Dear Sen. Sinema: We Love You—Your Pals, the Hedge Fund Bros | Opinion

The good news for Democrats, and the Earth, is that the party's two chief obstructionists in the Senate, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have signed off on a huge climate, energy and tax package. The bad news is that, as always, Sinema put the interests of her lobbyist paymasters over those of the country by forcing Democrats to abandon a tax increase on hedge fund managers and private equity wizards.

Since Manchin shocked the political world by suddenly announcing his support for what Democrats are calling the "Inflation Reduction Act" late last month, supporters have waited anxiously for Sinema's verdict. Despite rarely granting interviews with national press outlets, Sinema is a true master of making herself the center of attention. After helping spike a minimum wage hike in 2021, scotching the party's plans to overhaul the tax code and clinging to the Senate's arcane filibuster rule to obstruct everything from voting rights to the codification of Roe v. Wade, Sinema couldn't resist kneecapping her fellow Democrats one last time before the midterms.

The life hack for rich people that Sinema's intervention preserved is known as the "carried interest loophole," which allows private equity and hedge fund managers to have some compensation taxed at the capital gains rate of 20 percent rather than the top income tax figure of 37 percent. It serves no public purpose, creates no jobs, and adds pointlessly to both the deficit and ordinary Americans' justifiable sense that the wealthy make up their own rules to hoover up as much loot as possible.

Why would Sinema, an anti-war activist in her youth who did not bother telling Democratic primary voters that her main goal in public life would be to torpedo their dreams, do such a thing? At this point it should be clear that the senior senator from Arizona is little more than a cipher, a woman who has discovered that her pivotal vote in the 50-50 Senate allows her to protect as much of her plutocratic backers' privilege and wealth as possible while getting elected as a Democrat.

Say what you will about Joe Manchin, but at least the West Virginia fossil fuel baron is clear about why he repeatedly torched President Biden's agenda. He thinks COVID-19-era spending led to inflation, that reliance on fossil fuels is in the best interest of his state and seems to be genuinely high on his own supply of bipartisanship fetishization. He serves the coal industry like a white-aproned waiter and is harder to bargain with than a tight-fisted sports executive at the trade deadline, but at least he doesn't go into occultation for weeks at a time before making decisions that he doesn't even bother offering a rationale for.

Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on August 3, 2022. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The same cannot be said about Sinema. Her insistence on saving the day for finance bros and other constituents in the Republic of Richistan is not just a policy loss for Americans–it is a profound betrayal of what the Democratic Party is supposed to be. America already has an organization whose sole purpose for decades was the relentless upward redistribution of wealth: The Republican Party. The Democrats are supposed to be different.

It's not a huge mystery why voters no longer associate Democrats with the interests of working people. Since the party's back-to-back landslide defeats at the hands of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, Democratic party elites made decisions—from backing the North American Free Trade Agreement to cozying up to the Silicon Valley 'disruptors' who created the odious 'gig economy,' and repeatedly failing to follow through on promises to organized labor—that were not in the interests of the working class. And while working-class white flight to the GOP has more to do with racial grievance and education polarization than it does with actual policy, it doesn't help when Democrats like Sinema very publicly side with the fabulously rich.

The most heartening development in Democratic Party politics over the past decade has been the turn away from this kind of brazen donor service, an effort spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) but now embraced virtually partywide. But not Kyrsten Sinema. She belongs to the lobbyists. And by becoming the public face of investor-class impunity, she is doing a grave disservice to the party itself, and ensuring that when normal Americans think of Democrats, they picture her protecting Elon Musk's wealth rather than, for example, former President Barack Obama saving the entire American auto industry over the howls of GOP oligarchs.

The 2024 Arizona primary that will almost certainly end Sinema's career in Democratic Party politics truly cannot come soon enough.

David Faris is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University and the author of It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. His writing has appeared in The Week, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Washington Monthly, and more. You can find him on Twitter @davidmfaris.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.