What is wrong with Kyrsten Sinema? Like a lot of the rest of you, I don’t really know. Sinema is a head-scratching case, for sure.
Sinema had a complicated childhood, which included her parents divorce, her mother’s remarriage, and apparent periods of quasi-homelessness while growing up. She graduated high school as a valedictorian and went to BYU (even though she now claims to be an atheist). She became employed as a social worker and subsequently earned not only an MSW, but eventually also a J.D. She then began working as a criminal defense attorney, and while doing that, she also earned a Ph.D in Justice Studies, also from Arizona State University. Subsequently she became an adjunct professor teaching master’s-level policy and grant-writing classes at Arizona State University School of Social Work and an adjunct business law professor at Arizona Summit Law School. So this is a woman who (unlike Donald Trump, for example) pulled herself up by her own bootstraps and also became quite educated.
Politically, she’s also been something of a Sphinx. She began her political career in the Arizona Green Party and worked on Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000. She initially ran for local elected offices as an independent, races which she lost. In 2002, Sinema first ran for the Arizona House of Representatives as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party. She finished in last place in a five-candidate field. Undaunted, Sinema joined the Democratic Party in 2004 and tried again for the 15th House district (in Arizona’s state legislature, two Members can represent the same district). In 2004, both she and David Lujan won the two seats for Arizona’s 15th district, with 37% for Sinema and 34% percent for Lujan. Sinema then went on to win a seat in the Arizona State Senate (2010), the U.S. House of Representatives (2012) and finally the United States Senate (2018), where she defeated Martha McSally by 55,900 votes (or about the same number as the Green Party candidate that year). With her election, Sinema because the first openly bisexual member of the Senate.
And yet, she has migrated to becoming one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and a strange obstacle to voting reform. With her Ph.D in Justice Studies, she must be well aware of how critical it is to be engaging in progressive voting reforms. Indeed, she claims to be in support of both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
Yet, Sinema somehow thinks that changing the Filibuster rules — which weren’t adopted until 1917 and have been changed numerous times since then — will break the Senate.
The Senate is already broken. And it’s absolutely clear who broke it: one Addison Mitchell McConnell III. His manipulation of the rules and absolute hypocrisy around Supreme Court (and other) judicial nominations, his failure to support the second impeachment of Donald Trump right after McConnell (like other Senate leaders) had essentially been held hostage in the January 6th insurrection, and his overall Machiavellian politics broke the Senate a long time ago. Failing to create a carve-out for voting rights will simply allow the Republicans to shamelessly continue to use the “Big Lie” of Trump’s (allegedly) stolen election to enact voter suppression laws around the country.
Is this what Sinema wants?
What does Sinema want?
If she really believes that not voting for a carve-out from the filibuster will somehow make the current Senate a saner place, then she is as deluded as the people who think that the vaccines are “experimental” and unsafe to administer during a pandemic.
The Senate Democratic leadership plans to force a vote on these issues today. Both the filibuster questions and the voting bills themselves. People will have to go on the record. And let’s not forget that any single Republican could break rank from Republican orthodoxy and support voting rights in the United States if they just had the courage to do so. So far, not a single one of them has shown that courage.