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Anything but iconic: Why Senator Kyrsten Sinema is so problematic

While Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) may present herself as Generation Z's liberal icon, her actions in Congress have proven otherwise. – Photo by Kyrsten Sinema / Facebook

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is not the yas-queen-bisexual-girlboss-icon that she was originally thought to be. Her post-9/11 early political days as a Green Party spokeswoman and anti-war protest organizer are long over, and her recent obstructionism against the Build Back Better Framework has cemented her position as a centrist Democrat. 

Sinema’s ever-changing style — which includes wearing a denim vest to preside over the Senate on Tuesday, sporting a hot pink shirt reading “DANGEROUS CREATURE” in February or infamously donning a pink wig and red glasses, among other fashion choices — has been the subject of many buzzy headlines and the butt of too many Twitter jokes. 

But honestly, who cares what Sinema wears when she’s rejecting what some are calling once-in-a-lifetime reform opportunities? 

What are these recent reform opportunities?

The Build Back Better Framework is a plan to increase taxes for the wealthiest and large corporations to create jobs, cut taxes and reduce child care costs, according to the White House government website

The two pieces of legislation include the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the up-to-$3.5 trillion 10-year Build Back Better Act. 

The bill is opposed by Republicans, and through a budgetary process called reconciliation, Democrats are trying to enact it. The Build Back Better Act includes two free years of community college, child care and universal pre-K, medicare and cutting prescription drug prices. 

These are unprecedented reforms that could change the way our country operates.

It also marks a new chance for climate action. The Build Back Better Act would, “transform the electricity sector so that it runs on mostly clean energy, steer the transportation sector toward electric vehicles and finally take action on methane pollution, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases," according to Vox.

Besides fashion, why is Sinema making headlines?

Sinema was the first openly bisexual Senator, the first female Senator of Arizona and flipped the open seat of her retiring predecessor, becoming the first Democrat Arizona elected since 1988

During her run, she shifted away from her Left-leaning days to adopt a political brand that focused on her 3 years spent homeless as a child, and closely aligned herself with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a Democratic centrist from West Virginia. 

Now, her politics are costing the Democrats the reform that could change the lives of millions of Americans and the global community, considering that America is the highest producer of carbon pollution

She’s been an obstacle to the Democrats, and has specifically opposed corporate and income tax increases that would help finance the $3.5 trillion bill. Every vote matters in a Senate that’s split, and her continued agitation is blocking progress from being made. 

Just recently, five veterans and advisors of Sinema’s publicly accused her of “hanging (her) constituents out to dry” and quit their roles. 

Sinema’s centrism hasn’t just been on issues relating to President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s bill. On March 5 the Senate voted on a motion to include a bill that would increase minimum-wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Sinema joined Republicans and six other Democrats to vote against the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 on a 58-42 vote. 

Sinema said in a statement that an open debate on raising the federal minimum wage should be separate from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) bill. But she didn’t just say no — she strutted across the Senate floor and did a little curtsy of sorts, as if weighed down by the thumbs-down she exaggerated. This thumbs-down would be the subject of many memes and discourse on political sexism. 

But again: whether Sinema did a thumbs-down, a simple head shake or a ridiculous cartwheel, the point is that she rejected the opportunity for millions of Americans to earn higher wages. More than 800,000 of her own constituents would’ve been affected by the increase, according to Huffington Post

How is the public reacting to Sinema’s centrism? 

In early October, immigration activists followed Sinema into a bathroom at Arizona State University from the organization Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, after they attempted to talk to her as she exited a classroom at the university. They demanded that she “Back the bill,” after saying that they helped get her elected. 

The activist group tweeted that Sinema has been “completely inaccessible” so they had to “resort to confronting” Sinema. 

Sinema condemned the actions of the protestors, calling their actions “inappropriate.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) didn’t support a joint statement that disapproved of the protestors actions against Sinema, “because it also wouldn’t include a rebuke of her political views” such as Sinema’s opposition to prescription drug reform, according to Axios

The Sunrise Movement took action against Sinema around the same time through a phonebank called the “Hot Bisexuals Against Kyrsten Sinema" phonebank.

​​According to Teen Vogue, the phonebank organizing page read, “Hey girls, gays and theys. We're recruiting — for Hot Bisexuals Against Kyrsten Sinema. Cuff your jeans, grab your iced coffee, take your SSRI and sit sideways in your chair … We've got to let Sinema know that representation isn't colorful wigs and great eyeliner. Queers want it all: good jobs, investments in infrastructure, citizenship for all and a chance to SURVIVE.”

Just recently, one of Sinema’s constituents asked her at an airport why she’s “met with dozens of lobbyists” and not constituents. Sinema completely ignored the person asking the questions and continued talking to Republican Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), sheepishly apologizing for the inconvenience of a concerned citizen. “Your constituents are suffering, what are you going to do about climate change?”

Not to be dramatic, but the livelihoods of millions and even billions are currently resting on Sinema’s shoulders. It matters to keep talking about her obstructionism, to support those who are trying to reach her and to discuss literally anything about her actions instead of her clothes. 

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