Senator Feinstein’s sneering at Amy Coney Barrett back in 2017 helped a lot with the latter’s eventual elevation to the Supreme Court, as I’ve argued before. In a brutal new article in The New Yorker about whether Feinstein is too old and out of it to do her job, Jane Mayer mentions how Feinstein’s attack backfired. But it’s a later Feinstein move that has turned Democrats against the senator.
The Democrats’ strategy was to portray Barrett’s confirmation process as a travesty, jammed through the Senate in the final weeks before the Presidential election by hypocritical Republicans bent on using brute power to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her ideological polar opposite. The Democrats sought to fire up their voters by highlighting the illegitimacy of the process. But, to the Democrats’ dismay, Feinstein instead hugged the Republican chairman of the committee, Lindsey Graham, thanking him for his “fairness” and for running “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”
By the end of the confirmation hearings, public-opinion polls showed more support for Barrett than before they began. Progressive advocacy groups demanded that Feinstein step aside.
Note the chronology, though. Feinstein was congratulating Graham, on October 15, over hearings that had just ended. By that time, a 48–31 percent plurality in the Morning Consult poll already favored Barrett’s confirmation. Support had been rising for three weeks. (On September 26, there had been only a 37–34 percent plurality for confirmation.)
The Democrats’ procedural argument was floundering. The Sept. 26 poll found a 40-39 percent plurality for waiting to confirm her only if President Trump won reelection; the October 11 poll found a 44–36 percent plurality for confirming her as fast as possible.
Feinstein didn’t undermine a successful Democratic strategy against Barrett. The strategy had failed before the hug.