The late smear of Brett Kavanaugh by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is bringing disgrace to the U.S. Senate, and her own weakness is to blame.
The incentive for the timing of this ambush of Kavanaugh has much to do with Feinstein’s own political weakness. She knew about the allegation for weeks but held it back, as criticism of her own ineffectiveness mounted.
Rebukes of Feinstein by liberals grew to a crescendo during the Senate confirmation hearings. As the ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee, Feinstein was expected by her political base to “Bork” Kavanaugh in order to deny him the nomination, as Reagan nominee Robert Bork was blocked in 1987.
Yet Feinstein struck out completely, failing even to land a glove on Kavanaugh. She never asked a single question about Kavanaugh’s character, despite her knowledge of a letter attacking it.
The conservative Kavanaugh emerged from the confirmation hearings stronger than when they began. Liberals became despondent at the prospect of Kavanaugh becoming a potential fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade—the ruling that made abortion legal in the U.S.—on the high court.
At one point, Feinstein even apologized to Kavanaugh for the disruptive protests during the hearing. The left was furious at Feinstein’s apology, and a California law professor tweeted that Feinstein should retire.
Progressive Democrat Kevin de León, who is running against Feinstein, is the popular and charismatic former president pro tempore of the California Senate. The election is in less than 45 days, with early voting starting sooner.
Last year, fewer than half of likely California voters said that Feinstein should even run again. At age 85, Feinstein is the oldest member of the U.S. Senate and her approval rating in California has lagged below 50 percent.
Throughout the spring, Feinstein was booed by her own political base at town halls, and there have been protests at her office and home. Her re-election this fall was never a sure thing.
Then, on July 14, a political earthquake rattled Feinstein when the California Democratic Party endorsed de León instead. Feinstein pathetically obtained only 7 percent in support by her own party delegates.
Five days earlier, President Donald Trump had nominated Kavanaugh, a pro-life conservative, to the U.S. Supreme Court. This put Sen. Feinstein on the hot seat to stop it. It was up to Feinstein to derail the nomination of Kavanaugh by asking him tough questions about Roe v. Wade and other controversial issues, but instead, it was Kavanaugh who flew circles around Feinstein.
California liberals were furious at how weak Feinstein was. Instead of sealing her re-election with a strong performance against the confirmation of Kavanaugh, Feinstein bungled it.
Meanwhile, more political earthquakes have shaken the Democratic establishment, as unknown progressive challenges have toppled entrenched incumbents.
First in New York, where the outspoken socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated a 10-term incumbent, Joe Crowley, who was also the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party. More recently, another primary upset of a Democratic incumbent has occurred in Massachusetts, where a challenger sent a 20-year congressional incumbent to an early retirement in a stunning 58—41 percent upset.
Feinstein has flip-flopped on some of her longstanding positions in order to stave off defections to her more liberal rival. For example, she changed from supporting capital punishment to opposing it.
But Feinstein has remained stuck at somewhere between 39 percent and 46 percent support among voters throughout the summer and into the fall. She has been unable to reach 50 percent in polling for her re-election, and that is a red flag for incumbents.
A large bloc of California voters remain undecided, and the incumbent rule predicts that most undecided voters break against the incumbent when they vote. In presidential elections, that last-minute shift can be more than 6-to-1, as President Jimmy Carter learned the hard way when he led, but then lost in a landslide to challenger Ronald Reagan.
De León is hitting Feinstein hard for her past support of a crackdown against illegal immigration, a position taken by Feinstein in 1994 to hold on to her seat during the GOP landslide nationwide. Now, de León is criticizing Feinstein for how she withheld the allegation against Kavanaugh.
So Feinstein is rolling the dice for her own political career, hoping it will come up double-sixes rather than snake-eyes. It is quite a gamble to take, and, either way, the Senate itself will be a loser for allowing this.
Andy Schlafly is a conservative attorney who has been active in politics since his mother Phyllis Schlafly took him to the Republican National Convention 50 years ago. He worked as an electronics engineer in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and then survived being on the Harvard Law Review with Barack Obama.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.