Politics used to stop at the water’s edge. These days, it doesn’t even stop at the bathroom door.
On Sunday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) was accosted by activists at Arizona State University, where Sinema is a lecturer. One activist, upset by Sinema’s refusal to rubber-stamp $3.5 trillion in spending without debate, first disrupted Sinema’s class, and then followed the senator into a bathroom — posting video of the incident online.
Statement Following Events at ASU on Sunday pic.twitter.com/4d3BF9P8CO
— Kyrsten Sinema (@SenatorSinema) October 4, 2021
But she’s now facing increasingly personal — and sometimes sexist — attacks, even from so-called “progressives.” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) said that he is waiting for Sinema “to show us something other than a designer purse.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called bathroom-stalking a senator because you disagree with her on legislation “inappropriate and unacceptable,” and Sinema’s Grand Canyon Stage colleague Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) agreed, calling it “completely inappropriate.”
As for the President, he simply said, “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody. … It’s part of the process.”
The past decade or so has seen a marked decline in civility in politics, from a Republican congressman shouting “You lie!” at a Democratic president during an address to Congress, to activists harassing White House officials in restaurants during the most recent GOP administration, to Marjorie Taylor-Greene taunting her future colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez through AOC’s office door, shouting at her to “get rid of your diaper.”
With each act of political intolerance, it becomes more acceptable to go even further the next time. This year, we’ve witnessed state and local Republican Party organizations censuring elected leaders of their own party for votes of conscience. One South Carolina county GOP organization censured Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for daring to vote in favor of a bipartisan infrastructure bill backed by Senate Minority Leader McConnell.
It was just nine months ago this week that we saw what can happen when a radical base is riled up by a political leader with no concern for propriety. Elected officials like Sinema — who are actually striving to forge personal and political bonds with members of the other party — are part of the solution, not the problem.