Kyrsten Sinema represents Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is said to be the first openly bisexual woman elected to Congress, as well as the only openly non-theist or atheist member of the current Congress.
Sinema presents herself as a bipartisan moderate. She did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House and reportedly voted with the Democrats “only” 73 percent of the time in recent years. According to one ranking, this makes her the House’s most bipartisan Democrat. But if Sinema were a Republican, it would just about make her a RINO in the true sense of that overused epithet.
At the risk of being cynical, I wonder whether Sinema’s moderation, such as it is, has anything to do her political ambition in Arizona. She is thought to be quite interested in running for the Senate seat now held by Jeff Flake. Alternatively, if John McCain were unable to continue in the Senate, it’s very possible she would seek that seat.
Strong suspicion arises not just because Arizona is a reddish state, but also because of Sinema’s pre-Congress incarnation. In 2000, she worked for Ralph Nader’s campaign. Apparently Al Gore was insufficiently leftist. She entered politics in 2002, running as a Green Party candidate for the Arizona House. She finished last.
Soon, she switched to the Democratic Party and was elected to the Arizona House. During her time there, she received honors from the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the National Association of Social Workers. Moderates and practitioners of bipartisanship don’t receive such honors.
Strong Suspicion of cynicism also arise from this statement by Sinema:
I used to say that I wanted universal health-care coverage in Arizona, which went over like a ton of bricks. Turns out, Arizonans hear the word ‘universal’ and think ‘socialism’—or ‘pinko commie.’ But when I say that I want all Arizonans to have access to affordable, quality health care, Arizonans agree wholeheartedly. Same basic idea, different language.
Kyrsten Sinema, then, appears to be a faux moderate, intent on making it to the U.S. Senate by pulling the wool over the eyes of Arizona voters.
In this effort, she has an enabler — President Trump. KTAR News reports:
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Thursday that she hoped a meeting she had with President Donald Trump would be the beginning of a bipartisan approach to solving the nation’s problems.
“What I hope comes from this is a process through which we begin to focus on making compromises to solve these big-ticket items,” Sinema told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos.
Sinema said she and eight other Democrats met with Trump and five congressional Republicans on Wednesday without party leaders present. She said it was “really important” that the president hear from people aside from leadership.
“What happened in that meeting was the first bipartisan discussion that rank-and-file, like normal Democrats, have had with the president,” she said, adding that it was the same for Republicans.
By holding this meeting with Sinema, Trump has aided significantly her effort to capture a Senate seat currently held by a Republican. Now she can (1) present herself as someone the president trusts enough to work with to promote his agenda and (2) distance herself from her party’s unpopular leaders, the abnormal Democrats, who were excluded from the meeting (though not from the Chinese dinner where an agreement to agree on amnesty for “dreamers” may have been reached).
Trump, I imagine, would like to see Jeff Flake replaced in the Senate. But Flake doesn’t vote with the Democratic party 73 percent of the time. Flake doesn’t favor single payer (under any packaging). Flake voted for Obamacare replacement legislation. Sinema voted to preserve Obamacare.
Even on immigration, Sinema is at least as soft as Flake. She is said to oppose mass deportation of illegal immigrants and to favor both the DREAM Act and the creation of a path to citizenship for illegals.
Moreover, the 2018 Arizona Senate race may not come down to Flake vs. Sinema. Kelli Ward, whom Trump supports, leads Flake in the polls. This makes it all the more difficult to understand, even from Trump’s perspective, why he would boost Sinema by treating her as one of the handful of moderates with whom he can work.
Nor does Trump need Sinema’s vote. Republicans have a clear majority in the House, where only a simple majority is required to pass legislation. The only half-way logical reason to reach out to so-called moderate Dems is to have a shot (though not a good one) at passing legislation without the votes of House conservatives (e.g., Freedom Caucus members).
If Trump is willing to bolster a center-left Democratic Senatorial candidate for the purpose of screwing House Republican conservatives, that seems problematic. This is especially true where, as here, (1) the Democrat in question favors single payer health insurance and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and (2) Trump plans to work with Nancy Pelosi to “get things done.”
If you’re dealing with Pelosi, Sinema is irrelevant. If you’re not dealing with Pelosi, Sinema is still irrelevant because there probably aren’t enough Dems whose ambition militates in favor of helping Trump pass stuff that Pelosi doesn’t want passed.
It’s not even clear that Sinema’s ambition militates in that direction. Having been in the room with Trump may suffice.
Meanwhile, Trump got some good press coverage out of the meeting. Maybe, in his mind, that suffices.