When Kirsten Cinema ran for the Senate in 2018, she couldn’t have been clearer. The Democrat did not call herself a Democrat, but rather “independent of Arizona.”
She refused to endorse her party’s liberal candidate for governor, who was criticized on the day that Cinema narrowly won.
Her ads spoke of a strong rejection of partisanship.
Many people in Washington are “more interested in what they say and their ideology than in their deeds,” she said in one advertisement with her sleeves rolled up.
“The people of Arizona deserve a senator who just solves problems,” she said in another TV spot, hitting both sides. “Not Republican or Democratic … This will only work if we can work across the aisle.”
Funnily enough, it looks like Sinema really meant it.
Together with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the rookie MP has formed a living barricade blocking Congress from passing President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion Social Security and Climate Change Act.
Liberals are pushing for the bill to pass before they pass the more traditional $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill, which enjoys bipartisan support. (Progressives would gladly build a brick wall around Manchin and Cinema if they could.) And here things are different, as they have been doing for several weeks.
Anyone surprised by Cinema’s position did not pay attention to it.
“I’m confused by the confusion of the people,” said Stacy Pearson, the Democratic strategist who helped Sinema win its first House race in 2012 in a highly competitive area here in the Phoenix suburbs.
“This is exactly what she told Arizona she would do,” said Stan Barnes, a former Republican MP who has known Sinema since she served in the Legislature before going to Congress. “A cynic would say that you do what you do to be chosen,” and then changes it when you fast.
Apparently Barnes said that “she didn’t get the note.”
Cinema’s political heresy goes beyond her objections to the size and scope of Biden’s massive and highly ambitious “human infrastructure” bill. She voted against including the $ 15 minimum wage in the coronavirus relief package, with a thumbs down and a curtsy that seemed to lose her, as well as opposing Democratic efforts to end piracy in the Senate.
The result is something rare, if not entirely unique, in today’s relentless party politics. Cinema outrages many of its fellow Democrats – efforts are already underway to be the top contender for 2024 – and has formed an unusual fanbase among Republicans.
Indeed, polls in Arizona show that Cinema is more popular with the GOP, especially women from the suburbs, than some Democrats.
“This is driven by what she is not, and this is very party progress,” said Chuck Coughlin, a veteran GOP strategist who became politically independent after Donald Trump became president. “It’s not elected in Arizona.”
All of this is very reminiscent of another senator who deliberately broke with his party and ridiculed those political purists who tried to bring him to justice. By confusing members on both sides of the aisle, John McCain happily defied expectations and turned the “individualists” into a popular political brand.
When the Arizona Republicans protested against him, the late senator nonchalantly urged them not to forget the sunblock. Now it is Cinema, which is holding a series of Democratic demonstrations outside its government offices.
She calls McCain a “personal hero” and even imitates his subtly honed, if not always appreciated, sarcasm.
Democrats complain that Cinema has failed to publicly detail what it needs to support Biden’s signed law, other than that $ 3.5 trillion is too much, and has resisted raising taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals to offset the increased spending.
“What do you say to progressive people who are frustrated that they don’t know where you are?” Cinema was asked during a recent impromptu exchange on Capitol Hill.
“I’m in the Senate,” Cinema replied.
“There are progressives in the Senate who are also frustrated that they don’t know where you are,” continued NBC’s Frank Thorpe.
“I’m clearly right in front of the elevator,” she replied.
It can be maddening. Her shameless fundraiser while negotiations are underway, gives off a bad smell. Sometimes it seems like a picture-oriented movie theater is enjoying bright light too much.
However, from a political point of view, her position makes sense.
There is a misconception that Arizona suddenly turned blue after the victory of Cinema, Democrat Mark Kelly, who was elected to the Senate in 2020, and Biden defeated Trump with 11 state electoral votes.
The governor is Republican, like most state legislators. Voter registration is split by about a third between Democrats, Republicans and Independent MPs. Before the advent of Cinema, not a single Democrat had been elected to the Senate in three decades.
Trump made this victory possible alongside Biden’s, alienating a huge number of GOP voters who had gone over to the Democratic side. Even then, both races were close.
Despite all the talk about what Cinema owes to Biden as a member of his party, the president can be said to be indebted to Cinema for his modest victory in Arizona. She showed wary Republicans that there really is such a thing as a non-fearsome, pragmatically moderate Democrat.
“Arizona is naturally a center-right state,” said Barnes, a Republican Cinema fan. “She knows her electorate, she knows her voters and takes this into account in every step she takes.”
Cinema began her political career as a leftist activist in the Green Party, which begs the obvious question: does she truly believe in the centrist positions she has set herself on and the opposite party reputation she is building as her political hallmark?
Only she knows for sure.