New York Times editorial board member Michelle Cottle last week called for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to leave the Democratic Party and become an independent.
In a Friday op-ed, Cottle cited the moderate Democrat’s split with others in her party on major issues related to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as reason she should consider leaving, and suggested her departure could wind up “being positive for all involved.”
Cottle wrote that progressives remained angry at Sinema over what they saw as “betrayals” when she decided to oppose an increase in the minimum wage and support maintaining the Senate filibuster rule. She added that Sinema might be on the same path to abandon her “team” altogether, listing past senators who switched parties during their terms.
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She referenced the harassment Sinema had received from protestors since announcing her opposition to the massive Democrat-backed $3.5 trillion spending bill still being negotiated in Congress, and claimed that people didn’t have a clear sense of what her principles actually were, or what mattered to her.
“Some have suggested that she’s charting a path out of office entirely. But Ms. Sinema’s better course may be not to leave the Senate but to split with her party. Her departure might even wind up being a positive for all involved,” she wrote.
Cottle wrote that Sinema joining the Republican Party would be “a bridge too far” because she wasn’t “an actual conservative,” but that easing into becoming an independent would be “less disruptive.”
She suggested that Sinema could be an independent senator but still caucus with Democrats, much like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
“A split still wouldn’t be easy. The logistics would be a nightmare. And while open relationships often sound great in theory, they can be excruciating to navigate,” Cottle wrote. “But Ms. Sinema has a better shot than most at not just surviving such a shift, but becoming a truly independent force to be reckoned with — maybe even a power broker for years to come.”
“Ms. Sinema is, at heart, a Democrat of convenience and expediency; she has a chance now to show that independents aren’t just a New England eccentricity,” she added.
Cottle detailed Sinema’s history with the Democratic Party, her journey from progressive activism to becoming a moderate focused on working across the aisle and her “eccentric rebel” persona she’s now known for within the U.S. Senate.
If she struck out on her own, she could perhaps settle into being an independent rather than worrying about spotlighting her independence. This might not alter her policy positions, but maybe she wouldn’t feel compelled to make such a show of it,” Cottle wrote. “Similarly, if she dropped the party label, maybe Democrats would eventually stop regarding every disagreement as treason.”
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“With a little luck, and the pressure of total commitment gone, everyone might wind up getting along better than ever,” she added. “All that said, the deck is stacked against her. But Ms. Sinema loves a good challenge, and she fancies herself a trailblazer. If she really wants to make politics safe for independent voices, she may decide it’s worth taking the leap.”