The atmosphere at Senator Feinstein’s Central Valley Community Foundation event in Fresno on Thursday was quite a contrast to that at her Bay Area events, but the senator herself was largely the same as ever, which speaks both to her integrity and to her moderate inclinations.
The Q&A portion of the event lasted only about 30 minutes and didn’t include any audience questions. The senator displayed her in-depth knowledge of water issues and touted the Water Resources Development Act as an example of the kind of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans that, though she acknowledges it is disappearing, the senator still advocates for as the only way to solve problems.
Lines like that got applause in Fresno where they would have gotten jeers in San Francisco. But I think many, if not most of us throughout California agree in principal that bringing together differing viewpoints through compromise needs to be part of the way forward for our country.
The real question is, how do you compromise with people who. as Sen. Feinstein put it, “want to cut the costs of health care to provide funding for tax reform which will benefit the wealthy”? And who lie about it. The senator called the huge Medicaid cuts in the Republican health care bill “undeniable,” but Donald Trump denies them. Paul Ryan denies them. HHS Secretary Tom Price denies them.
The senator’s staff has told us in several different contexts that she refuses to take no for an answer even when legislative solutions to problems look impossible. That is admirable. That is what I want from my representative. I don’t want her to give up that optimism. The optimism I do want her to give up is the hope that “this president can change.” He can’t. She also said she wished “he could calm down.” So do we all. But he won’t.
We need different tactics for this administration. One shouldn’t have to refuse to continue business as usual in the Senate in order to secure an independent investigation into Russian interference in our election. One shouldn’t have to threaten to oppose transportation department nominees in order to get that department to release funding that has been approved by Congress.
Sen. Feinstein’s said in Fresno that the Tea Party has pushed compromise out of our government. I share her fear that what we sometimes describe as the Tea Party of the left will drive out what little is left.
But we’re not going to get compromise back by lamenting its passing or by unilaterally caving in the name of comity. In that context, compromise is a bad word. That’s the kind of compromise that you can do to your principles, or to your safety, or to your sacred honor.
To get compromise back into our government we’re going to have to fight for it. Republicans have shown that they won’t compromise willingly for the good of our country. It seems we need to use resistance tactics to force them back to the table before we can get down to the kind of work Sen. Feinstein described rather wistfully on Thursday:
“It isn’t words that come out of your mouth. It’s words that go on a piece of paper, that will be legal, that will stand the test of time, that will be certified as workable. People have to come back to good old legislation. It’s not rhetoric. It’s, how do you solve a problem?”