On Friday morning, Americans woke up to the news that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has left the Democratic Party and is now a registered independent.
This defection, revealed in an op-ed in the Arizona Republic, was probably the last thing anyone expected to hear, especially mere days after Democrats officially secured a true majority in the Senate.
According to The Guardian, this “bombshell defection” will have “far-reaching consequences as Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer attempts to plot a course through the upcoming Congress.”
Really? Will it? I can certainly understand why it might seem that way… at first… but upon closer inspection, I think it’s safe to say that Sinema’s leaving the Democratic Party is merely a political stunt.
First starters, this will literally change nothing. While her party identification will change, all indications are that she will continue to caucus with the Democrats. Chad Pergram, the senior congressional correspondent for Fox News, reports via Twitter that “Sinema is expected to maintain her committee assignments through the Democrats, suggesting she will caucus with the Democrats.”
Had Sinema decided to caucus with the Republicans, it would have returned the Senate to a 50/50 split, and the parties would continue a power-sharing agreement in the upper chamber.
In this respect, Sinema is independent in name only. This shouldn’t shock anyone. Despite her reputation as a “moderate” or “independent” voice, she has voted with Joe Biden 93% of the time on legislation and has voted to confirm all of Biden’s judicial nominees to lower courts, even the controversial ones, like including pro-child-sex-offender Ketanji Brown Jackson. So, as grateful as we can be that she stood in the way of Build Back Better, overhauling elections, and eliminating the filibuster, she really doesn’t bear any resemblance to a moderate.
So, what was the point of this defection? Political survival. Sure, Sen. Mark Kelly was just reelected last month, and that bodes well for her ability to get reelected in a general election; she’s become a target of the radical left in her state for not always supporting the Biden agenda. Nevertheless, Arizona leftists with deep pockets want her to lose her primary. Several PACs are raising money to support Sinema’s primary challenger, including the unambiguously named Primary Sinema PAC—which is reportedly being bankrolled by George Soros.
By defecting, Sinema effectively removes herself from the Democratic primary process in 2024 when she’s up for reelection, leaving Arizona Democrats the opportunity to nominate whatever nutjob they want while still giving her a solid chance to win in the general election, which she’d likely win. Why? Earlier this year, polls suggested she has more substantial support from Republicans in Arizona than from Democrats. That means she’s more likely to win reelection as an independent than as a Democrat.
So, let’s face it: where it matters most, Sinema’s defection changes nothing. Had both Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) defected and planned to caucus with neither party, this would have been a more significant development. But, at the end of the day, there’s no reason to believe she won’t continue to be a reliable left-wing vote in the Senate, only rarely siding with Republicans. Of course, with Republicans controlling the House, she isn’t likely to be in a position to make a consequential stand against the Democrats’ radical legislative agenda before she’s up for reelection in 2024.