President Biden, during his speeches at Statuary Hall in the Capitol on January 6 and in Georgia on Tuesday, sais some were “holding a dagger at the throat of democracy.”
Today, Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave a full-throated endorsement of the filibuster, thereby crushing any hope that voting rights laws will pass Congress. The filibuster and the 60-vote threshold that it protects and was cemented during the Jim Crow era were saved by a white bisexual woman.
A person who upholds the rights of a minority in the legislature to control actual minorities of which she is neither is galling. And Sinema represents a state that fought tooth and nail against the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, which coincidentally is on Monday.
What’s ironic about this entire catastrophe is that reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act isn’t some dangerous conspiracy or even partisan. Since 1965, it has been validated by bipartisan majorities, including in 2006 when the Senate voted 98-0 to reauthorize and President George W. Bush signed the bill into law.
Now, because of Sinema, the Voting Rights Act has crashed into a barrier. Further, her decision will let stand the nearly two dozen and counting voting restriction laws that have been passed by Republican majorities in state legislatures around the country. And it will also give clearance to other states to pass similar constricting laws. It will be a free-for-all that will crush the vote, the very heart of democracy.
Sinema is not only the dagger at the throat of democracy; in her speech on the Senate floor, she literally took that weapon and stabbed with it. The democracy of the United States has been under extraordinary stress since 2016, teetering on January 6, 2021, and wobbling wildly for the last year. Her dagger's slashes now leave democracy on life support.
President Biden said that history will look back to see who kept democracy alive by upholding the right to vote. Sinema will be looked at as a traitor and fool. Traitor because she gave zero consideration about how her stance would betray the right to vote. But why a fool? Because when the Republicans take over the Senate next year — and they will now that the vote has been rigged in their favor — the first thing the vindictive Mitch McConnell will do as majority leader is get rid of the filibuster.
McConnell knows that getting 60 votes in an impossibly divided Senate is simply impossible. We may never see 60 senators agree on anything ever again. Can you think of anything, outside of naming a post office after Jesus Christ?
And speaking of Jesus, Michelangelo Signorile tweeted yesterday that Sinema famously didn't swear on a Bible when she was sworn in, “because she is the first senator who said she has no religious affiliation — a pose from back when she was in the Green Party. But now she's wearing a cross, while posing as a Republican.”
If she’s indeed become a Christian, then she’s required to look out for the little guy as Jesus Christ did.
Her dagger, dripping with the blood of democracy, slashed at all of the little guys, blocking voting rights for people of color, disabled people, elderly people, Black people, and poor people.
No wonder she didn’t use a Bible. There are no such things as sins for her.
Sinema lied through her teeth on the Senate floor when she said, “I share the disappointment that we’ve not found more support on the other side of the aisle for responses to state-level voting restrictions. I wish that were not the case just as I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of Democratic leaders.”
I don’t even know where to begin after a statement like that without stating the obvious. Republicans in Congress have zero interest in tampering with state-level voting restrictions passed by their fellow Republicans. They know that the only way their pro-life, rigged election, racist, bigoted, anti-LGBTQ+ agenda wins is if they cheat by making voting as hard as climbing Mount Everest.
Did Sinema utter such foolery about the democratic leadership because she has been living in a cave on Mt. Everest for the last year? No, because she has been lobbied by every single Democratic leader and nearly every single Democratic member. They have asked her to do one simple, very simple and serious thing, carve out the filibuster so that the two voting rights bills, passed by the House could at the very least be debated.
They’ll be no debate about Sinema’s hypocritical betrayal of the freedom to vote. When I was seething watching her speak, I could not help but think of the bravery of another Arizona senator, John McCain, who famously flipped a thumbs down, in the face of fierce Republican pressure, on a vote to repeal Obamacare. He was watching out for the little guy by saving Obamacare.
The dichotomy of the two of them could not be starker. Sinema, a spineless gnat on the Senate floor, versus a monumental giant of the United States Senate.
Here’s why, as LGBTQ+ individuals, we should feel gaslighted and mortified. As she identifies as bisexual, most of us supported her, campaigned for her, and donated to her operation. She's the first out bisexual senator in U.S. history. And why wouldn’t we initially support her? Having more representation in the Senate is a win for us. We wanted a voice that would speak for equality.
The entire history of the LGBTQ+ movement has been for equality and the right to participate in a fair and free society. That’s why so many of us support other movements like Black Lives Matter. We know what it’s like to be discounted, discarded, and disenfranchised. By her decision, Sinema has discounted, discarded, and disenfranchised millions of disadvantaged voters across the country, including many who are LGBTQ+.
So what happens now? For the Democratic Party, she has now alienated all those disadvantaged voters who have absolutely no reason — and are too afraid and inconvenienced — to vote for Democrats in the November midterm election. Why would people of color — the backbone of the Democratic Party and the reason Biden won in 2020 — bother to vote? They’ve been collectively wiped off the electoral map by Sinema.
Moreover, Sinema’s refusal to chuck the filibuster means that Biden’s signature piece of legislation, Build Back Better, is now just a pipe dream. Democrats will have nothing of substance to show their constituents while they are campaigning: no voting rights bill, no tax break for child care, no climate initiatives. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Democrats will be slaughtered in the midterms because they’ll be blamed for inflation, COVID-19 running rampant, empty shelves in stores, and the inability to vote.
There will be nothing positive to campaign on because Sinema protected extreme Republicans by jabbing her dagger at Biden’s agenda.
I looked up what the vernacular of stabbing a dagger means, and what I found was that it is to “twist a knife in somebody to hurt somebody very deeply, to make somebody’s suffering even greater.”
We will look back on this day, and as President Biden said, we will remember that on January 13, 2022, one-term Sen. Kyrsten Sinema hurt democracy very deeply and made our suffering even greater.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.