America didn’t abandon you, Kyrsten Sinema, you left Arizona behind

My prescient colleague, Arizona Mirror Editor Jim Small, got it right Tuesday when he predicted that U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema would not seek reelection because she had “no path to victory in a three-way Senate race this year.”

Later that same day, Sinema only got it half right when she tried to explain why she was not running to keep her seat.

On Twitter, Sinema said: “I believe in my approach. But it’s not what America wants right now. Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.”

Let’s translate that from politispeak to plain English: Sinema isn’t running because she knew she’d lose, which she ultimately didn’t see coming because she assumed she had managed to make the transition from being a progressive Democrat (before that she was a member of the Green Party) to an aspiring political independent with the courage to buck convention in the name of “doing what’s right” for the people of Arizona. She tried her damnedest to cast herself in the mold of her “hero,” the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

Turns out, she couldn’t stick the landing.



While it is true that Sinema’s voting record, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, evolved over her 20-year political career from that of tree-hugging lefty to something more akin to a center-right politician, what Sinema doesn’t get — or refuses to admit — is that it wasn’t her “civility” that turned “America” off. It was the arrogance she exhibited once elected to the Senate that left the Arizona voters who put her there feeling betrayed.

Sinema won a majority of Arizona’s vote in 2018 by running as a center-left Democrat, who, yes, had already proven she was willing to sometimes cross party lines to get things done. But instead of building on her reputation for governing that way, Sinema quickly earned a reputation for turning her back on the very voters that elected her.

While she helped negotiate gun-control legislation, President Joe Biden’s visionary infrastructure bill, and, most recently, a get-tough immigrant measure, what most Arizona voters will remember about Sinema is her unwillingness to protect voting rights, reproductive rights and a minimum wage increase, as well as her strong and suspect ties to big money campaign donors from Wall Street.

After joining the Senate, Sinema calculated that, to ensure her reelection, or at least lay the groundwork for even greater political aspirations — Sinema for President, anyone? — she needed to convince big money campaign contributors and the Republican elite that she was on their side, too. 

The Washington Post recently reported that many of Sinema’s “closest relationships in the Senate are with Republicans.” You know, people like outgoing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who just endorsed the twice-impeached, criminally indicted, all-around business fraudster Donald Trump for his party’s nomination.

The trouble with her master plan was that Trump and the MAGA party’s hard-right base was never, ever going to trust her, much less help get reelected. 

Trump sycophant Kari Lake’s brand of politics is much more to their liking. Despite her white nationalist ties, Lake proved that by nearly beating Katie Hobbs in the 2022 governor’s race. Today,  Lake’s the heavy favorite to become the Republican nominee in the fight against Democrat Ruben Gallego for Sinema’s seat.

Then there’s that little matter of the GOP’s shameless persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in general, and the trans community in particular, all of which should have made it crystal clear to Sinema, who is bisexual, that most Arizona Republicans, desperate to stay on the good side of Christian nationalists in their party, weren’t about to back her reelection.

It’s one thing for “normie” Republicans in the Senate to show up for a photo-op with Sinema in support of a get-tough bipartisan immigration bill. It would have been quite another to back Sinema’s reelection and risk the wrath of their party’s deeply homophobic base.

Yes, politics in the U.S. today is hyper-polarized. Sinema is right on that point.  

But it’s not because the right and left decided, each for equally legitimate reasons, to retreat to their partisan corners. It’s because the rightward jerk by Republicans that’s paralleled Sinema’s two-decade political career has brought us to a place where one of our country’s two major parties, the GOP, no longer believes in democracy, and Democrats are fighting hard to defend it. 

And it wasn’t Sinema’s “civility” and habit of working across the aisle that led most Arizona voters to abandon her and left her trailing in the polls; it was her willingness in the name of raw political ambition to abandon her principles and leave her supporters behind.

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