California Forum

Feinstein’s age is a silver lining, not a ‘silver ceiling.’ And age discrimination isn’t OK

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who last week announced she will run for re-election, speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco earlier this year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who last week announced she will run for re-election, speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco earlier this year. AP

Maybe it’s because I eyed my first gray hairs in the mirror the other day, or because I was offered a senior discount for my movie ticket the week before, but I’m a little sensitive to Erika Smith’s notion of a “silver ceiling” in the U.S. Senate race (“Kevin de León might not win, but it’s hard to blame him for challenging Dianne Feinstein”, Forum, Oct. 15).

Her perspective was a thinly veiled case for age discrimination. And like other forms of discrimination, it’s not OK.

No, most older adults aren’t “slogging into the office, taking conference calls, and presiding over meetings” for the sport of it. They are doing so because, like Feinstein, they are valuable contributors to our society.

Someone’s birthdate should never be a gauge of their effectiveness on the job in politics or in any other field. It is not as if the senator is hauling boxes off the back of a UPS truck.

Someone’s birthdate should never be a gauge of their effectiveness on the job in politics or in any other field. It is not as if the senator is hauling boxes off the back of a UPS truck.

If you’ve seen her at work as I have, you know she’s delivering the goods for California just as effectively today as she ever has. In fact, there’s a strong argument that, because of Senate rules in which seniority plays a major role in committee assignments and clout, Feinstein’s “silver lining” experience is even more valuable.

Could the criticism of her maturity be because she’s a woman? Nobody is questioning Bernie Sanders’ ability to be effective at age 76. In fact, he’s being talked about as a contender for the Oval Office. For what it’s worth, Nelson Mandela was first elected President of South Africa when he was 76.

To his credit, her opponent, state Sen. Kevin DeLeón, has vowed not to make age an issue in this campaign. If he does, Feinstein should be ready with Ronald Reagan’s quip when he, at 73, was asked during a 1984 presidential debate if he was “too old” to be president. Said Reagan: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

As an earlier Bee editorial noted, Feinstein’s decision to run for re-election should not be a coronation. But voters would be wise to see who will be the most effective champion for California instead of checking dates on birth certificates.

Setting it straight: An earlier version misstated the year of the 1984 presidential debate.

Steven Maviglio is a Democratic political consultant in Sacramento. Contact him at steven.maviglio@gmail.com.

  Comments