This week, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., paid a trip to the McConnell Center, named after Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The move sparked righteous anger from many on the left, given the Republican senator’s legislative history that spans decades.
Though it’s fair to take exception to any visit to the center from Democrats, the larger problem with this trip was the timing of the visit and the comments she decided to make. Take the fact that now-President Joe Biden visited the center as vice president, or that Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s, D-Minn., visited just this year. Those moves sparked little backlash at the time.
For starters, Sinema took the trip in the heart of the midterm elections. That sort of timing does not look good. The upcoming midterms are extremely competitive, and Sinema’s Arizona partner in the senate, Mark Kelly, is in a critical re-election battle. Sinema somehow managed to find time to visit the man orchestrating the Republican takeover of the Senate, while at the same time failing to appropriately campaign for Democratic candidates in her home state. Business Insider pointed to a tweet by U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who is seen as a potential primary challenger to Sinema come 2024.
“Now that I think of it. I have been traveling the state and country. Donating, raising funds and encouraging people to come out and vote and I have seen you nowhere @SenatorSinema,” said the Democratic representative from Arizona.
When it comes to the comments made by Sinema herself, one is not hard-pressed to come up with a litany of complaints. First, she heaped delusional praise on the Kentucky senator, outright claiming that “we do share the same values.” These values could be numerous, but perhaps some are their mutual support for a starvation wage, tax loopholes for the richest Americans or minority rule.
She also claimed that McConnell shared her “pragmatic approach to legislating.” It’s one thing to say that Sinema herself is a pragmatic senator. But McConnell? In what ways did voting against convicting a man who fomented an insurrection against the United States government as president, recklessly holding open a Supreme Court seat for over a year for nothing but partisan gain (only to be hypocritical about the matter years later when a Republican had the opportunity to appoint a justice) and claiming that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” effuse sensibility and realism?
Beyond gross miscalculations of character, Sinema also made sure to roll out an awful legislative proposal as well. A staunch supporter of the filibuster, an arcane Senate rule that enables minority rule and Capitol gridlock and disproportionately benefits Republicans who seek the status quo, Sinema made a proposal to actually expand the 60-vote threshold, an idea she herself admitted is incredibly unpopular. Apparently, the senator is in favor of partisan nonsense that would keep crucial judicial seats open, starve future presidents of cabinets of their preference and increase Capitol Hill political games and delays.
Lastly, the senator found it wise to opine negatively on Democrats’ chances in the upcoming midterms, when she suggested that Democrats are likely to lose control of the House and Senate. While losing the House is likely, Democrats are actually favored to win the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight. Moreover, it simply does not make sense to be pessimistic on your party’s chances as a major political figure of that party. There is a reason that Rick Scott has predicted 52 or more Republican senators post-2024 and that he was 100% certain they will take the Senate. It is the same reason that Nancy Pelosi insisted that Democrats would gain House seats. While both are unlikely, projecting confidence is key to base enthusiasm and donor interest.
Unfortunately for Democrats, Sinema’s fiasco this week is just another page in her disappointing and confusing recent political career. She sides with Republicans not only when her party takes extreme positions, but also when Democrats are on the side of public opinion. She has, with no moral explanation, insisted on awful policies that gutted progressive proposals on excise taxes and the carried interest loophole. She has chopped up Democrats’ plans on drug pricing, gone against immigrants’ rights in political show votes and cozied up to dangerous special interests. And of course, she has not been willing to do what it will take to protect women’s reproductive freedom, voting rights and democracy itself by siding with Mitch McConnell and Republicans on the filibuster.
In all of this, Sinema has failed to adhere to any sane logic for her actions. It certainly can’t be that she is catering to her constituents. Vote after vote, Sinema has gone against what the majority of Arizonans have wanted. As a result, she has also positioned herself as an incredibly unpopular politician for whom re-election would be of great difficulty. She has done what is often impossible in politics: united a state… against her.
She is 17 points underwater among likely voters, 20 points underwater among Democrats, 10 points underwater among Independents and 18 points underwater among Republicans. In fact, Sinema has double-digit unfavorable percentages in every single major demographic.
What makes Sinema problematic is not simply that she is a fan of bipartisanship at large. The issue with Sinema is her insistence on associating with bad-faith Republicans over the goals of the Democratic Party and its base, often doing so in a way so overt she seems to merely be seeking status as an influential kingmaker with favorable standing among the Republican Party. More often than not, her focus on appealing to the opposite side of the aisle goes beyond crafting effective policy, and instead props up Republicans who are at fault for much of the dysfunction and political rhetoric she claims to be so concerned about.
Kyrsten Sinema is in office until at least January 2025. And while her presence in Arizona is infinitely better than any Republican who may replace her, Democrats can expect her dumbfounding and infuriating hijinks as we saw at the McConnell Center to continue, all the way until a primary opponent finds success against her.
Devon Hesano is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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