Talton: Sinema may survive, even if Democrats fail to grasp moment to govern
Will Rogers quipped, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." This was during the 1930s, when FDR's New Deal was made possible by an uneasy coalition of northern and midwestern big-city party bosses, unions, farmers, and Southern segregationists. Somehow it worked and the nation was saved.
Now, at another moment of national peril, the Democrats are not merely disorganized but deeply divided and nobody's laughing. Their time to make constructive moves on historic public investments in infrastructure, improve living standards, and return to progressive taxation is running down. If they fail and we get a Republican-controlled Congress next year and Donald Trump's second term in 2024, we'll know who to blame.
In the past I've been willing to cut Sen. Kyrsten Sinema a break, tacking right sometimes to be viable in a red-purple state. It's in the "pinto" tradition of Arizona Democrats such as Carl Hayden. But in the Biden years, she's hardened into an extremist, deliberately blocking the president's agenda when Democrats have momentary control of both houses of Congress. Like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, she's no "centrist." She's a destructive force who might as well be a Republican. And, like Manchin, she stands to profit from industries that oppose the Biden budget.
And they aren't the only ones.
In the House, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who represents the Seattle area and succeeded longtime Democratic deal-maker Jim McDermott, warned the White House that her progressive caucus would vote against the infrastructure bill unless the president did more to expand the social-safety net and push for other priorities such as liberalized immigration.
This wouldn't have been such a problem before the Gingrich takeover of the GOP. At one time, this was a mass political party, too, with liberals, centrists, and. conservatives. Across-the-aisle deals and compromises were how politics worked. LBJ never would have seen the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1965 passed without substantial Republican support.
But that was then. Today's GOP has been "purified" into a dogmatic, disciplined far-right party, wholly controlled by Donald Trump.
I remember in the early years of this blog, we had discussions about this or that party going the way of the Whigs. It's increasingly looking like the Democrats. The party may remain as a rump faction. But it seems only a matter of time before the far-left either splits off as its own party or takes over the Democratic Party.
Here's the rub: The Left's "Defund the Police," open borders, and other extremist policies won't play in most of America.
Along with vote suppression laws being passed in statehouses and the far-right politicized Supreme Court, this guarantees generations of Republican control. And this fleeting moment when Democrats could have proved that government often is the solution might as well have never happened.
And Sinema? She's a survivor, even if the republic has to go down in service to her vanity, ambition, cynicism, and quest for attention.
This piece was first published on Rogue Columnist.
Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic, and retired as the economics columnist of the Seattle Times in 2019. Talton is also the author of 12 novels, including the David Mapstone Mysteries, which are set in Arizona.