Feinman: In defense of the indefensible Kyrsten Sinema
Senator has Arizona Democrats in her bag
“My God, what have I done?!” — Brigadier General Francis Xavier Hummel, Alcatraz, 1996
As General Hummel lay dying from three bullets to the chest, he realized what a terrible mistake he made. He had threatened to launch a VX gas rocket attack against San Francisco, unless the U.S. government paid survivors benefits to the families of his men killed in Vietnam and Iraq. To help him carry out this dastardly plan Hummel hired some homicidal mercenaries, who turned on him and shot him when the government refused to pay and the general balked at murdering a city, admitting it was a bluff the whole time.
In his dying breath, Hummel realized he had lost control of his murderous creation, and 80,000 innocent people were about to die. Thankfully at the last moment the FBI and British intelligence swooped in and saved the day, but it was clear who was at fault for this potential calamity. The VX gas was just being VX gas, and carrying out the purpose it was designed and intended for.
No, the fault was clearly General Hummel’s, who had recklessly and selfishly ignored caution and good judgment when he tried to bottle lightening for his own selfish ends.
At this point, tearing into U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is a national sport. The articles and think pieces calling out her refusal to end the filibuster, support increased social spending for the poor, and protect voting rights are too many to count. (When Saturday Night Live does a mediocre job satirizing your job performance, you know you have really made it.)
Yet all of this reporting misses the point entirely. Of course Sen. Sinema is horrible, and of course she will sip mimosas and let DACA recipients and the working class eat cake before lifting one bejeweled ring finger to help them.
But nothing about this is new, and nothing about this is news. She has been a VX gas rocket pointed at the other 99% since at least 2014, when she expressed her love for ex-Arizona state Senate President Russell Pearce, godfather of the notoriously racist SB 1070, and talked about how much she would love to see him run for Congress.
When Senator Sinema was Congresswoman Sinema, she voted to, among other things: appropriate $1.6 billion for a border wall (HR 3219), weaken Dodd-Frank financial reforms and cut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau budget (HR 238), oppose the nuclear peace deal with Iran (HR 411), and remove incentives for businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (HR 620).
One of her first acts as a U.S. senator was voting to confirm William Barr as U.S. attorney general.
Throughout all these votes her cheerleader, her enabler, her General Hummel has been the Arizona Democratic Party.
The party loved her, coddled her, gave her stacks of money, and turned a blind eye to the inconvenient truths of her voting record.
The party was dead quiet in 2018, when Sinema launched her Senate campaign and did not bother to even identify as a Democrat in any of her commercials or campaign literature.
Party leaders - very much including Congressman Ruben Gallego, currently being “drafted” on social media to run against her in the next Senate primary – never expressed anything but full-throated support and enthusiasm for Kyrsten Sinema and never, ever questioned the many votes she cast to make their constituents’ lives worse.
All murmurs of protest, all attempts to draw attention to the fact she was vocally anti-progressive and openly disinterested in even paying lip-service to the Democratic Party platform were either ignored, or contemptuously shouted down with the insistence “she is better than McSally.”
The party was excited to give a scorpion a ride on its back across the river to a Senate majority, confident the scorpion would mind its manners because, if not, both would drown.
Well the scorpion stung and the party is drowning, and now the party is blaming the scorpion for being a scorpion all along.
Yet none of this is the worst part. Obviously Sinema was better than Congresswoman McSally. Obviously Sen. Sinema will be better than whatever COVID-denying, MAGA hat-wearing white supremacist makes it out of the 2024 Republican Senate primary (here’s looking at you, Wendy Rogers).
And for Democrats, “better” will be more than good enough.
The people who are the loudest in their demand that Sen. Sinema be primaried may be the meekest when they vote for her in the primary in three years, but vote for her they will.
Because the no-name, underfunded, progressive idealist who runs against Sinema will have $100 to her $1 gazillion, and will scare the party into thinking independents will never vote for a real leftist.
So the party will line up behind Sinema once again, and its leaders and activists will vote for her once again, and after her re-election they will again fan themselves with their handkerchiefs and collapse onto their fainting couches while bemoaning the fact she is doing exactly what she always promised to do.
She is smarter than them, because in her bones she understands how totalizing partisanship has become in American politics.
As long as she keeps a (D) next to her name Democrats will always vote for her, no matter how much she makes Russell Pearce proud. To keep her job she needs to please his voters, not them. Despite what SNL and the New York Times think, they are already in Kyrsten Sinema’s bag.
Joel Feinman is a criminal defense attorney in Pima County.