When a group of school kids, not yet of voting age, took the time to make a request of Diane Feinstein that she put her support behind the Green New Deal, here is how a true leader would have responded, even if he or she did not support the Green New Deal:
"Hello, my friends! I am so glad you have come to my office! I really appreciate you taking your time to visit and the first thing I want to do is really complement you on what you are doing. I'm very, very impressed and let me tell you why: First of all, you could be out playing and having fun, but instead you are hard at work being of service to your society and the larger goal of improving life for everyone. Second, you are engaging in the idea of democracy! Getting involved in our political process. Reaching out to your elected representative. And intitiating dialog. All of this is, in fact, so important. The idea of democracy, after all, is, one, that every voice is equal and should have a say about how our government serves society, and, two, that, when we give every one a voice and agree to follow the majority, we choose the most constructive way to resolve our conflicts and avoid the destructive impact of violence. At such a young age, you already are becoming experienced and skilled in resolving conflict and making collaborative decisions through dialog. I am just blow away by you, really. You give me true hope for the future of our country. Finally, third, you care about the planet and all of its people and have studied a proposal for how we can respond to a very serious crisis that definitely needs an energetic and serious response.
All of this tells me that you are going to succeed in achieving your goal of saving the planet. You are our future, and if your generation is growing up with the skillset you show today, then every day our society will be growing stronger and stronger.
Now, saying all this doesn't mean I completely agree with you. I was using that word "conflict" which is another way of saying "disagreement." I have a disagreement with the Green New Deal that makes me think there is a better way to address the climate crisis. Would you be willing to hear both what I think are the problems of the New Green Deal and also how I think we can solve those problems by following the plan that I support? If you are willing to listen to my thoughts about why I don't think I can do what you want, which is to support the Green New Deal, then I promise to listen to your thoughts about why maybe my thoughts are mistaken or fail to solve the climate crisis.
If we do this together, then this is the real deal, this is dialog, this is how Democracy really begins to produce wise policies for our society. It gets me excited to be a part of it? What do you say, shall we all come into my conference room and talk?"
Then, after sitting down in the conference room, she could have continued:
Ok, so the first thing I want to say is that I have proposed my own plan for addressing Climate Change, which I think is better than the Green New Deal because it avoids the two problems I have with the Green New Deal:
The first problem I have with the Green New Deal is that I don't see any way for us to pay for it. I anticipate you will tell me that we can take the money from the defense budget or that we can make the rich pay for it by raising their taxes. Those are ideas I am open to exploring, but you should know that the money spent each year on defense involves commitments and investments that we can't just stop funding. Lives are a stake and so are programs that have been years in the making that cannot be simply resumed if we turn out to need them. I think if you are going to propose that the Green New Deal be funded out of the military budget, we should at least study the impact taking those funds from the defense budget will have.
Second, the other problem I have with the Green New Deal is that I think it will never get passed and this bears on the idea that you can pay for it by taxing the rich. The Republican Party controls the Senate. They will never pass the Green New Deal no matter what, but they will especially not support it if the only way to fund it is by taxing the rich. The important piece of information I think you may not have is the negative impact that comes from voting Yes on a bill we know will not pass. Let me tell you why it is damaging to vote for a bill that I think will not pass...
In the video, Feinstein does initially make an effort at dialog, but gets what I would give a D grade in constructive communication. It would be a C- grade except that it is deficient in a key component of constructive communication, which is that the communication has to be honest. What is dishonest about Feinstein's words is that she omits to provide necessary information. Perhaps she has information that would answer quite well criticisms of what she says, but it's not enough just to have the information if you don't share it. As a leader speaking to children, the burden is on Feinstein to walk the children through the steps of the communication, to point out the questions that have not asked and that follow from her answers and then it is her responsibility to provide the answers.
In this case, Feinstein fails to answer the unspoken question: Why is it damaging to vote in favor of a bill that the Senator thinks will not pass?
Since Feinstein does not provide us an answer, it is fair to conclude that there is no damage and that Feinstein's main objection to supporting the Green Deal is completely meritless. She makes some muttering about wasting time pursuing bills that didn't pass, but this muttering is not honest. All she is being asked to do is cast a vote, which takes no time at all.
Feinstein also fails to raise the obvious tax-the-rich funding source that has been widely discussed and, as a result, she does not give an answer why taxing the rich is not a solution it is wise to advance. Since she is rich and her campaign contributors are also rich, this omission is suspect. According to a June 2018 report on Investopedia.com, Feinstein's networth is estimated to be $94 million, which makes her the second wealthiest member of the Senate.
But the most embarrassing omission Feinstein makes is when the students know enough to ask her to give her elevator pitch about the difference between her proposal and the Green New Deal, and she takes a pass, saying instead that the students can read it themselves and that it was written by people who really know what they're doing. I doubt that she fooled any of these smart kids with this reply. She comes off as not even knowing the contents of the proposal she offers as better, at the same time she is essentially telling the kids they haven't done their homework. The implications of this failure to demonstrate her understanding of the issue the children have studied and come forward to engage her about are many and unflattering to Feinstein.
However, her performance gets particularly bad in the middle of the video, the part that most have seen in edited versions, that is absolutely horrendous, which lowers her performance to an F. She tries to negate her responsibility to the children based on the fact that they are not of age to vote! She displays that always cringeworthy combination of being defensive and condescending at the same time. She accuses the kids of not being open to options while apparently having already having made up her mind on the basis of a proposal about which she is yet not prepared to speak. She falls back on her authority and experience as justification for not engaging in a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the request based on the age-old, famous last words, "I know better." She tells the kids they are doomed by asserting that a response to climate change will not be put into action in the time that scientists say such action must be taken to avoid irreverseable climate consequences, and in so doing, she repeates the oft-proven false claim, "it's impossible." At the same time, she fails to acknowledge that even if a proposed solution appears impossible, when faced with climate catastrophe, there is no other choice but to try. The kids tell her as much and she just gets testy.
One must ask what can explain such an abysmal response to children asking their Senator to support a legitimate proposal to address a crisis that will impact their entire future? The only answer I can find is that Feinstein is committed to interests that are absolutely opposed to the changes that must be made to mitigate the climate crisis and so is unable to engage in honest, constructive communication that actually is interested in solving the problem. It appears to me that Feinstein is only interested in walking the tight rope of appearing to want to solve the problem without actually doing so. She is, I think, far from being a true leader, and is more likely a corrupt one who the voters should NOT let represent them. Corruption comes in many forms. Sometimes corruption is just no longer remembering what it means to be a leader. Other times corruption is obstructing policy that is essential to the public good in order to protect one's political leverage and personal wealth. We don't have to know the way in which Feinstein is corrupt, to conclude in viewing this video that this is conduct of a corrupt Senator.
We may not be able to remove her from her seat before she retires, but we can learn from her example to recognize in the other Senators avoiding support for the Green New Deal the same corruption and commitments to interests that conflict with our own. These we can vote out of office in the next round. There is a battle in the Democratic Party. We need to get rid of office holders who do not have the freedom, independence, vision, and skillset to keep moving our society forward in addressing both the climate crisis and the need to take money out of politics in order to effectively address all of our many other national crises. Let this be an object lesson for why we need to reject candidates affiliated with Establishment powerbrokers and rally the vote for truly progressive candidates who do not have financial conflicts of interest with the people's interest in a serious response to the climate crisis.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS