Kyrsten Sinema’s explanation of her motives is indecipherable

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema speaking with attendees at the 2019 Update from Capitol Hill hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Photo: Gage Skidmore

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) has been notoriously inaccessible to constituents and to the media. It’s not just a question being busy – she’s had plenty of time to try out as an intern at a winery and run triathlons. So when Sinema finally sat down with The Atlantic to explain her often opaque behavior, it was a chance to explain to voters and to the public at large just what was behind her baffling behavior.

The result is every bit as unpleasant as you might expect.

For one thing, staff writer McKay Coppins points out right up front that Sinema comes across as arrogant.

“She speaks in a matter-of-fact staccato, her tone set frequently to smug,” Coppins writes. “She says things like ‘I am a long-term thinker in a short-term town’ and ‘I prefer to be successful.’ The overall effect, if you’re not charmed by it (and a lot of her Republican colleagues are), is condescension bordering on arrogance. Sinema, who graduated from high school at 16 and college at 18, carries herself like she is unquestionably the smartest person in the room.”

What is perhaps more surprising is that Sinema admits that she really has no ideology. She considers her past activism as a member of the Green Party “a spectacular failure.”

“You can make a poster and stand out on the street, but at the end of the day all you have is a sunburn. You didn’t move the needle,” Sinema said.

She’s dismissive of the young activists who have hounded her for her work against key issues as simply not getting anything done. She clearly doesn’t see herself in any of their actions, which she describes as lawbreaking.

As for her own past as a progressive, she seems glad to be rid of it.

“Imagine a world in which everybody who represented you refused to grow or change or learn if presented with new information,” Sinema said. “That’s very dangerous for our democracy. So perhaps what I’m most proud of is that I’m a lifelong learner.”

“People will say, ‘Oh, we don’t know what her position is.’ Well, I may not have one yet. And I know that’s weird in this town, but I actually want to do all of the research, get as much knowledge as possible, spend all of the time doing the work before I make a decision.”

(Apparently, there’s a lot of knowledge to be gleaned from checks from pharma lobbyists.)

What Sinema says she excels at is behind-the-scenes work at making things happen. She cites her work on a gun-control bill that passed after the Uvalde school shooting, the first such legislation to pass Congress in 30 years. While that is an accomplishment, a stronger measure could have been passed if Sinema had voted to abolish the filibuster, which she refused to do. She defended that decision (which also effectively killed the Equality Act) on the grounds that it protects Democrats when Republicans are in power.

Sinema also objected to complaints that she’s flaky as being misogynistic. “I know every detail of every piece of legislation,” she insists.

What comes across in the profile is that, at least to Sinema, her approach is a resounding success. Whether she chooses to extend that success by running for re-election next year is still in the air. She says she hasn’t decided yet.

“I’m not only a senator,” she tells me. “I’m also lots of other things.”


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