Diane Feinstein, 89, has returned to Congress after nearly three months of sick leave, bringing attention to her advanced age and declining health. However, her decline and its impact on American democracy go deeper than what is publicly known. According to sources, Feinstein’s office has implemented an on-call system in recent years to prevent the senator from wandering around the Capitol alone without her knowledge. Every time the senator leaves her office, a staff member accompanies her, concerned about negative press.
Feinstein’s apparent decline has resulted in numerous interviews where she takes unexpected stances on policies, which her staff then must correct through emails. Additionally, there have been instances where she forgets past conversations and statements, causing discomfort for those present. Despite staff concerns, Feinstein remains committed to legislative work, but Democrats have called on her to resign due to her declining health.
The seniority system in Washington, D.C. links aging with increasing power, making it difficult to sideline incompetent lawmakers from key governance roles. The average age of a U.S. senator is 65, and when politicians become incompetent, governing falls to their staff. The impact of Feinstein’s decline is not exclusive to politics, as California’s nearly 40 million residents have lost full representation in the Senate during her absence and the judicial committee’s operations have stalled.
Feinstein’s decline sheds light on the challenges posed by aging politicians and the accessibility of democracy to the American people.