll just rattle off some reactions, to give you an idea.
@thecliffbar: “The Senator should be embarrassed for treating anyone this way, let alone her constituents.”
@sanasaleem: “Why is she doing that? Those kids are amazing.”
@uhshanti: “Dianne Feinstein is a walking (Democratic Socialists of America) recruitment tool.”
@ChristinaSFLaw: “Here’s something you don’t see every day — a politician proving their most extreme caricatures are, if anything, understated.”
@mcas_LA: “Telling a 16 year old they don’t count because they didn’t vote means you don’t understand how representative democracy works.”
@lilyrosesloane: “WOW. Incredibly idmissive and defensive. Those kids were so articulate. I hope they all run when they can.”
@adrielhampton: “For ALL our children. Dianne Feinstein is a Republican in ideology and hides behind the party label. 65 percent of the California Democratic Party endorsed her opponent in the BIG ELECTION she won.”
@marykatebacalao: “‘How old are you’ strikes me as a particularly gross question to ask constituents. Young people practicing advocacy and leadership deserve a lot better than ageism and disrespect.”
And for you local San Francisco political wonks, yes, photos on social media show it was 13-year Chamber of Commerce vice president Jim Lazarus, now Feinstein’s state political director, leading the kids up to Feinstein’s office before the fracas.
At least he let them upstairs.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.