She's a 2021 version of an Arizona maverick. But this version isn't receiving the media love that the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Biden-Harris train wreck may have its savior: 2024 GOP nominee Donald Trump Kelly raises million in third quarter Legislative limbo — how low can they go? MORE (R-Ariz.) did when he bucked his own party.
In fact, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is receiving the opposite kind of coverage, all for having the audacity to be one of two Democratic senators to object to the far-left elements of their party in opposing its $3.5 trillion spending bill (really, $5.5 trillion, after stripping away the budget-accounting gimmicks) that would result in the largest expansion of U.S. government in history.
This includes $79 billion (with a B) for the IRS to expand tax enforcement, $3 billion for a tree-planting program that increases "tree equity," a billion for an "electric vehicle charging equity program," $7.5 billion for the launch of the "Civilian Climate Corps," $7 billion to the Postal Service to convert all vehicles to electric power, billions upon billions more for free community college, Medicare expansion, universal pre-kindergarten and free family leave.
It's the Porky Pig of spending bills, which some Democratic leaders insist will cost almost all individual taxpayers "zero dollars." The Washington Post called that claim "mythical" and "misleading."
Sinema, along with Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMajor climate program likely to be nixed from spending package: reports Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE (D-W.Va.), promised to vote against the bill if it was passed by the House of Representatives. That never happened, of course, and now House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan Photos of the Week: Climate protests, Blue Origin and a koala MORE (D-Calif.) has set a fourth deadline for a House vote to happen, this time on Halloween. (Note: The civil war between "the Squad" wing of the Democratic Party and moderates is very real. But when watching most of the news coverage, one would think Sinema was a one-woman wrecking crew thwarting the bill while destroying her party's chances in 2022 to maintain its present razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.)
The Washington Post, for example, turned to the deep political mind that is singer-songwriter John Legend to weigh in on the troublesome senators:
“The bottom line is we keep hitting this same roadblock, Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Biden gets personal while pitching agenda The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations - US opens to vaccinated visitors as FDA panel discusses boosters MORE, Joe Manchin…They don’t believe voting rights are important enough to get rid of the filibuster.” @johnlegend READ https://t.co/BL1fCNTSJ5 pic.twitter.com/7JVcNgFouS— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) October 3, 2021
Bloomberg News and other outlets thought it was a great idea to share a video of Sinema being harassed while trying to use a bathroom on the campus of Arizona State University, where she teaches a course. Filming someone in a bathroom in Arizona is a Class 5 felony, but check out the passive framing below:
Protesters followed Sen. Sinema into the bathroom at Arizona State University to confront her on Build Back Better and immigration pic.twitter.com/NDSmeu0h2M— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) October 3, 2021
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) has sparked anger among progressive Democrats over her opposition to the Build Back Better Act. https://t.co/flkITDVjqn— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 4, 2021
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema locks herself in bathroom to avoid young activists on ASU campus https://t.co/kCHs3FsCGb— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) October 3, 2021
Just imagine what the coverage would look and sound like if, say, pro-life activists followed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez goes indoor skydiving for her birthday Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention More than 200 women, transgender inmates to be transferred from Rikers Island MORE (D-N.Y.) into a bathroom at New York University and harassed her. Without doubt, we would be hearing about emotional scarring thanks to the crazies and the threat to our lawmakers being a crisis that needed to be addressed immediately.
In contrast, nothing will happen in Sinema's case, of course. In fact, the person who filmed Sinema illegally went to Facebook to brag about it, which may encourage others to do the same or possibly worse every time Sinema appears in public. Facebook, which would have pulled down this post in about 3 seconds if a progressive member of Congress had been harassed in the same manner, is allowing the video to stay up, as is Twitter. Talk about comically selective "enforcement" of their own rules.
The woman who chased Senator Sinema into the bathroom and harassed her, posted this on FB. pic.twitter.com/Etlg9YEJos— Amy Kremer (@AmyKremer) October 4, 2021
So, will this strategy work?
If recent history tells us anything, the answer is "No." If anything, it forces those being harassed to dig in more. In several not-so-distant instances, "protesters," as they're politely referred to, were calling for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to be abolished. At last check, ICE is still very much alive:
.@senatemajldr Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights MORE harassed while eating at Havana Rumba in #Louisville. Man throws his food on the floor. @WDRBNews https://t.co/KJ98HcU9i6— Joel Schipper (@JSchipperWDRB) October 20, 2018
"Shame! Shame! Shame!": Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFar-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Ex-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides MORE was confronted by protesters while eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC. After about 10 minutes, Nielsen left the restaurant and got into an SUV. https://t.co/aBsTNR4jbQ pic.twitter.com/QiKoM4KoCF— CNN (@CNN) June 20, 2018
They are handing out these flyers to Stephen MillerStephen MillerWhite House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee Far-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Grisham calls Kushner 'Rasputin in a slim-fitting suit' MORE's neighbors at the luxe CityCenterDC pic.twitter.com/OYmllt6JEj— Rachel Sadon (@Rachel_Sadon) June 25, 2018
And from the looks of things, Sinema is hardening her position against additional mass spending.
In a scathing statement over the weekend, Sinema slammed Pelosi's decision to delay a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill she supports, referring to it as an "ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal."
No matter. The pressure will continue from activists and some quarters of the media.
The Arizona senator has taken flack from progressives, has protesters at fundraising events and now she's getting lampooned on Saturday Night Live. https://t.co/FTMSb98GwF— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 4, 2021
Yup: Getting lampooned on "Saturday Night Live” (“SNL") will certainly change hearts and minds. (In a related story, ratings for the "SNL" premiere last Saturday were down 35 percent in total viewers from last year's opener, and down 53 percent among young adults.)
Kyrsten Sinema is the Tonya Harding of the political scene, according to those to her left. But all the threats and bullying and gimmicks in the world aren't likely to change her position.
The president, vice president and House speaker should be condemning the actions of those trying to change her mind through such intimidation. But, so far, little to no public defense has been offered to Sinema.
"I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody," President Biden said matter-of-factly on Monday in answering a reporter's question about the harassment. "The only people it doesn’t happen to are the people who have Secret Service standing around them... So, it’s part of the process."
Chasing a lawmaker into the ladies’ room with a camera and recording it is not “part of the process.” The president had an opportunity to bring down the temperature, to unify, and once again he found a way to show that what he campaigned on was just words.
It wasn't that long ago that bucking your party meant being given icon status, as witnessed by the media’s treatment of John McCain (when he wasn’t running against Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' .5T spending bill: 'Do a better job' MORE).
Analysis: The iconic "thumbs down" vote that summed up John McCain’s career https://t.co/c09JE15BMb— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 27, 2018
Kyrsten Sinema is doing the same, but against what the left deems as the wrong team. And for not conforming, she's going to hear about it — from the Squad, many in political media and late-night "comedians."
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.