I’ve been tangentially noting for a while that Arizona Senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is a Blue Dog’s Blue Dog. That’s not a complement, as it means she’s, on most issues, to the right of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. Having started her political life as a Green and Socialist, she’s done, if not a full 180 degree turn, then let’s say a 135 degree turn. It was all the more puzzling when, after winning in the blue wave of 2018, she was being cast initially as part of the Squad (possibly because of her sexual orientation), even though on policy she is… not good.
As I’ve been saying, if the Democrats take back the Senate, you’re going to hear a lot about Sinema, and it won’t be good. Eric Levitz provides the details and the context (boldface mine):
Kyrsten Sinema’s career trajectory is as odd as it is impressive. The Arizona Democrat began her life in politics as the kind of Naderite who decries capitalism as rule by “the Almighty Dollar,” and Ronald Reagan as an “Osama lover.” As an activist, Sinema didn’t just protest the war in Iraq but opposed the invasion of Afghanistan with such vehemence she once suggested she had no personal objection to an American traveling overseas to fight for the Taliban. Years later, as the self-proclaimed “most liberal member of the Arizona State Legislature,” she argued that it was “bullshit” for women who stay at home, “leeching off their husbands,” to identify as feminist. At a time when the Christian right was at the zenith of its cultural power, Sinema proudly identified as a bisexual atheist in a red state.
A little over a decade later, Sinema managed to overcome her record as a far-left edgelord — which had included multiple video recordings of her calling Arizona “crazy” in front of crowds of coastal liberals — as well as the stigma associated with her atheism and sexual orientation to defeat a female Air Force veteran in a 2018 Senate election, thereby becoming the first Democrat to represent Arizona in the upper chamber since 1995.
Sinema pulled off this improbable feat by, among other things, rebranding herself as the most moderate member of the Democratic House caucus. Still, some left-leaning Democrats held out hope that once Sinema was safely ensconced in the Senate, some of her old Green self would peek through the “Blue Dog” façade.
Narrator: she hasn’t rebranded yet. Anyway…
But Sinema has charted a different course. Instead of emulating progressives like Brown and Baldwin from light-red states, she has named West Virginia’s Joe Manchin as her role model (a Democrat who answers to an electorate that went for Trump by 40 points). Sinema was one of only three Democrats to vote for Bill Barr’s confirmation as attorney general. When virtually every other Democrat voted “present” on the Green New Deal resolution, Sinema crossed party lines to register her opposition to the very concept of a pro-labor, climate-centric industrial policy. Earlier this month, she voted against restoring Obama-era regulations on coal pollution. In all of these cases, no Democratic senator from a remotely purple state voted as Sinema did. Montana’s Jon Tester, whose state backed Trump by 20 points in 2016, toed the party line on all of these votes.
Which is to say: Sinema has decided to err on the side of being needlessly reactionary. She doesn’t even plan to endorse her party’s nominee for Arizona’s other Senate seat in 2020 — and won’t commit to voting for a Democrat against Donald Trump next year, either.
I think I mentioned something about not good. As some asshole with a blog noted:
While I’ve been criticizing state and local institutions for their failures in governance–and the opportunities those failures create for bad actors–there also have been substantial failures at the federal level, including President Obama’s term (the left, construed very broadly, needs to come to terms with this). Given that the best case scenario for 2020 is that Democrats control the House and the Senate, with the Senate majority including several conservative Democrats (you’re going to hear a lot about Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and you won’t like it…), if Democrats take back the White House, a Democratic president is going to have to figure out how to govern from the Oval Office through regulation.
Democrats’ odds of retaking the Senate in next year’s elections have improved in recent weeks. But the odds of that majority passing Joe Biden’s most ambitious proposals – let alone, Elizabeth Warren’s or Bernie Sanders’s — looks vanishingly slim. This does not mean the Democratic presidential primary lacks real policy stakes; a lot of policy can be made through unilateral executive action. But for the moment, the Senate looks like it will be an insurmountable obstacle to the progressive legislative agenda in 2021. And as long as swing-state senators vote like Sinema, it’s likely to remain such an obstacle for a long time after.
I know several people who have meet with Sinema, and they think she’s one hell of an opportunist. If Democrats do well nationally and in her state (i.e., take Arizona), she could be convinced to change her stripes. But right now, the stripes she’s wearing do not look good.