The following opinion column by Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden originally appeared in The Arizona Republic earlier today.
It’s hard to remember a time when our nation was as deeply divided as it is today.
Now more than ever, we need elected leaders who are willing to buck party politics and work toward finding common-ground, commonsense solutions to address our challenges, bridge our division and begin to move our country forward.
Unfortunately, examples of this kind of leadership are becoming fewer and farther between. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Washington, D.C., where political expediency and pandering to the party base increasingly take precedent over the pursuit of broadly supported bipartisan solutions.
Then there’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema – a refreshing independent voice amid a chorus of deafening partisan rancor. Throughout her first term, Sen. Sinema has demonstrated the kind of bold and brave public service many people may have thought died with the late Sen. John McCain.
That maverick spirit has been on full display in recent days, as Sen. Sinema held her ground in supporting the long-standing Senate filibuster amid intense and incendiary political pressure from her own party.
The senator’s stance on this issue should have come as a surprise to no one. In a Washington Post column from last June, Sinema wrote: “If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.”
She reiterated that position during a recent Senate floor speech, reminding her colleagues that “we have but one democracy. We can only survive, we can only keep her, if we do so together.”
You would think that message of bipartisanship would be widely embraced, welcomed and celebrated in this time of severely fractured politics. After all, it’s exactly what politicians, pundits – and yes, opinion columnists who appear on these pages – have been preaching for years.
Not so. Rather than praising Sen. Sinema as a profile in courage, the same chattering class that has been crying for civility has laid bare its hypocrisy – spewing vile, threatening and dishonest attacks on the senator’s character and distorting her record.
Ironically, some people – all of whom know better – have resorted to the same overheated, hateful rhetoric that they’ve longed claimed has no place in the public square.
“Worse than the ‘Ku Klux Klanner’ of the 1960s.”
“Killing [Dr. Martin Luther] King’s legacy” and “turn[ing] America back to the Jim Crow era.”
These are actual quotes dripping off the pages of Arizona’s newspaper of record.
Nationally, the backlash has been equally repugnant, with MSNBC talking heads calling Sen. Sinema – among other things – “a menace to … American democracy” and her staff “handmaidens to the death of Democracy.”
These accusations are not only ridiculous – not to mention flat-out false – but they are also corrosive. If anything is a threat to democratic discourse, it’s language like this.
This is about more than a single policy issue. We are at a place where working across the aisle to advance bipartisan solutions – the very thing the Senate was designed to do – is now met with vitriol, condemned with censure and decried as failure.
If we are truly going to heal our fractured country, we must first start by toning down the dangerous and divisive rhetoric. And we must realize that the consistent pursuit of bipartisan agreement is not a threat to democracy, but an asset.
We’re grateful to have that in Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. We would hope our entire delegation – and all of our elected leaders – would follow her example.
Danny Seiden is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. On Twitter: @dbseiden.