With the GOP almost certain to pass a tax bill that is nakedly plutocratic and disastrously unpopular, Democrats in the opposition have an opportunity to go after them for looting the public coffers to make the rich richer, while doing nothing for working Americans. Which is why Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is hitting them on... the mortgage interest deduction for her uber-wealthy (and, in some cases, Uber-wealthy) constituents.
Capping the mortgage interest deduction is one of the very few proposals in the GOP’s tax bill that isn’t designed to fellate the rich and screw the poor. While the bill doesn’t use the income from capping the deduction for anything useful—it’s just to pay for corporate tax cuts and other provisions that help the even-richer—future Democratic Congresses would be advised to use the revenue raised by this proposal to fund programs that actually help people.
So why would Feinstein (or her staff) be so concerned about this part of the tax bill? Why would they think this is the right message to put out in opposition to the bill?
In 2012, the last time Feinstein ran for re-election, the extremely murkily named industry sector “Finance, Insurance & Real Estate” donated nearly $1 million to Feinstein’s campaign committee and the political action committees that supported her.
Hmm, real estate, you say? And finance? Interesting.
Just for fun, and because it was a topic of conversation on Twitter over the weekend, let’s briefly look back on some highlights from her record before her days in the U.S. Senate.
In 1984, Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco. The city, for some reason, was flying a Confederate flag as part of an “historic display” in Civic Center. A black man named Ritchie Bradley scaled a 40-foot flagpole to tear down the flag, and he and another protester burned it. The two men were arrested and charged with vandalism.
Feinstein’s administration had a new Confederate flag put up.
Bradley returned to take the flag down once again, this time replacing it with a Union flag.
From the 1984 Harvard Crimson:
Bradley climbed the flagpole in San Francisco again later last month—to replace the Confederate flag with the historic 33-star Fort Sumter garrison flag, donated to the city to celebrate the removal of the flag. Mayor Dianne Feinstein ordered that flag removed.
(For context: The DNC was to be held in San Francisco that year. Feinstein was in the running for the vice presidential nod, and Southern Dixiecrats were still a force in the party with considerable power.)
Now let’s watch this ad from 1990, when Feinstein was running for governor of California:
The ad begins with Feinstein announcing at a 1978 press conference that San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed. As the crowd reacts in horror, the frame freezes, turns to black and white, and patriotic music cuts in.
“Forged from tragedy, her leadership brought San Francisco together,” the voiceover announces. “Tough and caring, she pushed for daycare, cracked down on toxics, added police and cut crime 20 percent. Named the nation’s most effective mayor, and always pro-choice, she’s the only Democrat for governor for the death penalty. She’s Dianne Feinstein.”
Feinstein didn’t win the governor’s race, but two years later she was sent to the Senate in a special election.
Feinstein has always positioned herself as opposed, in key ways, to liberalism. She follows the party line on issues like gun control and abortion, but she is always careful to highlight how she is not one of those crazy liberals, like the ones who oppose things like the death penalty and flying the Confederate Flag in San Francisco. She has always been “tough on crime.” You can figure out the racial implications of that stance, and her highlighting of her strong support for the death penalty, yourself. Perhaps this was necessary in 1992, when California was far whiter and more reactionary. In 2017, it’s just liberalism for the wealthy and comfortable—perfect for pharmaceutical lobbyists and Silicon Valley millionaires. And she’ll rely on their support come 2018.
Keep threading that needle, Senator Feinstein. Your friends are counting on you.