For the sin of collegiality, once the hallmark of the United States Senate, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is facing calls to step down as ranking minority member of the powerful Judiciary Committee.

In Twitter’s garden of outrage, where courtesy and tolerance go to be buried, the calls for Feinstein’s ouster “trended” after she complimented Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, for his handling of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“One of the best sets of hearings that I’ve participated in,” Feinstein said at the conclusion of the proceedings. She and Graham shared a hug before leaving the hearing room.

Left-wing organizations were enraged. NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue called the hearings “unprecedented, shameful and wrong” and criticized Feinstein for giving “an appearance of credibility to the proceedings that is wildly out of step with the American people.” Hogue said NARAL believes “the committee needs new leadership.”

Brian Fallon, executive director of an organization called Demand Justice, said, “Keeping Feinstein as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee is a monument to our side’s weakness on the fight for the courts.” Fallon was the press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

It goes without saying that any “weakness” on the Democratic side is the result of the election outcomes in 2016 and in the 2018 Senate races. The confirmation of Barrett was effectively decided long before the hearings began. Democrats did not have the votes to deny her a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

So the question for Feinstein was whether Democrats would make their points in a civil manner or use the hearings as an opportunity to scorch the earth.

In 2018, the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh charred Washington and contributed to the loss of Democratic seats in the election that followed. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, all were defeated after the Kavanaugh confirmation vote. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, also lost his re-election bid.

Two Democratic senators who survived, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. John Tester of Montana, warned their colleagues before the Barrett hearings not to repeat the Kavanaugh “fiasco.” Manchin said he hoped the committee would “have a civil, have a really professional, decent, honorable, respectable hearing, that’s all.”

As the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Feinstein made that happen. An experienced politician on the national scene, Feinstein well understands that in some states, many voters think NARAL and other liberal groups are “out of step with the American people.”

Beyond differing views of the issues, there is a strong desire among many voters for a more civil tone in politics. Certainly President Trump has understandably taken a lot of criticism for his style of communication. If Democrats want the high ground on the civility issue, they would be wise to follow Feinstein’s example.

Instead, the pressure for her removal from the Judiciary Committee seems to be growing. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer passed up a chance to defend Feinstein from the attacks coming from the left, revealing to reporters that he recently had a “long and serious talk” with California’s senior senator.

Democrats who hope to defeat Republicans would be wise to stop trying to defeat other Democrats.


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