How Kyrsten Sinema went from progressive to Washington swamp dweller
When Kyrsten Sinema was first elected from Arizona to the House of Representatives back in 2012 and later to the Senate in 2018, she broke through several barriers
Freshly elected to the Senate, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) represents a slew of “firsts.” She will be Arizona’s first female senator. She was the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and carries that first with her to the Senate. And the former Mormon was the first person sent to Congress to claim no religion. After winning her congressional seat in 2012, she was sworn in on the Constitution, forgoing the Bible chosen by Christians – the dominant religion for members of Congress, especially those from Arizona.
She was also progressive in her politics. But David Sirota and Davird Perez write that once she went toWashington, she became a ‘monster’. Her grandstanding vote last week against the rise in the minimum is just one indication of how far she has strayed from her progressive origins.
Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema was once a Green Party member and a committed antiwar activist. Now she’s best known for a viral thumbs-down on a $15 minimum wage vote. It’s the timeless story of an earnest do-gooder turned Washington monster and what happens when we don’t hold politicians accountable.
Sinema has gone viral for not merely joining seven other Democratic senators in blocking an already doomed motion to debate a $15 minimum wage, but for making an NBA-dunk-contest-like spectacle of casting that unnecessary vote to crush millions of workers.
Unlike many corporatists in Washington, Sinema did not get her start as a standard-issue business-friendly cyborg created in a Westworld-style factory at the local chamber of commerce. She was a Green Party icon and social worker who had been elected to Arizona’s legislature as a proud, unabashed progressive. She even became a board member of our organization, which was designed to counter groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and champion a progressive economic agenda.
She explains that she got into politics because she saw underprivileged people in her community and became enraged that “they just weren’t able to get past that place of poverty and dependence to a place of self-sufficiency and interdependence.” She said that she has been focused on “making a difference for the communities that have historically been underserved and marginalized in Arizona.”
But as she got comfortable in the Washington swamp, Sinema began to change her tune.
She voted to help corporate lobbyists harm lots of the marginalized people she claimed she got into politics to protect. She broke with her party to help the financial industry roll back already weak regulations passed in the wake of the financial crisis. She became one of the top recipients of campaign cash from predatory lenders, and helped Republicans advance legislation to protect those lenders.
In all, Sinema cast votes with Trump priorities half the time, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. Her elevation to the Senate Banking Committee was considered a big win for Wall Street. Last summer, the US Chamber of Commerce awarded Sinema its “inaugural Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award and Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship.”
In a different era, advancement in the Democratic Party often required politicians to stand with workers and the poor. Today, that’s changed. Everyone in Washington knows the most reliable path to advancement is to serve power with a hearty thumbs-down anytime a proposal asks the wealthy to sacrifice anything.
See this early interview with her.
Back in 2014, she even tweeted this.
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) March 12, 2014
And now see her utterly gratuitously gleeful thumbs down on the minimum wage vote.
I’m sure this won’t come back haunt the Democrats. pic.twitter.com/xmtNk3cwih
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) March 5, 2021