Weekend News Dump: Kyrsten Sinema’s Long Strange Trip

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) wears a protective mask while arriving to the U.S. Capitol on December 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Happy Sunday! The usual Uprising Friday night news dump was pushed back due to the big breakdown of all the chaos and drama in Albany that was exclusively for subscribers. These news dumps are usually just for paying subscribers too, but since this is a special edition, I decided to make it free for everyone. If you want more exclusive content from The Uprising, please sign up! 

Since it’s the end of the weekend, let’s preview the days ahead with a look at what’s next with the continued “series of manufactured crises” on Capitol Hill.

Congress averted a government shutdown crisis and, as has become customary, set a deadline for their next crisis: December 3. 

With that, Capitol Hill can move on to continuing to fight over the spending package associated with President Joe Biden’s agenda. This battle has led to an interesting alliance between Biden (who explicitly ran as a moderate alternative to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders) and House progressives led by the chairwoman of their caucus, Washington State Rep. Pramila Jayapal. This somewhat odd political coupling is negotiating against the two centrist Democrats whose support is needed to pass the legislation, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema. One Democratic Hill staffer offered me a very simple summation of what needs to happen next: “Manchin and Jayapal need to get in a room and figure their shit out.”

While the two Senate swing votes are often grouped together (to the point they’ve been dubbed “Manchinema”) CNN’s Harry Enten has some interesting analysis on how Sinema is far different from Manchin. Enten notes that, while the Democrats are lucky to have any level of support in West Virginia, Sinema’s home turf in Arizona has continued trending blue since she was elected in 2018. In other words, voters there are far more supportive of the party’s agenda than Manchin’s constituents. And while Manchin has made his position on the maximum spending levels he would support relatively clear, Sinema’s public objections to the legislation have been vague. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., arrives for the confirmation hearing for Stephen Dickson, nominee to be administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Much has been made of Sinema’s sexuality, athleticism, and, shall we say, unique personal style. But her ideological evolution has drawn far less scrutiny during her latest moment in the spotlight. Back in March, the lefty magazine Jacobin took a long look at how Sinema went from being an anti-capitalist Green Party activist to a centrist force in the Senate. 

Sinema’s shift began around 2009 when, while a state legislator, she published a book on building “coalitions.” In it, Sinema encouraged reaching across the aisle and said she had gone from being a “starry-eyed idealist to (still) starry-eyed pragmatist.” The Uprising dug up an old blog Sinema wrote to promote the book where she described herself as a “reformed "stomp my feet in my office and alienate those with opposing views" type of politician.”  It’s a fascinating look at her early political philosophy. 

Today, Sinema is stalling passage of Biden’s ambitious package of infrastructure spending, social reforms, and environmental initiatives. Back then, Sinema was fighting against spending cuts in the Arizona budget while criticizing politicians who held up budget talks by refusing to compromise on their individual priorities.

“I'm in politics and I can't believe this behavior. It takes me back to, oh, I don't know, Junior High. It's interesting that in any other profession, behavior like this would ultimately lead to the party that's refusing to work with others' termination,” Sinema wrote. “So many politicians take the view that it absolutely has to go their way or they won't budge (sounds like a childhood tantrum, huh?), but they need to adjust their attitudes and get over their specific goals and outcomes and focus more on coming up with a plan that we all can agree on, a plan that’s for the common good.”

On her blog, Sinema wrote profiles of multiple former legislators including longtime Republican swing vote Olympia Snowe. Sinema wrote that Snowe proved she was “very committed to her job” by not missing votes. Sinema, who left Washington for a fundraiser amid ongoing negotiations on Friday, missed over eight percent of the votes in the last Congress making her “the 15th most absent member of the Senate.” 

Sinema’s site also featured a blogroll of five recommended sites. It included four progressives blogs along with The Stimulist, journalist Carlos Watson’s precursor to Ozy, the site that became embroiled in a scandal over questionable traffic over the past week and subsequently went down in flames

FUN FACT: In 1970, President Nixon ordered new uniforms for the White House guards after reportedly becoming enamored with police uniforms he saw on a trip to West Germany. Nixon’s vision for the uniformed Secret Service included gold braids, buttons and high military-style caps. 

The sight of the Euro-influenced military gear inside the White House prompted a swift, negative reaction. Novelist Louis Auchincloss wrote that Nixon had, “dressed his policemen like the bodyguard of a shoddy dictator of a banana republic.” 

Nixon’s Secret Service hats were reportedly scrapped within a month and the rest of the uniforms were abandoned soon after. They were put in storage for about a decade until 1980 when the General Services Administration sold about 130 of them to marching bands at high schools in Texas and Iowa as well as the band at Southern Utah State College. 

Thomas Roller, the local official who purchased the uniforms for the schools in Iowa, told the Des Moines Register they did not include the brass buttons because “they had some sort of White House insignia on them and they didn’t want those getting around.”

“They will be fine for a band,” Roller said. “But they did have sort of a Nazi connotation when they came out and that offended some people.” 

That’s all for today! If you haven’t already, please subscribe to The Uprising and tell your friends! And if you work in politics, please don’t forget to leave a (news) tip on your way out → hunter.walker@protonmail.com