Kyrsten Sinema Drove Herself Out Of Politics 

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) heads into the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2024 in Washington, DC. Following a series of evening votes, the Senate will stay in session ... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) heads into the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on February 12, 2024 in Washington, DC. Following a series of evening votes, the Senate will stay in session all night with the goal of passing national security legislation that would send $95 billion in military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Just one Senate term into the political career of a once-promising young politician, a series of self-inflicted, often baffling, missteps left her with no choice but to announce her impending departure. 

In a video replete with her own accomplishments — “I believe in my approach. But, it’s not what America wants right now” — she on Tuesday delivered her constituents a final “it’s not me, it’s you” farewell. 

The senselessness of her trajectory is thrown into even starker relief next to that of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), inextricably linked to her throughout Joe Biden’s first two years in the White House due to the pair’s devotion to the filibuster and eagerness to buck their party. Manchin comes from one of the Trumpiest states in the country. He’s the last generation of a dying breed, as red state Democrats and blue state Republicans drop or are forced out of their parties.

Sinema’s state, in contrast, has only trended bluer. While certainly still battleground territory, it’s a more comfortable get for Democrats than at any other time in recent history. Had she acted like a normal Democrat — look no further than fellow Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) — she’d be preparing for her reelection right now, relieved to have the kooky Kari Lake to run against, and swimming in a helpful current of money funneled by the national party organs. 

But she habitually took loud, splashy stands on issues that not only set her apart from her party, but did so on issues central to its very ideology (she’s now an independent, though never stopped caucusing with the Democrats). This was not taking some swings to look tough on the border, or to distance herself from super lefty proposals. It was curtseying while voting down an increased federal minimum wage, threatening the Inflation Reduction Act over preserving a tax loophole for hedge fund managers and law firm partners, limiting the lift of the corporate tax rate. 

And of course, it was the filibuster. She and Manchin together prevented any filibuster reform, including carveouts for passing bills to preserve abortion and voting rights — the beating heart of the early 2020s left. 

She did all of this with a rare disrespect for norms around the Hill, one of the very few senators who refused to do hallway interviews, even when she was a deciding player on major legislation, leaving the public to learn her views through other sources or rare sit-downs she’d grant to friendly press. It helped keep her a cypher to political observers: a lawmaker who’d come up through very liberal politics, who’d been open and admirably proud about her bisexuality, suddenly tacking to the corporate right and infuriating those who’d supported her rise and who she’d need to run again in the process. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), essentially running in her stead, was drafted by Democrats wholly alienated by her decisions. 

She seemed to think, as her video so lovingly details, that her behind-the-scenes involvement in a slate of bipartisan legislating would make up for these gaudy shows of insubordination. If that was her plan, it reveals an ignorance about the unimportance of policy making to both the media and electorate. 

Sinema goes out in less of a blaze of glory and more the whimper of years of incomprehensible and self-defeating political moves that rendered her utterly radioactive. In her own eyes, she’s a maverick; to the party that brung her, she’s a pariah.

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