People keep asking me how Arizona, which almost invariably sends center-right candidates to the Senate, could have elected Kyrsten Sinema. I’ve been asking that question myself.
Sinema once called Arizona the meth lab of Democracy (maybe she was onto something). She said she didn’t care if people join the Taliban.
She entered politics as a member of the Green Party. She received honors from the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the National Association of Social Workers. She engaged in an anti-war protest dressed in a tutu, causing me to label her the hippie-dippie candidate.
By contrast, her opponent, Martha McSally, flew combat missions against the Taliban. As a war hero and a center-right Republican, she seemed like an attractive candidate in the tradition of John McCain (without the insufferable ego and the drama) and a logical successor to Jeff Flake (without the self-righteousness).
What happened? At Ricochet, Jon Gabriel offers five reasons why Sinema won. The most important one, I think, is that Sinema ran as a moderate and could back up the claim by citing her record in the House of Representatives.
According to Gabriel:
[Sinema’s] mailers and ads are nothing but waving flags and smiling veterans. She barely mentions her party but stresses her “independence” and willingness to work with “literally anyone” on conservative issues.
Her record in the House is reasonably consistent with this image. As I said in my first post about Sinema:
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.
I also said that Sinema is probably “a faux moderate, intent on making it to the U.S. Senate by pulling the wool over the eyes of Arizona voters.” And I provided evidence, including the facts noted above, to support this strong suspicion.
But, wool or no wool, Arizona voters seem to have believed their eyes.
How will Sinema behave now that she has secured that Senate seat? Will she be a moderate willing to buck the left?
I doubt it. She’ll probably be more like Jon Tester than like Joe Manchin (not that Manchin is all that genuinely moderate). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sinema votes to the left of Tester. Arizona isn’t nearly as conservative as Montana. And Sinema may conclude that by 2024, the next time she confronts “the meth lab,” the state will have moved to the left thanks to demographics, including an electorate with more Latinos.
As President Trump likes to say, “we’ll see what happens.” At this point, there’s really no choice.
UPDATE: Another factor in Simena’s victory might have been the debate. I watched a good portion of it on C-SPAN. To my surprise, given that McSally flew missions in Afghanistan, Sinema seemed like the calmer, more poised of the two candidates. She probably made a better impression on swing voters and the undecided.