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Woman in Charge

Sinema is sticking to her guns, and good for her.

Joining the ranks of bathroom protesters, the New York Times has written a fresh new editorial scolding Kirsten Sinema for betraying the more progressive wing of her party. The onetime Ralph Nader campaign volunteer senator is now “cocooning” herself, ready for a big transformation into a full-blown Republican, according to the Times.

The gray lady certainly picked the right metaphor to describe the transformation from radical social justice warrior to woman, regardless of whether it accurately describes Sinema’s own story. In the process of becoming the butterfly of the smaller chamber of Congress, the Arizona senator has been the subject of countless media attacks, as well as personal ones, because if they won’t join you, beat them, seems to be the party’s mantra of late. Among her greatest sins, aside from defending the filibuster, Sinema has stood between the Senate Democrats and Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which includes a wad of progressive social policy and quite radical immigration changes, to the tune of $3.5 trillion. Amid all this, the left seems determined to break Sinema, more to prove a point than anything else.

It’s unlikely Sinema actually becomes a butterfly; she still votes, by and large, with her party, despite her strong stance on Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package. And yet, the Arizonan has shown some political virtues of late that make the moderate Democrat look more principled than some of her colleagues across the aisle.

Most notably, she has stood her ground amid a storm of opposition from her own party—at least so far. The Times speculated this has to do with appeasing her donors or, heaven forbid, following the wishes of the purple state’s more moderate voters. To which anyone still sensible of the purpose of the functioning roles of our elected officials would respond, “Yes.” That is quite exactly the point. She won her U.S. Senate seat by styling herself as a would-be collaborator with then-President Donald Trump; if those voters’ voices are as loud in her ear as the progressives’, she’s firmly in her lane of bipartisanship by stopping the record-breaking appropriation.

The same goes for the filibuster. Sinema was mocked and derided for her op-ed defending her decision to favor keeping the relic of parliamentary procedure because, she argued, the temporary victory would not be worth the long term loss of keeping some power in the minority party. To end the filibuster is to remove the guardrails, she wrote, and to do so just to ram through once piece of legislation would be bad for the long term success of the democratic process. Republican? Just barely. Radical? Only in the sense that she isn’t hardly, in a party of fringe boundary-pushers.

Sinema also voted to cut defense spending back in July 2020, joining the more progressive wing of her party and opposing most Republicans. (Again, it’s unlikely she transitions all the way to the other side of the aisle, as progressive scare-mongerers have suggested.) Beyond mere bipartisanship, it seems moderating Congress’s spending habits is a principle for her, regardless of who promotes it.

And for that alone, at least, Sinema deserves a respectful nod for sticking to her guns. There’s a lesson in that, if Republicans would take it.

about the author

Carmel Richardson is the 2021-2022 editorial fellow at The American Conservative. She received her B.A. from Hillsdale College in political philosophy with a minor in journalism. She firmly believes that the backroads are better than the interstate, and though she currently resides in Northern Virginia, her home state will always be Tennessee.

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