Spoiler alert: Manchin is sane and rational; Sinema is neither.
The NY Times ran a big Joe Manchin piece by Jonathan Martin today, In Washington, Policy Revolves Around Joe Manchin. He Likes It That Way. Manchin is a conservative Democrat from West Virginia and Martin write that "If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, there is one senator who would have an outsized impact in the 50-50 chamber on issues that could reshape the nation’s future: infrastructure, immigration, gun laws and voting rights. That senator is Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. There is also a senator whose opposition to eliminating the filibuster is a significant reason it may never happen. That senator, too, is Mr. Manchin." Martin should know better; his definition of Manchin also describes Arizona sociopath Kyrsten Sinema, a worse Democrat than Manchin by every conceivable metric. Neither is terribly intelligent and both have confused giving the minority party a voice with giving the minority party a veto.
There are 9 Senate Democrats with F grades from ProgressivePunch-- including, of course, Manchin and Sinema. Their crucial vote scores go back and forth weekly when you want to say whose record is definitively the worst. This week Manchin has a 55.68 and Sinema has a 58.75. Two weeks ago it was reversed. When she was in the House, she had the worst voting record of any Democrat and was chair of the corrupt, right-wing Blue Dog coalition. No one has written more about her-- nor for longer-- than this blog. But today, allow me to share a post by Aída Chávez from The Nation: How Kyrsten Sinema Sold Out, who she refers to as "the Senate's newest super villain." As you read it, Iimplore you to keep in mind that whether she was "on the left" early in her career or on the right now, she has never been on any side of the political spectrum but the Sinema side of the fence. She's severely mentally ill and cares about no one and nothing but herself.
I don't think Chávez has a depth of knowledge about Sinema, but she's a good reporter and hasn't made any glaring errors. "Today," she noted, "Sinema is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and with the Senate evenly split, she is now in a position of incredible power. Just recently, she broke with many of her Democratic colleagues by voting against including a minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief bill. Eight Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure, but Sinema’s defection-- curtsying on the Senate floor and offering an exaggerated thumbs-down-- struck a particularly sour note."
First of all, Sinema isn't "one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress." She is the most conservative Democrat in Congress. Her nasty little curtsy and exaggerated thumbs-down were meant to send a message-- that she hates progressives and the working class and that she will spend all her time in the Senate fucking them up... because she can and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
"The display," wrote Chávez, "went viral, frustrating progressives and activists, who accused her of being all too eager to preserve poverty wages for millions. It also encapsulated the cynicism of her political transformation, and the ways liberal politicians increasingly present a left aesthetic when it’s in their own interests. In response to the outcry, Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley told HuffPost that it was nothing more than evidence of a sexist double standard. 'Commentary about a female senator’s body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet,' Hurley said." They should have responded by asking Hurley if Sinema would be willing to spend a day with a psychiatrist being evaluated-- as well as what makes it different to work as a staffer for Sinema than working as a staffer for Trump.
Any Democrat-- so including progressives like Bernie or Elizabeth Warren or Jeff Merkley or Mazie Hirono-- can be the one who stops any bill from being passed but the media, Chávez included, harps on Manchin (and, sometimes Sinema). She noted that they're "poised to be a deciding vote on all legislation the Biden administration asks Congress to enact, giving her and her right-leaning colleagues the ability to obstruct the entire Democratic agenda. Unless Senate Democrats do away with the filibuster, a long-standing Senate rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation, it’s hard to see a path forward for many Democratic priorities, including major investment in infrastructure, aggressive climate action, and expansions to voting rights. The failure to pass sweeping action could then jeopardize Democrats’ razor-thin majorities in the 2022 midterm elections, which don’t historically go in favor of the sitting president’s party-- potentially giving up control for a generation.
Despite these stakes, Sinema has doubled down on her long-standing opposition to scrapping the filibuster. A spokesperson for Sinema recently told the Washington Post that she’s “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.” Manchin, another obstacle in the filibuster fight, was similarly unequivocal, until he signaled some openness to reform earlier this month, saying he would consider altering the filibuster to make it more “painful” for the minority party to use. Sinema’s fellow Arizona senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, has remained vague.
Arizona progressives are ramping up pressure on Sinema and calling on the young lawmaker to support abolishing the filibuster, saying that she would be betraying the voters who helped elect her to the Senate if she goes on to sabotage Biden’s agenda. “Allowing Republicans to hold relief hostage is not what Arizonans voted for when they elected two Democratic senators,” Progress Arizona said in a statement. No Excuses PAC, a new group that recently hit Manchin with a tough radio ad in his home state, has been <>targeting Sinema with ad campaigns</> as well.
“Senator Kelly is up for reelection in 2022, so that campaign starts, like, tomorrow,” said Progress Arizona Executive Director Emily Kirkland. “And in thinking about what it’s going to be like to go back to voters to reelect him, it’s just so important that we are able to point to promises fulfilled and how he impacted your life. So I think we’re trying to understand: How does Sinema see that dynamic and is she willing to recognize that holding onto power may hinge on her decisions about the filibuster and some of these policy priorities?”
During her time in Congress, Sinema has voted with former President Donald Trump’s position about half the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, and even joined Senate Republicans to confirm some of his nominees. In 2018, Sinema went further right than most other Democrats running in Republican-held states, campaigning on her opposition to Chuck Schumer as Democratic leader (despite being his handpicked candidate).
