Kyrsten Sinema isn’t an 'enigma,' but a 'strategic' thinker in a 'highly volatile purple state': poli-sci professor

Kyrsten Sinema isn’t an 'enigma,' but a 'strategic' thinker in a 'highly volatile purple state': poli-sci professor

Next to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Senate Democrat who frustrates progressives the most is easily Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — who hasn’t been shy about voting with Republicans at times. Some pundits have been describing Sinema as “enigmatic.” But Neilan S. Chaturvedi, a political science professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, disagrees with that characterization of Sinema in an op-ed published by The Hill on December 17. As Chaturvedi sees it, Sinema is not an enigma, but a “strategic” thinker who realizes that she “represents a highly volatile purple state.”

“Is Sinema truly enigmatic,” Chaturvedi writes, “or is she closer to her critics on the left and, in reality, a DINO (Democratic in Name Only)? My research suggests that Sinema is acting as a strategic moderate, working to find a way to defend her seat in four years.”

Sinema, as Chaturvedi points out, has encountered plenty of “anger from the left” because of her centrist voting record. She is exactly the type of moderate Chaturvedi talked about in his 2021 book “Life in the Middle: Marginalized Moderate Senators in the Era of Polarization.”

“I find that moderates in the modern era seldom, if ever, represent truly moderate voters,” Chaturvedi explains. “In reality, they tend to either represent hyperpolarized ‘purple’ states, like Sinema in Arizona, or represent states that lean towards the other party, like Manchin in West Virginia. This complicates the ability to be the pivotal vote to pass any ‘big ticket’ legislation like a sweeping voting rights bill.”

Indeed, the Arizona residents who like Sinema tend to be a combination of independents, moderates, libertarians, non-MAGA conservatives and admirers of the late Sen. John McCain. In fact, Sinema has exalted McCain as her political idol, and she is on very friendly terms with his daughter, GOP activist Meghan McCain.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Representing Arizona and Friendship with Meghan McCain | The

Arizona has evolved into a swing state, but 20 or 30 years ago, no one saw Arizona that way. It was a deep red state closely identified with the conservative right-wing politics of Sen. Barry Goldwater and Sen. McCain, a self-described “Goldwater Republican.” Now, Arizona has two Democratic U.S. senators — Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly — and President Joe Biden carried the state in 2020. However, Arizona still has a right-wing GOP governor, Doug Ducey, and it has yet to turn into a deep blue state like Vermont, California or Massachusetts.

Sinema, according to Chaturvedi, is well-aware of that reality when she tackles an issue like voting rights.

“Sinema gets to have her cake and eat it too — she can favor a massive expansion of voting rights at the federal level, but refuse her opponents an opportunity to hold her accountable for that position,” Chaturvedi argues. “Will this undoubtedly anger the left? Of course, but she doesn’t represent them. She represents a highly volatile purple state where election outcomes are determined by turnout. She simply can’t afford to galvanize a Republican base to come out against her — especially when Arizona’s left-wing is still emerging.”

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