Dianne Feinstein, Mitch McConnell, and the way old white people refuse to relinquish power
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I drink a lot of coffee.
It’s a daily habit, actually. I am seriously Nancy Botwin out here; I always have an iced coffee — even during cold weather. Iced coffee is life.
I have incorporated my Starbucks addiction into my monthly budget, and that includes my daily espresso injection as well as a generous tip for the baristas at my favorite Starbucks drive-thru because they are the absolute best.
Anyway, my love for coffee is so strong that I have at least 20 different graphic T-shirts that proclaim my love for this morning liquid gold.
One of my favorites is a shirt that has a picture of the Grim Reaper on it, holding what looks like a Starbucks cup in one hand and a scythe in the other.
Written in bold letters over the top of the graphic is the phrase “You will pry my coffee from my cold dead hands.”
I think it’s hilarious because it’s true. But that’s just coffee.
There are (some) white people who feel that way about power. It applies to any type of power, but it is glaringly obvious when we look at political power.
Dianne Feinstein was one of California’s first two female U.S. senators and the first female mayor of San Francisco. She served in the Senate from 1992 until her death Friday at the age of 90.
Thoughts and prayers and all of that, but can we have a conversation about the way white people in power refuse to relinquish that power even when it’s more than obvious they need to?
Feinstein’s death put California Governor Gavin Newsom in the position of having to appoint someone to take her place, and while some people wanted that person to be Rep. Barbara Lee, he instead chose Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler, an openly gay Black woman. This fulfills Newsom’s promise to appoint a Black woman to fill any vacancy left in the state, but is it necessarily what the people want?
Our government, after all, is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people, but when those who hold power refuse to let go of it and a vacancy only comes up when one of them quite literally dies on the job, the choice is made by someone other than the people.
I could go into a lengthy discussion about the disparities of what “representation” actually looks like in the Senate, but I won’t.
Suffice it to say that while women make up 50.4% of the U.S. population, they account for only 3% of the people who have served in the Senate throughout U.S. history, and the first woman to serve only came about when she was appointed to the role 100 years ago.
As far as Blackness in the U.S. Senate, there have only been 11 Black senators; Butler will be the 12th. She will be the third Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.
I think you get the picture. While we are actively contributing members of the U.S., we are not represented in a way that honors that.
Sounds about white.
So when someone like Feinstein remains in office well past their expiration date, we are robbed of the opportunity to put new blood in with the old. We can’t inject fresh ideas into our government because the old ideas have the government in a chokehold.
And while we may have never seen Dianne Feinstein short circuit on national television the way we have with Mitch McConnell, the point still remains. Putting them in a bowl of rice every time is not the answer; electing new people to get the job done is.
As beloved as Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, she did us dirty, too.
Had she retired while President Obama was in office, he would have been able to appoint someone to take her place that represents the ideals we want on the court.
Instead, we have the machine of bigotry and oppression that the U.S. Supreme Court is now, complete with Aunt Lydia; Stephen from “Django Unchained”; the creepy college perv; the one who got in there because white people be cheating; Commander Alito; and the mufugga who absolutely has to go because he’s going to lead the court right back into 1952.
Jesse Helms served 30 years in the Senate and didn’t retire until he was 82. Strom Thurmond served 48 years as a senator and only retired six months before he died at the age of 100.
White people in power will hold on to that power until their last gasping breath if you let them, and that is a power trip.
It is essentially disenfranchising the American people. If a person stays in office until they die, and someone has to be appointed to take their place, that someone is not likely to be the someone that the people being served want.
The replacement is more than likely going to be a political ally of the person who is appointing them because let’s be honest: everyone in power is serving their own personal agenda in addition to “serving” the people.
Power is a dangerous thing. You give it to some people and they don’t know how to act.
They don’t want to relinquish it because it becomes their entire identity. It becomes a thing they wield and use (and abuse) until they die and it is of no use to them any longer.
They don’t care about what comes after and what happens to those left behind.
It is entirely selfish and self-serving, and it needs to stop.
The average age of a member of Congress right now is 58.
The average age in the Senate is 64 with 34 senators being aged 70 or older. Chuck Grassley is the oldest at 90.
The average age in the House of Representatives is 57 years with 74 members being aged 70 or older.
The boomers don’t want to let go of power, and they are going to run the government into the ground before they die.
America, you in danger, girl.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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