Friday, October 15, 2021


Michelle Cottle of The New York Times thinks it might make sense for Kyrsten Sinema to become an independent.
Some have suggested that she’s charting a path out of office entirely. But Ms. Sinema’s better course may be not to leave the Senate but to split with her party. Her departure might even wind up being a positive for all involved.

Throwing in with Republicans seems like a bridge too far. It’s not as though Ms. Sinema is an actual conservative. But easing over into the independent column could be a gentler, less disruptive transition. She could still caucus with the Democrats, much like her independent colleagues Angus King and Bernie Sanders.
Except that King and Sanders actually support the current Democratic president's most important legislation.
A split still wouldn’t be easy. The logistics would be a nightmare.... But Ms. Sinema has a better shot than most at not just surviving such a shift, but becoming a truly independent force to be reckoned with — maybe even a power broker for years to come.
In order words, a thrift-store-chic boot in the Democrats' face forever.

Cottle insists that Sinema isn't an inscrutable flibbertigibbet -- she's a woman of principle! Just read her memoir!
... many of her critics ... see her as a chameleon, unprincipled and narcissistic, an intellectual lightweight without any steady, guiding tenets. But she does have a guiding principle. She holds fast to an abhorrence of the toxicity and dysfunction of the hyper-polarized political system, brandishing a potent combination of disgust, frustration and moderation that could, come to think of it, put her in sync with a big slice of Americans.
So Sinema abhors political toxicity? Tell us more.
... her involvement with progressive activists — both as one herself and later as an elected official — left some scars. In her 2009 book, “Unite and Conquer,” Ms. Sinema emerges as a progressive disillusioned by the foibles and limitations of progressive activism. The book, on coalition building, is awash in mocking caricatures of progressives as smug, ineffectual, rigid, self-serious, wonky, disorganized know-it-alls. Recalling her own experiences, she tosses out tough-love observations such as, “Progressives love to talk about coalitions, but we’re not very good at creating or maintaining them,” and “since we’re so smart and have all the answers to the world’s problems, you’d think that we progressives would get more done.”

... With their fanatical “obsession with victimhood,” she declares, progressives will always struggle to create “effective coalitions.” This focus on differences rather than shared interests is one of the political tendencies she sees herself fighting against.

That rejection of factionalism may be more central to her identity than any of her legislative positions.
But this isn't a "rejection of factionalism." If you declare that all of your ostensible allies are terrible, self-righteous absolutists while you're The One True Political Force To Be Reckoned With, you've made yourself into a faction -- a faction of one, perhaps, but a faction nonetheless. If you reject the "toxicity" of what you regard as absolutism, shouldn't you demonstrate that by not being an absolutist yourself? Remember, you don't have to be all the way to the left or right to be a politcal absolutist. You can -- to take a purely hypothetical example -- be a person who refuses to negotiate in good faith when the legislation that's the highest priority for all the other members of the party to which you nominally belong hangs in the balance.

This seems obvious, but it's invisible to Cottle. Over and over again she describes Sinema as the person who plays well with others while everyone else is rigid and doctrinaire.
The senator, who declined interview requests, fancies herself a role model for a new ethos favoring “a higher road of engagement that focuses on finding common ground,” as she put it in “Unite and Conquer.”
So how about "finding common ground" with the members of your own damn party?

Cottle believes Sinema is a great compromiser even as Sinema wakes up every day and spits in the eye of everyone who begs her to explain what compromises she's seeking. You write a piece like this when you've internalized the widely held notion that the highest virtue in politics, short of being a right-winger, is making concessions with right-wingers -- the very thing Sinema prides herself on -- while no one ever needs to the same with Democrats, because Democrats are icky and disgusting.

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