Last month we checked in on Arizona’s two senators, and lo and behold, it turned out that freshman Sen. Mark Kelly was quite popular (48% favorable-41% unfavorable), while pain-in-the-butt Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was in the dumps (29-40). Her numbers had collapsed among Democrats and independents after her anti-$15-minimum wage efforts, while Republican voters weren’t much inclined to pick up the slack. It was a curious strategy for Sinema—acting like West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, despite representing a purple (and Joe Biden) state. At least Manchin has a plausible excuse: Donald Trump won his state by almost 40 points.
Weeks later, Republicans are reacting in glee to Sinema’s continued efforts to stymie Joe Biden’s Democratic agenda. And voters in her state remain unimpressed.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is certainly thrilled with having Sinema as a valued ally, so much so that he’s spending money praising her efforts. And what she is enabling is the continued Republican-led partisan erosion of our cherished Democracy. Click on that link and go read that piece. Seriously. I’ll wait.
In short, McConnell is working feverishly with his party to rewrite the nation’s election laws to subvert the right of people to vote, all for partisan gain because Republicans have given up pretending that this is a “center-right country.” They know it’s not, and they’re not bothering trying to move public opinion in their direction. That would require compromise and a step away from Donald Trump’s iron-grip control of a party he doesn’t even like. It’s much easier to systematically disenfranchise entire groups of people than it is to convince them to vote for Republicans.
And Sinema is right there, happily enabling this travesty of democracy.
And it’s not just McConnell praising Sinema’s help. So is Karl Rove.
What is Sinema fighting for? Not for her voters in Arizona, where her favorabilities remain significantly underwater at 25-44, lower than her 29-40 ratings last time we checked in.
And if you’re wondering if Republicans in Arizona are rewarding her, well she’s gone from 17% favorable among them, to 18%. To be fair, her unfavorability rating among Republicans has declined, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that means they’ll vote for her. McConnell will happily praise her today, and then spend tens of millions attacking her when she faces reelection in 2024.
But ultimately, the dynamic to watch is Sinema’s relationship with Arizona Democrats, because at her current trajectory, she’s almost guaranteed to face a primary next time around.
Sinema once sported nearly 70% approval ratings among Democrats in her state. Now, that’s down to 34%, with more Democrats disapproving, at 39%. That presents a key opening for a serious primary campaign, in a state in which an unabashed liberal—see Mark Kelly—can win a general election. This isn’t West Virginia. We don’t need to be glad that Joe Manchin exists, as infuriating as he is. Arizona can and should do better.
Yet despite those woeful ratings, Sinema doesn’t feel the need to reach out to key Democratic organizers in her state, or anyone else for that matter, as this brutal headline explains: “Kyrsten Sinema doesn’t feel the need to explain herself.”
Trish Muir, the chair of the Pima Area Labor Federation, a local council of the AFL-CIO in the Tucson area, which is historically home to Arizona’s Democratic base, said that the federation’s members “are not just liberal Democrats” and from “all walks and all political beliefs” but have nevertheless been unable to get Sinema’s attention.
“Outside of calling her general office number, I don’t know how to get ahold of this woman,” Muir said, noting that she is in regular contact with Arizona’s other Democratic senator, Mark Kelly, who “has my cell phone number.”
It’s not even that Sinema is doing McConnell and the GOP’s dirty bidding for them; it’s that she somehow believes that actively ignoring the Democratic base in Arizona helps her politically!
The election calendar is Sinema’s best friend. She doesn’t face reelection until 2024, giving her ample time to rebuild her ratings closer to E-day. No one should ever underestimate the voter’s ability to quickly forget past transgressions. Sinema is an expert at reinvention, from Code Pink socialist radical to Joe Manchin Lite. What’s to say she doesn’t flip into something more aligned with her state’s rapidly changing politics?
But right now, she is McConnell’s best bud in the Democratic caucus, and we shouldn't ever forget that when it most counted, Sinema stood on the wrong side of history.