Remember the media cheers for Sen. John McCain when he stopped the effort to repeal Obamacare? McCain was a Republican frustrating a Republican policy goal, which was enough to earn the highest praise in some media circles. “It was a stunning moment,” The New York Times reported, “a flash of the maverick John McCain, unafraid of going his own way despite the pleas of his fellow Republicans.”
That was four years ago, and Donald Trump was president. Fast-forward to today, with Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats desperately trying to pass a massive spending bill that has been compared to legislation from the New Deal and Great Society. Another Arizona senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, along with fellow Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has so far refused to support her party’s signature initiative.
Sinema isn’t getting the John McCain profile-in-courage treatment. For her stand, she has been called a sellout and a party traitor in the liberal press, portrayed as a nihilistic, angry bimbo on “Saturday Night Live,” and pursued by leftist activists who actually chased her into a women’s bathroom, harangued her while she was in a stall, and posted a video of the entire ugly incident.
The New Republic ran an article headlined, “Democrats, Stop Negotiating With Traitors” — with Sinema, along with Manchin, being the “traitors” in question. The Nation published “How Kyrsten Sinema Sold Out; The origin story of the Senate’s newest super villain.” The New York Times asked simply, “What’s Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?”
“Saturday Night Live” often functions as a sort of televised, in-kind campaign contribution to the Democratic Party. And the party’s frustration with Sinema came through loud and clear in the show’s recent opening sketch. The sketch portrayed President Biden at a podium with Sinema and Manchin on one side and progressive Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other.
The Sinema character was portrayed as a weirdo who just wants to do bad things. “What do I want from this bill?” she asked. “I’ll never tell. Because I didn’t come to Congress to make friends, and so far — Mission Accomplished!” A moment later, she said, “I want no roads.” Biden quickly asked, “No roads? Why?” Sinema answered: “Chaos.”
Then Sinema delivered a manifesto of sorts. “As a wine-drinking, bisexual triathlete, I know what the average American wants,” she said. “They want to be put on hold when they call 911. They want bridges that just stop — a car falls down. They want water so thick you can eat it with a fork. And I will fight for that, no matter what. Unless my foot hurts. Then I’ll go back to Arizona.” (The last was a reference to Sinema’s recent trip home for treatment of a foot injury.)
The real Sinema, of course, voted for the $1.1 trillion bipartisan traditional infrastructure bill. She just has problems with the three-times-larger social and climate spending bill that is packed with Democratic priorities and has no Republican support. She voted for roads, she voted for bridges, she voted for water — none of which mattered on “Saturday Night Live.”
But all of that was softball compared to Sinema’s treatment at the hands of a lefty activist group called LUCHA Arizona. The name stands for Living United for Change in Arizona, and it describes itself as “fighting for social, racial and economic transformation.”
On Sunday, LUCHA posted to its Twitter page a video of its operatives approaching Sinema as she took a break from teaching a class at Arizona State University. Sinema declined to talk to the group, so they followed her as she headed toward the women’s room. Then they followed her inside, camera running, as Sinema walked into a stall. “We need a Build Back Better plan right now,” one said, referring to the Biden bill Sinema is at the moment not supporting. A woman walked right up to the stall door, phone in hand, saying, “We need solutions. The Build Back Better plan has the solutions that we need.” Another said, “We knocked on doors for you to get you elected. And just how we got you elected, we can get you out of office if you don’t support what you promised us.” When one said, “We need citizenship for 7 million —,” a toilet flushed and another woman walked out of a nearby stall.
The harassment continued with the camera focused on Sinema’s stall door. Then came another flush, and Sinema walked out to wash her hands as an activist, phone in hand, stood next to her and said, “I am a survivor of human trafficking, and it’s because of lack of worker protections ...” At that point, finally, the video ended.
It all goes to show that there will be no John McCain, principled-maverick-puts-country-over-party portrayals of Kyrsten Sinema. In a media and activist world dominated by Democrats, McCain stood up to the bad guys — his fellow Republicans. When Sinema stands up to her fellow Democrats, that’s another story altogether.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.