Thursday, January 13, 2022


Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 28 October 2021.


Beating out the perpetually "concerned" Senator Collins in the adjective competition, Senator Sinema is actually  "alarmed", but she's not going to let that spoil her appetite:

Pre-empting a presidential visit to the Capitol to meet privately with Democrats, Ms. Sinema took to the floor to say that while she backed two new voting rights measures and was alarmed about new voting restrictions in some states, she believed that a unilateral Democratic move to weaken the filibuster would only foster growing political division.

“These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself,” Ms. Sinema said. “And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

And "disappointed" too! Collins never imagined being disappointed, that's pretty original!

She'll continue to "support" the proposals in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act Manchin concocted last year in the vain belief he could get ten Republicans to sign on to it, even as she ensures that they won't pass. With that kind of support, you don't need a Hungarian, as the saying goes, or something like that. Is she throwing Manchin under the bus for this failure?

I don't know about you, but one thing I'd like to call her out on is that metaphor of division as a "disease", which would be palliated but not cured with the passage of the two bills—what exactly does she mean? 

  • State governments that make it harder for African Americans to vote or make their votes count less than those of white people are a "symptom" of division? 
  • and passing the two bills would mitigate it, but 
  • passing them with 51 Senate votes instead of 60, like a judicial nomination or a budget reconciliation, would make the underlying condition worse?
  • is the disease people disagreeing, or people being disagreeable?
  • are political parties pathological? does she want a one-party state or a no-party state, or does she just want the different parties to have the same views?
  • or I can imagine feeling that it really would be a good idea if division were more diffuse—like if it crossed party lines the way they often did in the 1960s, as for instance if 10 Republican senators voted for the voting rights bills, which Senator Sinema supports, it would kind of spread the division around and make it less disagreeable? but
  • what's different from the 1960s is the way Republicans are now a unified 
  • what has she thought of doing that would help? how is it better to allow Republicans to keep expanding the ways African Americans are disenfranchised than to stop it?

Just asking questions, you know.

And then that question of a "voice": for heaven's sake, senators always have a voice, which they can bring forward in debate; the filibuster doesn't give them a "voice", it gives them a veto. And the bloodless postmodern filibuster in particular, as opposed to the lovely and almost entirely fictional Frank Capra type where James Stewart moves our souls and forces us to agree with the humane position, is very specifically an agreement to not have a debate; it is "If you want to debate this bill we'll never let you vote on it so let's just pretend we did it and move on." In effect, far from giving a voice to a minority, it silences everybody's voice. Maybe Sinema thinks that's a way of avoiding division; maybe she thinks you can't be "divided" if nobody ever gets a chance to talk about it.

Maybe that idea of the suppression of voice a psychoanalytic clue to what she really wants; maybe, as I've suggested before in regard to the Build Back Better program (but can't find out where), her deepest desire is not to vote for the bill or against it but to not vote at all. Perhaps because she might have made contradictory promises to different people and she's genuinely frightened of the consequences of letting one side down.  We know the Arizona population is hugely in favor of voting rights reform, after a PPP poll of the state last week found that

66 percent of Arizona voters polled support the Freedom to Vote Act.

Fifty percent of Republicans polled, and 54 percent of independents polled, said they support voting and elections legislation that ends dark money, stops partisan gerrymandering, thwarts election sabotage, and protects the freedom to vote for all Americans.”

Fifty-five percent of Arizona respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a senator who backed the legislation, as opposed to 19 percent who said they would be less likely to.

She doesn't like hearing from constituents much—she's given up holding town halls and allowing citizens to talk to her a long time ago. Maybe she's made promises to a Dark Side as well, that can have her permanently excluded from her current or next career (whether as cable news talking head or law firm rainmaker) or even physically harmed.

If that's so, there's a tiny glimmer of hope in the peculiar technique majority leader Schumer has chosen to force the issue onto the Senate floor: in the form of what's called a "message between the houses" (if you're at all interested you need to check this Wonkette link, because I'm not giving you all the gory details), in the form of a big bill the House passed today combining the John Lewis and Freedom to Vote acts into a single package—and means a debate can't be skipped. That is, there will be a debate, and there will have to be a vote to bring it to a close, and there will be a series of votes on whether the filibuster should be bypassed, rules changes that can pass with a 51-vote simple majority. At this point, Sinema will be forced to vote on something whether she likes it or not.

Or, and this is where I veer into Kristoline fantasy, there could be a prior agreement where she and a Republican counterpart (Lisa Murkowski, presumably) vote "present" and the change passes with a 49-49 tie and vice-presidential tie-breaker. That could get the big bill itself to the floor and force Sinema to cast a second vote. 

No, it's not likely. But it's a nice picture!

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