For the life of me, I could not figure out Kyrsten Sinema’s game.
Though frustrating, Joe Manchin at least makes some kind of sense. He is the last major Democrat in a state where Donald Trump won by 40 points. Despite being part of West Virginia politics, he was barely re-elected in the 2018 blue wave. If he runs again, he is almost certain to lose in 2024; any chance of winning will require him to distance himself from the democratic party.
Moreover, Manchin has never claimed to be progressive or liberal. The Maserati-driving coal millionaire is only considered a “moderate” because the Republican Party has distorted our view of what conservatism looks like. And by all accounts, he’s getting really high on himself can-we-all-not take us together deliver.
The point is, he does not need the Democratic Party. There’s nothing Chuck Schumer or Joe Biden can do for or for him. But the need Hi m to accomplish something. He holds the cards.
Cinema is another story. Sure, as long as she’s one of 50 Senate Democrats, the Arizona senator can block the same legislation as Manchin – and she has. She has been an enthusiastic thorn in the side of the administration in terms of raising the minimum wage, curbing pharma, taxing the wealthy, tackling climate change and most recently protecting the right to vote against Republican attacks at the state level.
Of course, Sinema does not say she is against the suffrage legislation. But she – like Manchin – refuses to consider adjusting Senate filibusters to allow legislation to be passed in the face of a Republican blockade. In fact, it is the same.
Unlike Manchin, however, Sinema has something to lose. Or at least one would think she does.
Sinema’s stubbornness has not made her happy in her home state. Her approval ratings are a little underwater. Interestingly, most of her support comes from Republicans; most Democrats do not like her. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Arizona Dems say they would support another in a primary election.
Arizona is one just swing mode to the right of center. Sinema and Biden narrowly won it in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Politically, it makes sense to shoot the party from time to time.
But putting the knees on the president’s agenda at every turn is not the only way to victory. Mark Kelly, the Democrat who won a special election in 2020 to serve the rest of John McCain’s term, is also a bit underwater. But depending on the GOP nominee, his race is considered a toss-up or lean Dem.
Sinema, on the other hand, is a dead senator who goes. She will either be primary elected in 2024 and lose, or she will run as an independent and lose. When given a choice, Republicans who tell the polls that they approve of her performance – that is, they approve of her being a roadblock – will choose a true believer. She must know that.
Then again, former colleagues have described her as brilliant but self-absorbed, convinced that she is the smartest person in the room. Maybe she thinks she sees something everyone else missed.
It is possible that she will utilize her large donor connections for a powerful consulting or corporate position when her term ends. On TwitterAmy Siskind, president of the women’s advocacy firm The New Agenda, said an Arizona insider told her that Sinema plans to run in the 2024 presidential election “as a candidate for the center. She has convinced herself that this is her calling.”
I would not put it past her just because it is clear that Sinema’s only north star is her own ambition. Ideology is next door. She ran as a Green Party activist, and now she’s Fox News’ favorite Democrat.
Her fidelity to the filibuster makes sense when viewed through this prism. She can pay the voting legislation orally and at the same time ensure that the bill never sees the light of day.
So last Thursday, just before President Biden came to Capitol Hill to urge Senate Democrats to create a filibuster cut for voting rights, Sinema took up the Senate to announce that she would not. “We have only one democracy,” she said. “We can only survive, we can only keep her if we do it together.”
She’s certainly not stupid enough to believe it.
Cinema certainly knows that the origin story of the filibuster is not as a protector of democracy, but a defender of white supremacy – as before its use, they became rigueur, white supremacists inserted the filibuster against bills on civil rights and anti-discrimination in 1874, 1875, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1972, 1972, 1968, 1968, 1968, 9 lawsuits in 1921, 1922, 1925, 1935 and 1938, the creation of a monument to soldiers from the Black World War in 1926, an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982 and the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Day in 1983.
Cinema knows that the filibuster is being used for the same effect here – not to support democracy, but to break it. And by refusing to scrape it, she not only takes the country further from majority rule, but also allows – in this case – Republican lawmakers to make it harder for blacks and browns to vote.
It is the opposite of democracy.
It is also the opposite of a functioning government. The modern filibuster produces an eternal stalemate that leads to a dysfunctional government. A dysfunctional, inefficient government erodes trust in institutions, giving rise to conspiracy theories and radicalism – leading to a more dysfunctional government.
Sinema probably knows that too.
Stay in touch with the Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Reddit.