Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Last weekend, the executive board of the California Democratic Party voted to endorse Ms. Feinstein’s challenger, fellow Democratic State Sen. Kevin de Leon, in his bid to unseat the four-term incumbent (both Democrats advanced to the general election as the top-two finishers in California’s June “open” primary). The outcome wasn’t close Mr. de Leon received 65 percent to Ms. Feinstein’s mere 7 percent, with 28 percent opting for “no endorsement.”

Yes, it’s an embarrassment to Ms. Feinstein, who will lead the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats in their grilling of Judge Kavanaugh. At age 85, she’s the oldest member of the chamber, having outlived such fads as Beanie Babies, boy bands, Ross Perot and Clinton-style triangulation.

But does the snub mean bye-bye for DiFi?


In all, about 330 party activists voted on the endorsement. Translation: In a state with 8.4 million registered Democrats (44.4 percent of the electorate), about 220 conspired against Ms. Feinstein. In order to win in November, Mr. de Leon will have to piece together a coalition of disaffected Democrats and unaffiliated voters (25.5 percent of the electorate). That won’t happen for several reasons: Mr. de Leon is strapped for cash; he suffers from poor name recognition; his main claim to fame — he introduced the California law that bans the use of state and local resources to aid the federal government in deportation actions — will drive Republicans in Ms. Feinstein’s direction.

So fear not for Dianne Feinstein.

And send some Prozac California’s way.

If there’s a word to sum up the Golden State’s mood in 2018, it would be this one: Angry. Democratic activists seethe that Ms. Feinstein had the audacity by once suggesting that Donald Trump “can be a good president” if “he can learn and change.” California Republicans hope that public rage against the highest gas prices on America’s mainland is enough to both pass a ballot measure that would repeal last year’s 12-cent-per-gallon increase in the state’s gasoline tax and save a few endangered Republican House members.

As for California’s rising political stars, irritation is the insincerest form of advancement. Sen. Kamala Harris, only two years in Washington and her eyes already on the White House, uses her seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee as a bully pulpit (emphasis on the “bullying” part). Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the odds-on-favorite to replace the term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown in November, rarely misses a chance to snidely tweet Mr. Trump’s way (in what sounds like a bad reality script, Mr. Newsom’s ex-wife, Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, is dating Donald Trump Jr.).

And then there’s the ultimate outlet for public anger — the “Cal 3” ballot initiative that would trisect the Golden State into equally-populated pieces north, south and coastal.

“Cal 3” bears watching. Not because it will ever take effect. Even if voters approved, it would have to survive legal challenges and a skeptical Congress required to grant statehood. Rather, it’s the potency of the underlying message.

Set aside the comedy — the possible dissolution of the land that gave America no-fault divorce; the initiative’s godfather, Tim Draper, as something of a venture-capital mad bomber (he invested heavily in Skype, Tesla and Bitcoin) — and “Cal 3” is an opportunity for America’s nation-state to have a serious conversation about the shaky ground upon which the supposed progressive utopia rests.

As Mr. Draper told reporters soon before his measure qualified for the November ballot: “We have failing school systems, broken infrastructure with bad waterways and highways, and we have the highest taxes in the nation.”

He could have added: A $1 trillion unfunded pension liability, property crimes on the rise thanks to lowered criminal penalties, no serious tax cuts in two decades despite hefty budget surpluses of late, plus the State Legislature’s pursuit of a $400 billion single-payer health care it can’t afford (watch for a payroll tax hike in the near future).

The good news: Recreational marijuana is now legal in California. The bad news: Prices are higher than before; statewide, about 70 percent of communities have passed on recreational sales.

No wonder voters are angry.

One wonders why Dianne Feinstein wants more of this.

• Bill Whalen is a Hoover Institution research fellow who follows California and national politics and hosts Hoover’s “Area 45” podcast on the Trump presidency.

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