Earlier this week, Sunrise Movement, an organization fighting to stop climate change, shared a video of young activists asking Senator Dianne Feinstein to vote for the Green New Deal to support environmental justice.
Feinstein’s response has been both lauded and criticized. Some say she was poised, a realist; others say she was smug and disrespectful. At one point, Feinstein says to a 16-year-old activist, “You didn’t vote for me” – alluding that they ought not to expect representation from a politician they were not old enough to vote for.
Labeling Feinstein – one of the most remarkable women to ever grace American politics – as hostile and aloof seems at least partially rooted in ageism and a fear of strong women. In this instance, Feinstein’s fatal flaw lies not in her temperament, but in her dismissal of the activists and their fears. Sadly, this gaffe is not one she can erase or edit.
The children, ranging from ages 7 to 16, were a formidable presence, their passion undeniable. This group of children – wise far beyond their years – care more about government and politics than most voting-age Americans. They made it clear that if politicians want public support, their younger constituents must also be on board.
Feinstein chose to dismiss their plea, implying that their age and lack of experience rendered their concerns null and void. But they should not be written off. If politicians ignore the fears of those they are elected to protect, what kind of a democracy are we?