Serious question: If you’re a so-called “moderate” Democrat who took advantage of your oversized influence and power during the previous Congress (when the senate was tied 50-50 with a Democrat vice president Kamala Harris breaking ties for a de facto majority) and
your party then wins an improbable 51st seat to provide an outright majority, what might you do then to maintain your larger share of control over what goes on next term?
Serious answer: You declare yourself independent and resign from the Democrat Party, then imply your vote is up for grabs.
Such was the case for Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema last week. The first-term Grand Canyon State senator rocked the pundit class by publishing an op-ed declaring her independence from the Chucky Schumer-led Democrat majority. In doing so, Sinema drew much attention to herself and must’ve figured it entitled her to say her peace on the reasons for such a bold (NOT!) action.
Anyone following recent political developments didn’t find Sinema’s ploy all that earth-shattering and those conservatives who now hold out hope that her sideways jaunt will make a significant difference in the way things are done on Capitol Hill starting in January are sadly mistaken. Other than a party registration form in Arizona, nothing has really changed.
In her declaration, Sinema laid out her rationale for ditching the Democrats. In a piece titled “’I promised Arizonans something different’”, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wrote last week in the Arizona Republic:
“Becoming an independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same…
“Arizonans who share my unwavering view that a woman’s health care decision should be between her, her doctor and her family should know that will always remain my position, as will my belief that LGBTQ Americans should not be denied any opportunity because of who they are or who they love.
“For those who support my work to secure the southern border, ensure fair and humane treatment for migrants and permanently protect ‘Dreamers’ who are Americans in all but name, those will remain my priorities.”
So, in essence, nothing’s atypical other than Sinema telling people her party name’s changed and national Democrats might now cut the amount of fundraising they do for Arizona’s senior senator. They’ll be too scared Kyrsten will complete her conversion to the dark side (a.k.a. Republicans) to pull her committee assignments or bash her – at least in public.
Sinema will be the Democrat/independent version of Republican RINO Lisa Murkowski. Alaska’s establishment legacy senator has dangled potential vote defections over the GOP leadership’s heads ever since she was nearly ousted twelve years ago (she had to win reelection in 2010 as a write-in candidate because she was bested in the state primary). Sinema can now act in a similar manner.
Sinema: “Chucky, I would like you to dance.” Schumer: “Definitely! Do you want the Mambo or the Pachanga – or the Foxtrot, Madame?”
Otherwise, the Arizonan still fight mano-y-mano with Democrats to codify Roe v. Wade and any other aspect of the religious freedom stomping LGBTQ+ agenda that they can get their grubby little fingers on.
The timing of Sinema’s defection is also curious. Why, for example, did Sinema wait until after the Georgia runoff to announce her decision to leave the Democrats? There had to be reasons. Some possibilities:
First, Sinema is up for reelection in 2024. Some folks forget Sinema was one of the new Democrat senators swept into office during the Democrat wave year of 2018. Up until that time, Arizona had tapped a series of wishy-washy establishment RINO senators such as John McCain, Martha McSally and Jon Kyl, none of which were considered hardcore conservatives.
To this day some Americans figure Arizona’s voters are dedicated limited government types in the mold of the late Barry Goldwater, but with an influx of immigrants from south of the border as well as a healthy number of liberal voting California transplants, the state has been trending purple for some time now.
Arizona’s 2022 results were hopelessly tainted by the Election Day shenanigans in Maricopa County where as many as 100,000 voters weren’t able to cast ballots due to system malfunctions overseen by now Governor Elect Katie Hobbs (who currently doubles as Arizona’s Secretary of State). Multiple lawsuits may solve some of the mysteries surrounding last month’s vote, but won’t be finished in time to reverse the results. It’s 2020 all over again, but on a much smaller scale.
Elect Democrats and that’s what you get.
Sinema may have sensed that winning reelection as an independent would be easier than re-running as a Democrat. The senator reaffirmed her mostly liberal stances, so on most issues, she’s as blue as the rest of the Democrat caucus. But now she can claim independence and pitch the new status to her state’s ballot-casting citizens. Smart gal? We’ll see.
Second, Kyrsten resigning from the Democrat Party but still caucusing with them (which she hasn’t exactly specified) gives her an exalted status in the senate now. Whereas the day before her announcement she was merely one of 51 Democrats, she suddenly morphed into a senator who could command the consideration of both parties’ leaders.
Chucky Schumer probably figured he’d have a much easier time getting to 50 (plus Kamala Harris’s tie-breaker) with the addition of the Democrat seat pickup in Pennsylvania this year. Brain-dead ogre John Fetterman will happily cast all his votes with Schumer and his ideological brethren, so Democrats theoretically should enjoy significantly more power than they did in the current Congress.
But with Sinema somewhat removing herself from her guaranteed rubber stamp vote, she forces Schumer to grovel at her feet to earn her support on certain issues (such as raising taxes). At the same time, suggesting she’s “independent” will motivate Mitch McConnell to devote more of his time and responsiveness to wooing Sinema’s favor.
It’s not unlike a high school’s most coveted cheerleader semi-breaking up with the football star and declaring herself open to new suitors. This is perhaps a poor analogy since Sinema is openly bisexual, but the comparison still holds.
Sinema just increased her power. If now she were to forge a side-alliance with West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, like they did in the filibuster kerfuffle last year, the two together could easily deny Democrats their schemes. Both of them would still receive more than their share of courtship from both sides of the aisle, and both appear to relish the flattery.
Third, if Republican Herschel Walker had won last week in Georgia, Sinema would still be a Democrat today. A Walker victory would’ve meant a Republican pick-up, which would’ve erased the advantage garnered by Fetterman’s taking of the open Republican seat in Pennsylvania.
If Walker had prevailed, Sinema and Manchin would’ve still enjoyed all the power they did in the current Congress and it wouldn’t have been necessary to deem herself “independent”, since she could’ve just hid under Schumer’s sphere of influence and maintained her oversized say in what went on, regardless.
Warnock spoiled everything, didn’t he?
Lastly (there are more but you have to stop somewhere), the installation of a new Republican-controlled House will take some of the pressure off Sinema and Manchin to explode the federal budget and to enact the more damaging business-killing provisions of the Green New Deal, which the two “moderates” seem to tepidly oppose.
If Sinema had stayed with the Democrats, at election time in two years, she would’ve been lumped in with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren, Mazie Hirono and the rest of the Democrat kooks on the most salient issues. Saying publicly that she’s “independent” now provides her room to distance herself from the extreme leftwing in a moderate state.
The more someone like Sinema insists she’s above or outside politics, the more she’s thinking about the next election.
Kyrsten Sinema’s semi-sudden defection from the Democrat Party last week was surprising for a few moments, but when reality set-in, there was the realization that her move didn’t change much in Washington. Sinema didn’t distance herself from previous positions on the liberal Democrat agenda, she merely sought to preserve her oversized say on things going forward.
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