Why centrist Dianne Feinstein is moving so much to the left that she now opposes the death penalty


Dianne Feinstein built one of California’s most successful political brands by standing up to her party’s liberal wing.

In her first run for statewide office in 1990, she defiantly faced down raucous booing from California Democratic Party delegates angry over her support for the death penalty. Undeterred, she used footage of the public rebuke in campaign ads to show the state’s then-more moderate population — including many Republicans — that she was tough, pragmatic and mainstream.

That centrist formula propelled Feinstein to the U.S. Senate two years later, and after one tough race, she has pretty much coasted to reelection since.

More than a generation later, California has moved left, becoming one of the nation’s bluest states.

At 84 and seeking a fifth full term in November, Feinstein has moved left as well, though not far enough for some Democrats. She still gets boos from her party’s progressive wing. But on a series of issues, Feinstein is changing long-held positions, at times overriding her time-tested instinct for centrism.

Most surprising, Feinstein recently announced quietly that she no longer supports capital punishment — a dramatic reversal of the position she embraced during that iconic appearance at the 1990 convention.

Similarly, after decades opposing legalizing marijuana use, Feinstein said this month that she supports a federal law keeping the government from interfering in states such as California that choose to legalize marijuana use.

Other moderate positions that once worked for Feinstein have lately made her look out of touch to some. And her reputation for reaching across the aisle to get things done is less admired at a time when partisanship is so bitter that cooperation is sometimes viewed as betrayal.

Californians booed her last year at separate events for refusing to endorse a government-run healthcare system and daring to suggest it might be possible to work with a Trump presidency.

Read more at The LA Times