No one better embodied the fierce independence of Arizona better than the maverick himself, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, who was never afraid to buck his party to serve his state and protect American democracy. While no one can completely fill his shoes, Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, is coming closer than anyone ever could. By standing firm in protecting the Senate filibuster, Sinema is proving there’s a new maverick in town.
When Sen. Sinema ran for Senate, she promised to be an independent voice for Arizona, but I must admit that I was skeptical. How many politicians promise to be bipartisan only to get to Washington and conveniently forget everything they told voters? However, as she continues defending the filibuster in the face of overwhelming criticism from her colleagues, national polls, and the Twitterverse, Sinema’s proving that her promises aren’t empty platitudes.
I don’t agree with all of her policy positions, but it is refreshing to have another Arizona Senator with the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what’s right – especially when it’s inconvenient.
All the more admirable is that Sinema is taking a stand on behalf of the basic tenants of our democracy: compromise, input from both parties, regardless of who is in power, and open debate. The filibuster was established to ensure that no matter who was in charge, everyone could still have a seat at the table and a role in shaping the future of our country. If the filibuster were to be eliminated, the results could be disastrous. It’s no wonder politicians, including President Joe Biden, see its elimination as troubling.
For instance, without the filibuster, the majority could unilaterally impose big changes without input from the minority party. Then a few years later, when the other party comes back into power, they overturn the policies and swing the country back to the other partisan extreme. The result is a turbulent, mercurial government that creates more division and distrust among the people.
I fully sympathize with those who are frustrated by the gridlock and partisanship in Washington. But the problem with our government today isn’t our institutions, which have worked for hundreds of years – it’s the people we’ve elected to wield them. Sen. Sinema herself noted that to fix this gridlock, “the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”
Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe either party has a monopoly on good ideas. The point of our representative government – and the filibuster – is to ensure that all ideas have a forum on which to be exchanged. That way, the best policies benefiting the most people can be found, and we can all move forward together. These are ideals worth fighting for, and I’m glad to see that someone’s up there fighting for them.
Sen. McCain once said that “nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.” That’s what being a maverick really is – standing up for something greater. By standing up for the filibuster – and the institutions that make America the greatest democracy on Earth – Sen. Sinema is being a true maverick.
Rep. Cesar Chavez represents Legislative District 29 in the Arizona Legislature.