December 12, 2022

Kyrsten Sinema

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has switched parties to become an independent… By keeping her committee assignments, Sinema signaled she intends to continue to caucus with Democrats as an independent, like Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine do…

“Long before her announcement Friday morning, some Arizona Democrats had already started trying to find a replacement to primary her. Groups like the Primary Sinema PAC emerged late last year after her reluctance to filibuster reform prevented Democrats from moving forward with an exception for voting rights legislation, leading to the central committee of the Arizona Democratic Party [issuing] a no-confidence vote in its senator.” CNBC

See our prior coverage of Sinema here, here, and here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Sinema’s policies and coziness with special interests.

“Polling in September found her 20 points underwater among voters in her own party. Their antipathy is understandable: Sinema has spent her entire political career drifting rightward and has increasingly acted as if corporate plutocrats are her actual constituents. During the Biden administration she has regularly blocked initiatives, from climate to voting rights to the expansion of the child tax credit, typically without explaining her reasoning…

“She has typically raked in cash from industries lobbying on behalf of a variety of special interests, from energy to Big Pharma. She also, famously, refuses to explain herself or even meet with voters in her home state, who have had to essentially stalk and harass her to earn her attention… No one knows what Sinema believes or why she wants to stay in Congress—beyond doing the bidding of Big Pharma and private equity. But her self-preservation and self-interest is clearly the only thing guiding her.”

Alex Shephard, New Republic

“Sinema presents her defection from the party as a response to popular demand, lacing the prose with repeated references to ‘everyday Americans,’ such as: ‘There’s a disconnect between what everyday Americans want and deserve from our politics, and what political parties are offering.’ That may be true, but the problem is that everyday Americans demonstrably do not want what Sinema is offering

“The primary disconnect in American politics is that Democrats are to the left of the public on social issues, and Republicans to the right on economic issues. Both parties are pulled to these extremes by activists and donors. Sinema’s unique brand is a more extreme version on both dimensions. She has combined a cosmopolitan, progressive social-issue profile with a far-right economic agenda, the appeal of which is confined to an extremely rarified circle of affluent libertarians.”

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

“In the 2008 presidential campaign, [Sen. Joe] Lieberman crossed the aisle to back Republican presidential nominee, John McCain (R-Ariz.), and he campaigned forcefully against Barack Obama. After Obama won, and Democrats had gained eight seats in the Senate, many wanted retribution. With close to 60 seats, they fumed to [then-Sen. Majority Leader Harry] Reid: We don’t need Lieberman, kick him out of the caucus or at least strip his committee gavel…

“[But] Reid, in one of his most prescient moves, figured he could get bigger things done with Lieberman inside the tent, annoying as he might be to some liberals… Lieberman kept his Homeland Security Committee gavel but surrendered a less important assignment on a different committee. Eight months later, he voted for the Affordable Care Act, a high-wire act in which Reid needed all 60 votes in his caucus… [Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is] following the long-game model that Reid took with Lieberman.”

Paul Kane, Washington Post

From the Right

The right argues that activists on the left drove Sinema out of the party.

The right argues that activists on the left drove Sinema out of the party.

“Sinema voted with the Biden administration 93 percent of the time, but that statistic doesn’t reflect the fact that, on the really big issues, she was the one who required concessions from the rest of her party and dragged out the negotiations. By the time the legislation came to the Senate floor, she had forced the rest of the party to make at least some adjustments to make it acceptable to her. Sinema wants to steer legislation in a center-left direction, and a lot of her colleagues want to steer it in a left-left direction…

“Because of Sinema’s deviation from their wish-list, a significant chunk of Arizona Democrats hate her guts, and the senator apparently doesn’t see any point in pretending that her worldview overlaps with theirs in a significant way anymore…

“As I laid out after the bathroom incident, a certain segment of the Democratic Party’s base believes that anyone who hinders or delays them from getting what they want is an enemy, not merely an opponent or unreliable ally. If you keep treating a member of your party like she’s an enemy, sooner or later she will decide she might as well become an enemy.”

Jim Geraghty, National Review

“With Republicans narrowly controlling the House next year, the political action to watch in the Senate will be whether bipartisan coalitions can get 60 votes. There won’t be any 50- or 51-vote Senate majorities using budget reconciliation as with the egregious Inflation Reduction Act that Ms. Sinema voted for. This could give Ms. Sinema some running room on issues like spending and raising the debt limit if she can form a centrist coalition…

“Senate Democrats will be defending 23 seats in 2024, many of them in swing states like West Virginia, Montana and Ohio. Republicans will be defending only 11, most of them safe. Ms. Sinema may think even Republicans might be able to retake the majority given that imbalance, in which case she’d have more influence in her second term as an independent.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“What would happen if both Manchin and Sinema move into the Independent column — and refuse to caucus with either party initially? Instead of a 51/49 split in the Senate, it suddenly becomes 49/49/2; if King decides to join, then it becomes 49/48/3. That would force both caucuses to bargain for their support in a leadership fight, one that would keep Kamala Harris on the sidelines and require whomever wins to stick to their bargains. The two or three senators in the center would have far more power to dictate policy outcomes and to punish welchers than they do at present…  

“That would take a lot of guts, but in truth, neither Manchin or Sinema really have anything to lose. If it succeeds, they may end up setting a trend that would either force an end to the partisan wars, at least until voters have their say about the direction of the country in 2024.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

A libertarian's take

“Don't forget that there are more unaffiliated registered Arizona voters than there are voters registered for either party. And per the Pew Research Center, large majorities of Americans view both the Republican and Democratic Party unfavorably. This is reflected in their self-identification, with 42 percent of Americans now identifying as Independents, compared to just 29 percent who identify as Democrats and 27 percent who identify as Republicans. Clearly, the people share Sinema's frustrations with both establishment parties…

“The Democratic Party establishment increasingly caters to the fringe ‘woke’ social views of a tiny minority of loud activists, isolating their own voters in the process. Meanwhile, the GOP increasingly stands for nothing beyond subservience to Donald Trump and blind opposition to Team Blue. Content to fear-monger and fundraise, neither establishment party seems particularly bothered with actually addressing the issues people care about… whether you agree with her on the issues or not, we should all appreciate the spirit of independence that animates her controversial political career.”
Brad Polumbo, Newsweek

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