I’ve emphasized that progressives have very little leverage over people like Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad—they’re basically in a position to do whatever they want, for good or for ill. One can’t really say the same about Senator Dianne “I just find that if you’re going to remake a sixth of the American economy, it’s very difficult at this time of great economic angst” Feinstein of California. Feinstein frets that “there is real concern over debt and deficits” but she didn’t seem to have that concern when she voted for the 2001 Bush tax cuts, or when she voted for the invasion of Iraq.
Steve Benen says Feinstein “makes comments like these because she believes them.” Maybe yes maybe no. What I would say is that to have a progressive movement that’s effective at enacting legislation, we need to live in a world where senators from states like California don’t say this kind of thing whether or not they believe it. California has been about as blue across the past three presidential elections as Alabama has been red. And any senator from Alabama would worry that breaking with the right could cost him his seat. Democratic incumbents, by contrast, are currently living in a world where even if you do lose the Democratic primary you can hang on to your job.