KQED's Politics and Government Desk senior editor Scott Shafer sat down with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday to talk about the presidential election and the road ahead for Democrats and the nation, especially on key issues such as immigration and Obamacare. Here is the interview, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How surprised were you by the results?
It will take some time to really speculate on why this happened. It's just a very hard situation.
How did it affect you personally? I'm sure you would have loved to have a woman president in your lifetime?
I would have. I was one of those that believed from the beginning that this could happen and that is because they (Clinton and Trump) are so diametrically opposed -- in view, in methodology, in presentations. One had a certain coarseness, a real entertainer, and Hillary Clinton, the considered policy person who had worked for America, who knew what was possible, who had pragmatic policies. What happened was people went for this coarse rhetoric and forgot all about the policies.
What message were voters sending?
Change. The question is hard because unemployment is way down, middle-income salaries have had the biggest gain I think they have ever had in history, and new jobs are being produced. So the numbers are good, but it didn't matter. I think particularly it's the diminution in manufacturing in the country.
How concerned are you about FBI Director James Comey and his last-minute announcement regarding Clinton's emails? What do you make of it?
This was the October surprise. Very disturbing. I don't know the inside story to that. There must be one, but the Justice Department should never do that and in fact, to the best of my knowledge, has never done it.
If Democrats had won control, would that be something you'd want to investigate? Does it rise to that level?
I believe it does rise to that level. I think there will be a look taken at it.
What's your impression of some of Trump's early nominees, such as Steve Bannon, Gen. Mike Flynn?
They don't represent all of the people. They're basically very right-wing. They are going to do very little to bring this nation together in terms of their recommendations. I'm extraordinarily concerned about what's happening. ... What a president should do in my view is bring people together. That's the job of a leader. It's not the job of pushing every right-wing idea that you might have. It's running the country in a way that everybody feels that the president is your president.
What would you like to see him say or do for all of these Americans who have concerns?
I don't think it's helpful if he keeps using Twitter. I don't think it's helpful every time he's offended by something, he tweets. The latest is the cast of this Broadway show. Why is it necessary for the president to get into that? Why doesn't he tweet some things that bring people together, that are helpful? After all, he does not have a mandate. The mandate is with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Regarding Trump's immigration approach, are you confident that Democrats can stop some of the worst of this -- whether it's the deportations or defunding of sanctuary cities?
There is strong support for DACA. Our leader is Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, on the judiciary committee. My intention is to work with him to try to see if we can't get some legislation through that can be positive.
Is that among the highest priorities, protecting that group of people (DACA, or Dreamers)? Their information is already in the system.
That's the thing, their information is in the system. They're terrified.
Do you have concerns that bringing someone like Bannon into the White House could embolden the alt-right, white nationalist kind of thinking?
I'm surprised by the insensitivity of all of this. I'm surprised that everything now is being done on "who supported me early on," rather than who is really best for America. I have to deal with this in my own mind because it's a real shock. I don't remember any election where there was such little outreach to really find people who could bring people together as this one.
Another big agenda item for Trump is repealing and replacing Obamacare.
I don't think when push comes to shove the votes are going to be there. It's too difficult to put this together. I've watched it. I've watched the Clinton health care program go down. I had some concerns with it, because when you get into these big programs there are always things that are problematic.
You think that in large measure Obamacare will be preserved, but amended, and they will call it something else?
That's my belief.
Texas has been the leading edge against Obama and there's talk that maybe California will do the same with Trump. Should that be the role that California plays?
I don't know what role California should play or wants to play. I think it's certainly a role for those of us in the U.S. Senate, in the House of Representatives, to recognize what this country is all about and do everything we can to see that it continues in the way that brings people together. That's my big interest.
I'm not interested in putting one person against the other. I became mayor as a product of assassination when a colleague shot and killed the mayor (George Moscone) and the first openly gay public official (Harvey Milk) in America. This city divided into hate camps. I don't want that to happen, nationally. I know what can happen with division.
I think the great middle of America is the important place that benefits people the most. I think that this has to settle in and we'll see if the rhetoric changes, if his tweets change, if the policy changes, if there are appointments that represent all of us. We'll see what this president actually does rather than what he says he is going to do, and then I think we've got some real problem-solving to do.
You're up for re-election in 2018. How does this election change the way you think about whether you'll run for another term?
I can't answer that right now. I'm just at the beginning.