By Alexander Lomax
Last week, I saw the sort of rainbow, diamond-studded unicorn that I had never thought remotely possible: both the moderate and progressive factions of Democratic voters completely united. It just happened to be a union formed out of disdain for one of their own: Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
In case you missed it, Senator Sinema made a lot of waves with her parliamentary vote related to including a $15 minimum wage with the Covid relief bill, which is making its way through Congress as of writing this. No one who has followed Sinema through her career in Washington should be surprised that she voted against it, but it was how she voted against it that made the waves. She opted for a dramatic thumb vote, but gave this odd, playful “boop” with her hips and shoulders as she voted Thumb Down.
It was as if she was going for drama, a la Senator McCain’s final vote protecting the Affordable Care Act. But her demeanor had the exact opposite effect: the nearly universal perception was that it minimized and trivialized a vote which was important to many.
Full disclosure: I don’t agree with a $15 minimum wage. I believe that it should be increased significantly, as is overdue, but what works for Seattle won’t work the same for Sheboygan, and vice versa.
I say that in order to say, while I don’t disagree with her vote, I believe that she is failing to live up to the gravity and maturity that should be expected from US Senators.
Senator Sinema has been excellent at gauging where the middle of the state is ideologically, and pursuing that path without taking any strong stances whatsoever. Politically, she is no dummy, that is certain. But at the same time, she has clearly made great pains to grab attention. The puff pieces about her physical fitness regiment and wardrobe are myriad, to the point where it seems certain that it is part of concerted PR efforts, and not accidental. Everything is about building her brand.
That is from someone who used to tout her homelessness, was once in the Green Party, and understands firsthand how crippling poverty is. Her current detachment from both her own past and the voters that have supported her for years is the most startling development of her career in my opinion.
The senior Senator from Arizona would be well served by understanding the gravity and depth of the hallowed halls she serves in. To understand that her job is to fight to fulfill the needs and dreams of 7 million people. Her next election may be 3 years away, but tens and tens of thousands of Democratic primary voters won’t forget that thumbs down.