Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Anita’s Angle: The midterms, in moderation


Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a Senate seat in Arizona this week, a traditionally Republican stronghold.She is the first Democrat to win an Arizona U.S. Senate seat in 30 years, the first female to ever win one and will be the first openly bisexual senator in the country. Sinema's political evolution has been fascinating to watch — she started her career as a Green Party activist, received criticism from her Republican opponent for wearing a pink tutu to a war protest in 2003 and once identified herself, albeit facetiously, as a “Prada socialist.”

But after 14 years as an elected official, she has amassed one of the most conservative voting records in her party, voting with President Trump's position 62.2 percent of the time as the representative for Arizona's 9th Congressional District. On the surface, this seems counterintuitive. But when you examine some of Sinema's key voting breaks with her party, there are often understandable explanations. In March, Sinema helped pass the omnibus spending bill supported by more Republicans than Democrats, which limited the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for Arizona public schools by allowing them to draw upon money from the state’s 108-year old land trust fund. Her other votes have been more controversial with Democrats, such as her support for a bill that included $1.6 billion in funding for a border wall.

While it is indeed true that Sinema is no longer a progressive, I believe she is the Democrat that Arizona needs right now. Democrats in Arizona recognize the practical boundaries restraining us from becoming too ideologically driven. Honestly, we just don’t have that privilege. In a blue state, one can take for granted that a call for ideological purity or for candidates to vocally espouse socialism will not materially interfere with daily life. For those in traditionally red states, the tradeoff of losing an election is simply too large to risk gratuitously. Winning matters at the policy level because there are immediate impacts to marginalized groups. That being said, candidates who run much further to the left, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, present new ideas and challenge the status quo. They are incredibly important to liberal causes. In places like Arizona, though, change tends to happen more gradually, and moderate candidates are most able to secure wins for the Democrats.

Both types of candidates play an important role in maintaining competitive election processes, but it is important to consider these candidates on a regional level, with a holistic understanding of their locales. On the national level, they are already building coalitions to get things done:The bipartisan and historically centrist House Problem Solvers Caucus may attempt to partner with other Democrats to seek concessions from Nancy Pelosi that would streamline the legislative process for bipartisan legislation, in exchange for voting to support her re-election.

Those who seek to resist always have to make a decision about whether to support a full rejection of the status quo or to accept frustratingly incremental change. But maybe it’s not always black and white. We need people like Ocasio-Cortez and Sinema on the left. There is a specific time and place for their strategies, and Democrats should recognize the merits of both approaches.