A photo of dianne feinstein appearing old.

Dianne Feinstein Age Controversy

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Updated Sep 29, 2023 at 09:48AM EDT by Adam.

Added Aug 09, 2023 at 12:03PM EDT by Adam.

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Overview

Dianne Feinstein Age Controversy refers to debate and concern about U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who at 90 years old in 2023 was the oldest-serving Senator in Congress. Reports of the Senator's cognitive decline, Shingles diagnosis and other medical issues raised serious questions about her capacity to serve, and several of her colleagues have called for her resignation, which she has resisted. Online, the debate has led to harsh criticism, memes and jokes about Feinstein's continued service in the Senate, particularly in mid-2023. On September 29th, 2023, it was announced that Feinstein had passed away.

Background

Dianne Feinstein was first elected to the United States Senate in 1992 and has represented the state of California ever since (as of August 2023).[1] In November 2022 at the age of 89, she became the longest-tenured female U.S. Senator in American history.[2] Her age was repeatedly brought up in her 2018 reelection campaign for Senate, but she was able to defeat her primary challenger Kevin de Leon easily.[3] She said she would not run for reelection in 2024.

In September 2020, Politico[3] reported that Democratic colleagues of Feinstein had anonymously expressed concern over her potential cognitive decline and capacity to serve, particularly in the context of Supreme Court Nominee hearings for Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The report described her as "frail" and noted she would turn to staff to help her understand reporters' questions. A December 2020 report from the New Yorker[4] intensified those concerns, noting a moment in which Feinstein repeated a question to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Senate hearing (shown below).


Developments

Over the following years, California news outlets continued to question Feinstein's cognitive ability.[4][5] In February 2023, she announced that she would not run for reelection in 2024, but when speaking to a reporter an hour later, seemed unaware she had made that announcement.[6]

Feinstein's mental capacity and health became questions of national interest following her return to the United States Senate in May 2023 following a three months absence due to a Shingles diagnosis. Feinstein appeared in a wheelchair pushed by her staff, leading to jokes and criticisms of her continued tenure. Her absence led several of her colleagues to publicly call for her resignation, as well as the New York Times Editorial Board.[7]


I Meme Therefore I Am @ImMeme0 Follow We are governed by gerontocracy: Dianne Feinstein is 89 Nancy Pelosi is 83 Bernie Sanders is 82 McConnell is 81 Joe Biden is 80 Mitch McConnell is 80 Most of them belong in nursing homes and this is why we need term limits. KESSON

Several incidents over the following months continued to draw scrutiny about Feinstein's mental capacity. In July 2023, she appeared confused when it was her turn to vote on a Defense Spending bill, leading an aide to prompt her to vote "aye."[10] In August 2023, she ceded power of attorney to her daughter, 66-year-old Katherine Feinstein.[8] On August 8th, she was hospitalized for a fall in her home,[9] though she was discharged the same day.

Death

On September 28th, 2023, Feinstein died at the age of 90.[14]

Online Reactions

Feinstein has faced harsh criticism and jokes online about her perceived inability to serve. For example, on August 2nd, 2023, Mattie Lubchansky of The Nib[11] posted a comic depicting Feinstein and Mitch McConnell, himself the target of questions concerning his age, as skeletons (shown below). Several social media users have also expressed that Feinstein is part of the reason why the U.S. Senate should impose age or term limits.[12][13]


ื™ืกื˜ | 0 | O, GREAT LORDS OF THE WASTELAND! 14001 AIDE WE ARE BESET BY FIRE AND FLOOD! POURING RAINS AND DEVASTATING DROUGHTS! HMM... WHAT'S THAT? SOMETHING MUST BE DONE OR WE'LL ELECT SOMEONE WHO WILL! OKAY, I'LL TELL THEM. UB SEN FEINSTEIN HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST THIS STRONG, POWERFUL WOMAN CAN'T DO HER JOB? SEN McCON

Dianne Feinstein In A Wheelchair

Dianne Feinstein In A Wheelchair refers to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein appearing at the Senate to cast a vote for the first time in three months, pulling up in a wheelchair pushed by her staff. The image elicited a major reaction online with a renewed interest in the conversation on mandatory term limits and a call for her to resign.



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Top Comments

Gouf Troop
Gouf Troop

I think the scariest thing about all these geriatric senators finally letting go of their positions from there cold dead hands is the likelihood of a influx of radicals being elected. So many people are rightfully and deeply frustrated by how long these dinosaurs are holding on to power that I fear for a generation of young politicians with big ideals and hazardous means. When the pendulum swings hard one way, it will come back with near equal force. This isn't even an issue that is only right or left wing.

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