We’ve learned the hard way in America that there is a big difference between a politician and a statesman.
Now we’re learning – again the hard way – that there is a big difference between a politician and a stateswoman.
Teaching us this valuable, if painful, lesson are Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Wyoming’s Republican Rep. Liz Cheney.
A politician understands the machinations of a legislative body and has the ability to work within the chamber in a way that can usher measures into law – some of them very good – while never putting her personal status at risk.
A stateswoman can do those same things, but also is willing, when the time comes, to risk everything, lose everything, in order to fight against something she knows will materially harm her country.
I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you which is which.
Sinema's strategy of accommodation
On Monday, Sinema traveled to Kentucky to speak at an event hosted by Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell.
The two of them commiserated in friendly terms. Sinema reaffirmed her support of the 60-vote threshold for passing legislation and even expressed a desire to expand it.
“I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already,” she said.
Adding, “It would make it harder for us to confirm judges. It would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration. But I believe by restoring, we’d actually see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance, which is what I believe our forefathers intended.”
She said the House represents “the passions of the moment” while the Senate is “designed to be a place that moves slowly to cool down those passions, to think more strategically and long term about the legislation before us.”
Necessary 'passions of the moment'
What happens, however, when a president comes along who is willing to overturn an election and toss out the Constitution? Moving slowly at a time like that could mean an end to our democratic republic.
What Sinema calls the “passions of the moment” are not only appropriate during such a crisis, they’re absolutely necessary.
That is why Cheney took on the challenge of working with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and former President Donald Trump’s part in it. All of which she’ll expose again in the committee’s next public hearing.
Ninth hearing looms: A breakdown of the Jan. 6 committee's first 8 hearings
As a voting member of the House, Cheney was a solid supporter of just about all of Trump’s policies. Unlike other Republicans, however, she would not help him destroy the nation’s election process.
Or, as she put it recently, “One of the things that has surprised me the most about my work on this committee is how sophisticated the plan was that Donald Trump was involved in and oversaw every step of the way. It was a multipart plan that he oversaw, he was involved in personally and directly.”
Cheney put country over self-interest or party
It’s why Cheney now says, “I certainly will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump isn’t anywhere close to the Oval Office. I'm going to make sure Donald Trump, make sure he’s not the nominee. And if he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of Trump and the insurrection, Sinema is … understated. At least since Trump’s impeachments. She voted twice to convict him then, but she hasn’t gone out of her way to take him on lately.
She wants to make friends.
She believes in accommodation, even with those who, like McConnell and other Republicans, acquiesced to Trump’s dangerous whims for his entire term, and afterwards.
Of that Cheney says, “That’s the kind of thing we cannot see in our party. We cannot see an accommodation like that, and I think it’s very important that we be clear about that.”
Sinema doesn’t see things that way. I’d guess she even considers herself a true stateswoman.
What Sinema's constituents need most
She said, “Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship – one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution, our love for our home states and a dogged determination on behalf of our constituents.”
That last part is very strange.
If Sinema had the “love” she expresses for her home state and the “dogged determination” to work on behalf of her constituents, she would be in Arizona, now, to help them. Because seeking the Arizona governor’s office is Republican Kari Lake, a vengeful, election denying, xenophobic Trump sycophant who is backed by white nationalists, antisemites and insurrectionists.
A stateswoman who loved her state would doggedly campaign against such a person.
And yet it was Cheney – not Sinema – who said recently, “I am going to do everything I can to make sure that Kari Lake is not elected.”
Reach Montini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kyrsten Sinema's politics don't match Liz Cheney's principles