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Kyrsten Sinema is, apparently, a political enigma. Her colored hair, her funky glasses, the way she dresses and her open bisexuality seemed to flag to many in the political sphere that she’d be a flamboyant leftist when she first became a Senator for Arizona — but her voting record dispels that notion, especially concerning Biden’s recent $3.5 trillion budget bill.
Needless to say, this hasn’t gone down well with a lot of people. Yet Sinema puts her priorities where they should belong: in representing her constituency. And while some may feel betrayal that Sinema isn’t “as progressive as she looks”, I’d suggest that those people think hard about why they had those expectations in the first place.
Sinema is a Democrat, yes, but our elected officials are intended to represent the interests of the area they’re elected to — and especially if she seeks to maintain her congressional seat, the game she’s playing is understandable. In Arizona, a state with historically Republican leanings, bipartisanship is key to any and all support. And frankly, much of the criticism against her is rooted in identity politics, sexism, and ageism.
Our Democrats, and our nation, aren’t as progressive as many of us might like — but who we hold to task for that failure matters. As a young bisexual woman, Sinema is upheld as an unusual disappointment. But if you compare the records of older, white, straight, male members of the Senate to hers, you’ll see similarities everywhere. What about Sinema, other than her looks, gender, and sexuality, made you feel entitled to progressive political policies?
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Kyrsten Sinema didn’t betray you by holding steadfast to the representation of her constituency. If you’re hurt and don’t live in her district, you need to re-evaluate why you feel that way.
While I may disagree with many of Sinema’s political decisions, I can understand what she’s doing. In a state with right-wing leanings, fiscal conservatism and social liberalism is a step in the right direction compared to her Republican challenger Martha McSally, who was endorsed by Donald Trump and opposed same-sex marriage and abortion. While there are talks about a potential primary challenger endorsed by progressives against Sinema in this upcoming election, we need to understand that Sinema is a middle ground for those who considered themselves Republicans before Trumpism, liberals (but not leftists), and fiscal conservatives. Not every state is New York or California, nor can we expect similar interests.
Not every Democrat is going to be a member of “The Squad”, and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes decisions that are not 100 percent popular with her base (like going to the Met Gala in a dress that said “Tax the Rich”, which many deemed a move of performative activism).
What leftists and liberals claiming that Sinema isn’t progressive enough need to understand is that progress isn’t linear in a nation rife with political disinformation, right-wing propaganda, and division on the basis of party lines. After four years of Trump, QAnon, and Alex Jones, how could we expect it to be? Gay marriage was only nationally legalized in 2015; Flint, Michigan was denied clean water for years (alongside numerous other examples of environmental racism); and abortion rights are still being contested in states like Texas and Mississippi despite Roe v. Wade.
We are not a progressive nation, despite what we tell ourselves on the Fourth of July — but, if we can bring ourselves to hold all our politicians to the same standards rather than expecting more of someone because of their short-sleeved dresses on their sexuality, then maybe one day we can be.