Updated: Big new actions and coalitions have been launched in the last day to convince Sinema to move on the filibuster. More below the original story.
Kyrsten Sinema can hardly go a few hours without touting her admiration for the late Sen. John McCain and her desire to assume his role of Arizona maverick.
Early returns in her effort to take up that mantle, however, have been disastrous. While Sinema has consistently bucked her party and sought to make allies across party lines, she’s a far cry from even earning a ticket on the Straight Talk Express. Alas, for all the boxes she’s seemingly checking, Sinema lacks the military record, moral compass, general principles, and political instincts that made McCain a mainstay for decades in Washington.
Instead, Sinema is less maverick than she is a troll. She has spent the first seven months of the year buddying up to Republicans, dramatically voting down the $15 minimum wage, and relentlessly defending the filibuster that is blocking nearly every Democratic priority. This cynical performance is pissing off the progressives who put her in the US Senate, just as intended, but it’s also doing her no favors with either the independents or Republicans that she’s been trying to court. The results of a recent Data for Progress poll are absolutely brutal for her:
Freshman Sen. Mark Kelly has a 50% approval rating with the overall electorate while Sinema is at just 44%. Worse, Sinema has just a 54% approval rating with Democrats, trailing Kelly’s mark by a stunning 50%. And she’s not making it up with Republicans, either, who disapprove of her performance 36%-53%. That approval rating amongst Republicans will sink like a stone by the time a general election comes along — if Sinema gets to a general election at all.
The fundamental miscalculation she’s making is that Democratic voters will be angry at her but will ultimately support her when the 2024 election rolls around. One look at what’s happening in the state, however, suggests she’s in for a real fight.
Given how many column inches they’re already devoting to her antics, it would be smart business for newspapers across Arizona to sell special editions solely focused on Sinema’s ongoing support for the filibuster. Papers have been inundated with letters to the editor calling for the senator to change her mind or be replaced. Here are just a few excerpts from columns and letters recently run by Arizona papers:
July 18th, Arizona Mirror:
So why is it that Kyrsten Sinema is holding firm on leaving the filibuster rule in place? If you were to read or listen to her reason for her digging in her heels on this subject, one would think that her thinking is sound at first, and if that was only true. Sinema portrays herself as a true independent. She has stated many times that the Senate is a body where collaboration and negotiation between both parties is essential in ironing out differences in order to get a fair bill passed.
So how sound is her reasoning to hold on to the filibuster along with its very sad inception from the time of legal slavery? I believe that her reasoning is unsound, especially during these turbulent times in both houses of congress.
“Sen. Kyrsten Sinema should know by now: Bipartisanship won’t get her reelected,” July 21st, Arizona Republic:
Maybe you’re the one politician in America who could care less about what your base thinks. Maybe you believe you can win in 2024 by triangulating some cohort of conservative Democrats, moderate independents and disaffected Republicans.
That sure seems like a terrible strategy since hardly any Republicans will ever vote for you nor will conservative independents.
I say you’ll need the passionate support of all Democratic voters to win, and if the election were held today, you surely would not have it.
“America has changed since Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the U.S. Senate. She hasn’t,” by an Arizona Republic editorial board member who endorsed her in 2018:
America has changed profoundly since Arizonans elected Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate two years ago. Yet she remains stuck in a fantasy world where she – and she alone – can save it or destroy it.
And what about Sinema? Happily sipping the bipartisan Kool-Aid that gives her enormous power in Washington while the world changes around her.
“Folks in Arizona know who I am,” she told The Arizona Republic’s editorial board on Thursday, explaining why she won’t consider ending the filibuster in order to pass legislation with a simple majority instead of the current 60-vote threshold.
Then there is the matter of the protests outside her offices around the state. Arizona progressives have targeted her since Democrats took over Congress in January, demanding that she back the minimum wage increase she killed with a curtsy, the PRO Act she refuses to get behind, and of course, changing the filibuster to secure voting rights. They’re being arrested by the dozen, but the protests continue:
Update: On Friday, the Poor People’s Campaign announced that it would be taking action directly to Sinema’s offices in Arizona with a march and sit-in next Monday. Given the star power involved and pressing topic at hand, the event will undoubtedly receive tons of news coverage and draw swarms of spectators.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and Barbara Arnwine, president of the Transformative Justice Coalition, were invited by Arizona leaders to join the rally, march and nonviolent sit-in.
They are demanding an end to the filibuster; passage of the full For the People Act; restoration of the full Voting Rights Act and a federal minimum wage of $15/hour.
Hundreds of concerned Arizonans will join the rally and march, with at least 20 intending to participate in the sit-in, including Jackson, Barber, Arnwine, Doug Moore, executive director of United Domestic Workers, Arizona State Sen. Martin Quezada, prominent local Black clergy and community leaders, and other Arizona faith leaders.
Sinema might feel as if getting that sort of negative attention is good for her brand, but she’ll also have to contend with people she definitely doesn’t want to piss off: Small business owners, who released an open letter to Sinema this week:
Jordan Greenslade, community organizer with CASE Action, said the coalition of small businesses pushing Sinema to meaningfully advance voting rights legislation started coming together around May. It includes people from Flagstaff to Tucson and they represent various industries from coffee shops to construction.
“It shows the strength and the amount of support that national voting rights legislation has, that reforming the filibuster has. Sinema can see how many folks feel strongly about this,” Greenslade said. “We need to give the voice to regular average people instead of taking away their vote.”
All told, progressives and mainstream Democrats are moving toward supporting a major primary challenge against Sinema, and sooner rather than later. Arizona has gone blue in large part due to the hard work of Latino organizations such as LUCHA, which were formed in the wake of the passage of SB 1070, aka the racist “Show Me Your Papers” bill that was enacted in 2010. They put her in office in 2018 and now she refuses to even meet with them. The organization calls what Sinema is doing “a slap in the face” after all the work they’ve done to further her political career. Now, they’re looking at supporting a primary challenger.
Sinema still has time to fix this, and more importantly, save American democracy. If she continues down this path, she will lose her re-election bid in 2024. The only real question will be whether her loss comes via progressive primary challenger, a more popular Republican general election challenger, or GOP voter suppression.
P.S. I have a free newsletter called Progressives Everywhere, which focuses on progressive politics and policy, including lots of coverage of state governments you won’t get elsewhere. Every week I send out deep dives and big features such as:
- Detailed reports on successful new laws on health care, voting rights, and economic justice
- This eye-opening look at the politics of Mississippi
- Frank conversations that break down tough issues
- A look at the new gun control movement,
- Strategy sessions with top progressive lawmakers
- Profiles of progressive voting rights groups in Florida & activists in Texas
- Reporting on crucial yet under-the-radar policy fights in states
- And features on the gig economy, student debt, and Democratic victories.
It’s free! You can subscribe to the newsletter here!
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.