By Quentin Choy
March 8, 2021
Over the last few days, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has been receiving a load of backlash over her “no” vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Sinema’s vote was seen on camera, and many who watched the video got the sense that she simply didn’t care. Senator Sinema seemed all too cheerful in her down-vote, sticking her thumb-down and curtsying before walking out of the Senate chamber with an expensive purse slung around her shoulder. It was even said that Sinema had brought a chocolate cake before her rejection of raising the wages of common people.
She looked like she simply just didn’t care. Sinema might as well have worn former First Lady Melania Trump’s infamous green coat, which said “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U” on it.
Sinema released a statement on her vote following the immense backlash in which she cited her support for an indexed minimum wage in Arizona back in 2006. You’ve got to be kidding. In 2006, I was six years old and virtually no American knew who Barack Obama was yet. I have no idea how you can claim to be a fighter for normal, everyday Americans when the best example you have of doing so was from over 15 years ago.
While Sinema’s down-vote in a stimulus package might seem trivial, it’s an indicator of how far the modern Democratic Party has shifted away from being the party of the working class and the common man. The Democrats have drifted so far from their roots in Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal policies that their party seems like a new tree altogether. Populist, economic policies have been abandoned for an ideology based on identity politics, wokeness, and elitism, isolating the working class and forming a constant feedback loop that turns many Americans away from this seemingly esoteric political party.
Senator Sinema won her Senate seat in 2018 after her defeat of Republican, Martha McSally. I remember keeping up with this race and other midterm races this year, as it was both my first year of college at the University of Northern Colorado, as well as the first year in which I was eligible to vote. I remembered seeing photos and videos of her with her straight, blonde hair and donning eccentric outfits while wearing large-framed glasses. From news stories and articles at the time, I remember constantly reading about how if elected, Sinema would be the first openly-bisexual Senator. This made me admire her more, thinking about how difficult it must be to blaze that trail for millions of Americans. I felt the same way for Jared Polis who would in that same year be elected to be the first openly-gay governor. However, this was almost all the articles said about her. While if I were voting in Arizona, I would have researched Sinema’s policies, I was just a spectator across the border in Colorado.
Essentially, in my mind she was the bisexual blonde lady running for Senate in Arizona. I think this is how she was viewed by many who knew little about her or had no stakes in Arizona politics. After her election victory, I remember seeing a photo of Sinema swearing in on a copy of the US Constitution rather than the Holy Bible which I thought was acceptable, although I knew several of my friends would disagree.
Then, she slipped out of my radar. The bisexual senator from Arizona was now out of sight and out of mind. In 2020, I observed the 2020 Senate race in Arizona in which Martha McSally was up for a rematch, but this time against Mark Kelly rather than Sinema. McSally gained some empathy from me, and I now viewed her as the Republican Senator from Arizona who supports Trump and was sexually assaulted while in the Air Force. Mark Kelly was the astronaut who is married to Gabby Giffords. As a child, I watched the news a lot and remember seeing photos from Giffords’ shooting and being horrified whenever they showed photos of her shooter. In 2020, Mark Kelly won and became Arizona’s junior Senator. Kelly voted for the increased wage hike.
It’s March 2021, and suddenly, Sinema is back on my radar. I had read articles about how she and Joe Manchin (D-WV) were now the Senate’s swing votes as conservative Democrats had the ability to wield the power to reject legislation they oppose in a split Senate.
Then, just a few days into March, I saw the video of her down vote for a $15 minimum wage, and it reminded me of an opponent mocking you in a sport or a game after they beat you. Is this how Sinema views the legislation, as a game? The wages of common people is not a game especially as the nation is reeling from COVID-19 and its economic fallout. We are a year into this pandemic, and Washington is dragging its heels to provide relief to everyday people who were already struggling before the pandemic ravaged the nation.
Kyrsten Sinema frankly let lots of people down, including myself. I was blinded by all I knew about her which was that she was the first bisexual U.S. Senator, and I failed to see that there was more to her than that identity. The same sentiment is shared in The Advocate’s article, “Kyrsten Sinema Proves LGBTQ+ Representation Isn’t Everything.”
While identity can be important in certain instances, the modern Democratic Party has embraced the concept of identity and its role in politics that if FDR himself were to come back to life and walk into the U.S. Senate, he wouldn’t be able to figure out where his party is.
The American Left needs to abandon its narrow-sighted, esoteric obsession with identity politics of “firsts” and re-shift its attention to the economic needs of common, working-class people. The Democrats can still support a calmed down version of identity politics that doesn’t instantly alienate large groups of socially conservative Americans who would be on board for a populist, working-class economic agenda. If the Democrats don’t reverse course, wages will be stagnated a bisexual Senator rather than a straight one, and wars will be continued by people of color and women rather than old, white generals.
The Democratic Party ought to take a long look into the mirror, and hopefully recognize itself once again.
“This Democratic Senator Won’t Commit to Voting for Her Party in 2020” by Eric Levitz in New York Magazine
“Kyrsten Sinema Proves LGBTQ+ Representation Isn’t Everything” by Christine Linnell in The Advocate