Brianna Westbrook, an Arizona Democratic Party official and former national surrogate for the Bernie Sanders campaign, said Sinema’s political transformation was “a complete 180” and is “hard to put in words.” There is “no doubt,” Westbrook says, that Sinema will face progressive pressure at home if she tries to hold up legislation.
There were signs of what was to come when Sinema entered national politics. During her first term in Congress, she joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a corporate-friendly group of Democrats obsessed with finding common ground with conservatives. It was also clear from the beginning... that Sinema “really believed the way to try to win or to push back on legislation was by working with Republicans.” Sinema voted to block the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees and has often sided with Republicans on immigration, including in support of the punitive anti-immigrant proposal known as “Kate’s Law,” which Trump pushed as part of his crackdown. In 2018, she voted with House Republicans to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a rogue agency that has faced countless allegations of abuse and inhumane treatment.
...Sinema primarily targeted moderate Republican voters and suburban women during her 2018 campaign, so her strategy was to stay as far away from progressivism as possible. But young Latino voters, many of whom skew left, turned out in record numbers and played a decisive role in her victory. It was a decades-old grassroots movement that emerged in response to former Maricopa sheriff Joe Arpaio’s crusade against immigrants, as well as long-standing demographic changes, that flipped the state blue in the 2020 election for the first time in almost a quarter-century. As the state shifts left, Sinema, who will be up for reelection in 2024, could be cornered into another political evolution.
“Our state party supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal unapologetically. It’s in our platform,” said Westbrook. “We are a very progressive party, and the fact that she’s not representing the Democratic Party in a lot of these votes is tragic.”
Last month, both Arizona senators joined Republicans and a handful of Democrats in voting for an amendment to block stimulus checks for undocumented workers. Though the measure wasn’t included in the final version of the relief package, progressives and immigrant rights advocates took it as a sign that all their work was already being taken for granted.
This week 30 Arizona Democratic Party staffers joined field organizers Misha Lineman and Graham Rigby for an OpEd in the Arizona Republic, We didn't help get Kyrsten Sinema elected so she could ensure Senate gridlock. "Arizonans," they wrote, "accomplished something truly historic in the 2018 midterm elections: For the first time in three decades, they elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. Kyrsten Sinema’s narrow, 55,900-vote victory was not inevitable. It was the direct result of unprecedented activism by tens of thousands of Arizonans who worked tirelessly for months to mobilize their neighbors to cast ballots for Sinema and other Democrats. As organizing staff for the Arizona Democratic Party in 2018, we saw this historic and widespread grassroots energy firsthand. Everywhere from Flagstaff to Sierra Vista, we helped thousands of first-time political volunteers channel their shared hopes for our nation’s future into millions of conversations with voters. This ultimately paved the way for Senator Sinema’s victory."
They're sorry now... They should have paid better attention before they backed her. Her record in Congress was hardly hidden-- and Sinema is so bad that she isn't even a lesser of two evils candidate. She's pure evil, through and through. They wrote how the party volunteers "chose to spend countless hours dialing their fellow Arizonans on the phone or knocking on their doors in the sweltering desert heat because they saw in Kyrsten Sinema a chance to finally have a senator who fought for the issues that they cared about. To them, politics wasn’t a team sport. It was a way to fight for a better world." They were idiots who couldn't read a voting record or who listened to whatever bullshit their political party told them.
Something we never heard about from Arizonans was the importance of maintaining the legislative filibuster. And yet, now that our first opportunity to deliver real change for Arizonans has finally arrived, Senator Sinema has signaled that she may sacrifice much needed progress in order to keep the filibuster in place.
The legislative filibuster requires 60 senators to agree on voting on a particular bill. This means that even if a majority of senators agree that a bill should become law, a minority of senators can stop the bill even being put forward for a vote. In the 20th century, its most common use was by segregationists to block civil rights bills.
More recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expanded its use to bury nearly every major initiative of Barack Obama’s presidency in his “legislative graveyard.” Now, despite Americans voting for Democrats to control the presidency, the House and the Senate, McConnell is preparing to attempt the same gambit to stop Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Senator Sinema has the power to stop this. If a majority of senators agree to reform the current rules, they can go back to the way the Senate was supposed to work – where any legislation that gets a majority of senators on board can become law. Yet as of this writing, she has remained steadfast in her support for the same legislative tool used to preserve segregation and to stymie any real change under President Obama.
The next two years could be filled with truly historic progress. Democrats could protect unions, voting rights and LGBTQ+ individuals. They could reform our immigration system, revitalize our nation’s infrastructure and take critical steps to fight climate change.
All of this progress would bring us closer to the world that Arizonans envisioned when they elected Kyrsten Sinema to the Senate in 2018. But for any of it to become reality, Senator Sinema must support filibuster reform.
Two years ago, our volunteers put their lives on hold to fight for a better Arizona. They endured being hung up on and having doors slammed in their faces because they believed that Kyrsten Sinema might be able to deliver real change in their lives.
Senator Sinema has an unprecedented opportunity to follow through for the people who gave up so much to get her into the Senate chamber. We strongly urge her not to squander this moment to protect a rule as antiquated and arcane as the filibuster.