The video has it all. Left on Dem crime. Young vs old. Passion vs practicality. Edited clips. And so, so many hot takes. But it is also everything that is wrong with our politics today.
Last Friday, a group of elementary school students with some high school guardians and a parent or two showed up at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco office to ask her to sign on to the Green New Deal – the massive climate plan backed by Democratic wunderkind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
I’m not going to describe the video because if you’re reading this, you have seen it.
This video has absolutely dominated the internet for going on 72 hours now. If you had only seen the coverage you would think she boiled one of the kids like a lobster right there in front of the class while laughing about how this is what swimming in the ocean will be like when they’re adults.
Here is the bottom line: this video should have no bearing on anyone’s life other than those in it and yet there are a whole lot of very serious faced blue check marks on Twitter talking about how awful the whole thing is.
One of the most infuriating takes out there – most notably spouted by a very stern Tommy Vietor of the Pod Save America bros – is that “it’s just wrong to talk to kids like this.” Correct, Feinstein would not make a great candidate for fill in for Mrs. G’s 4th grade class. But this isn’t elementary school – these kids were making a policy ask, the type that Feinstein hears from lobbyists, officials, and staffers fifty times a day. They weren’t just “passionately speaking” about the climate, they were literally asking her to sign something that commits to spend massive amounts of money and remakes the American economy.
Politics may be a game as these last few years have demonstrated. Policy however, is very, very real. And while the Green New Deal may be the favorite politics of the left, it is at the end of the day a prescription for policy. Children were stepping into an adult world and she took them seriously.
The children were being used as political props and everyone who is outraged bought it hook, line, and sinker. The kids may be passionate about climate change, but a video was going online that day no matter what happened. They were there as part of an organization and they were advocating for that organization’s top priority. The adults knew Feinstein wasn’t signing on and they were there to pressure her and make a scene about it.
Bringing in children to talk to a Member of Congress raises the emotional profile of the event – it’s effective and the whole reason they were there. It is why the part with the girl going, “but we’re going to suffer the consequences” went viral but not the part where Feinstein talked to the mom about why the resolution won’t pass.
What would be an appropriate response if children were advocating for anti-choice laws? What if they had pictures of fetuses demanding a Senator sign an abortion ban, should she be nice and coddle them then?
This is also just who Dianne Feinstein is. She has been in politics for a very long time and in the Senate for a quarter of a century. She is blunt, gruff, and doesn’t suffer fools. She talks the same way to members of her staff, cabinet secretaries, and third graders. If you are going to ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do, you better have the cavalry on speed dial.
But most importantly – how is any of this productive? Feinstein has spent her whole career as a “moderate” and just defeated a challenge from left backed by groups like this one. She also has one of the strongest environmental records in Congress, having preserved nearly 7 million acres of public land for conservation in California alone. She was never going to be a Green New Deal supporter, but you damn well better believe she wants to tackle climate change.
If these groups and those attacking her actually wanted to solve climate change instead of promoting their own organization they would be embracing people like her and working on building coalitions to take meaningful steps.
I get it, the optics of a rigid, annoyed, and powerful senator debating children are awful. But it’s not important. It’s not like she walked into the cafeteria of Dianne Feinstein Elementary School and started telling Jimmy and Carolyn to shut up and listen to her wisdom. These kids came to her office, armed with a camera and a Twitter account, and demanded she do something for them.
By the way, the President is attempting to use a fake national emergency to circumvent Congress, a member of the military was just caught with a massive arsenal and hit list of Democratic targets, and our Secretary of Labor helped a serial sex offender get out of jail.
But yes, let’s spend more time chiding Dianne Feinstein for not serving ice cream to a group that showed up to her office intent on embarrassing her.