Opinion and Commentary By Donna Westfall – September 29, 2023
1933 – 2023 – She was 90 years old and the longest serving senator in the US; 31 years. She died last night at her Washington D.C. home. Even with declining health, she still voted this week in the US Senate having been wheeled in a wheelchair. There’s a Facebook posting by Glenn Beck that states, she was told how to vote and spent her last day in Congress instead of with her family. He calls that elder abuse.
Who will replace her? Our Governor will appoint someone. He has said he would appoint a Black woman. This coming from a political party that doesn’t know how to define a “woman”.
She had an illustrious career. While I was a registered democrat for most of my adult life, I supported Feinstein. That’s until I started looking at her without the rose colored glasses on. But let’s pay tribute to a lady that did achieve great success.
She started her political career in her home state – California. Her home was in San Francisco. She served 9 years on the Board of Supervisors and had two unsuccessful tries at the ballot box for Mayor.
THEN, everything changed at this one horrible event: The morning of November 27, 1978, the assassination of San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone, and supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in United States history.
Former Supervisor Dan White brought a gun into City Hall. He had resigned complaining about the low pay. He intended to persuade Moscone to reinstate him. When told it wasn’t going to happen, White shot him as well as Harvey Milk.
Feinstein heard the gunshots and went into Milk’s office finding him on the floor. She checked for a pulse, but instead her finger slipped into the bullet wound on his wrist.
Moments later she was the one, bloodstained, to announce this tragic news to a shocked crowd that both Moscone and Milk had been shot and killed.
As President of the Board of Supervisors, she became acting Mayor for a city that was clearly divided. Gay’s went on a rampage. 12 squad cars were blown up. Stores were looted. Dan White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. That was enough to put a strain on any community. He served five years of a seven year sentence. Then when he came out of prison, he moved to Long Beach. He later committed suicide by gassing himself in his car with carbon monoxide in 1985.
Feinstein had quite the job putting the city back together.
Because of her personal experience, she became a formidable leader in the realm of gun control on assault weapons. This is understandable. She got legislation passed, the Assault Weapons Ban, that President Clinton signed into law in 1994 that was ended in 2004. She was unsuccessful in getting it reinstated. While an ardent supporter of gun control, she was also in favor of the death penalty. That stance brought boo’s at one convention. But 25 years she changed her mind citing these reasons:
“First, numerous studies point to the racial disparity in death sentences. The inequity is simply too high for a justice system that seeks impartiality.
“Second, many studies show the death penalty is no deterrent to committing crimes, which is often used as a justification for the death penalty.
“Third, public support for the death penalty has plummeted. In the mid-90s, public support reached 80 percent; today it’s just over 50 percent, the lowest in nearly 50 years.
“More than 20 states ban the death penalty and more than 160 death row inmates have been exonerated over the last five decades. With so much uncertainty, the government should not be allowed to take a life. Period.“
However, when running for her fifth full term as Senator, former challenger Senator Kevin de Leon says her shift came when she didn’t get the support of the California Democratic Party’s endorsement. de Leon says she was out of touch with California values. Don’t know about you, but I’m still in favor of the death penalty. And it seemed apparent that she was smart enough to employ political expediency.
She always answered her mail. I’ve sent lots of letter to her over the years. While I wasn’t always pleased with her responses, I appreciated that she did get back to me; unlike some members of our local Board of Supervisors that don’t think they have a duty to respond. I call that unprofessional.
Her service to our State and Country probably should have ended about five years ago when her mental health showed decline. But then, we’ve got a President that clearly isn’t in his right mind at all times and he’s got access to the nuclear button.