NBC: Progressives spending $1.4M against Sinema over filibuster, but ...

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Perhaps Just Democracy should have read NBC News’ other scoop on the filibuster first before writing those checks. Sahil Kapur reports that the progressive activist group will spend $1.4 million on TV and digital campaigns in Arizona, targeting Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) over her support for the filibuster. They want to remove her as an obstacle to the wider progressive agenda, but she’s not their only problem:

The group, Just Democracy, is spending $1.2 million for TV ads and another $200,000 on digital ads in Arizona from June 21 to June 30, said a spokesman for the group, adding the effort will feature two ads on cable news programs, local news and local sports in the state.

In one ad, a narrator says: “Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema is failing us,” with footage of her flashing a thumbs-down in March on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and standing next to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on a recent tour when she defended the 60-vote rule.

“As the GOP tries to silence our voices, she’s just standing by, supporting a Jim Crow relic instead,” the narrator says, invoking a term some on the left use to describe the filibuster. “You’re refusing to stand with us, Sen. Sinema. Why should we stand with you?”

The second ad features activists who say their “right to vote is under attack” and demand that she back up her support for the election overhaul legislation and not allow it to be blocked by the filibuster, which is again referred to as a “Jim Crow relic.”

The hyperbole over “Jim Crow relic” aside, this is a losing argument. Sinema represents Arizona, not Massachusetts, where the progressive agenda is not at all popular — and neither are progressives. Sinema won thanks to a confluence of events that resulted in a revolt against Donald Trump, not the least of which was Trump’s nonsensical feud with the popular John McCain and his family. Sinema knows her constituents well enough to cross them with a filibuster-destroying vote, as does West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

The effect of this $1.4 million campaign is to strengthen Sinema’s standing as a flinty independent in a state that rewards mavericks. That’s, um, money well spent by progressives.

As if to underscore that point, Kapur and Julie Tsirkin also report this morning that Sinema and Manchin aren’t alone in their fight to preserve the filibuster — not even among Democrats. It’s “the worst-kept secret in Washington,” they write:

And it isn’t just Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who oppose rewriting the rules of the Senate. The two moderates have been the most vocal, but it’s the worst-kept secret in Washington that they are not alone.

Several other Democrats have indicated in interviews that they are reluctant to kill the filibuster or that they prefer to make “reforms” — Washington-speak for maintaining a supermajority to pass bills, even if changed a bit from the current filibuster rules.

It’s a harsh reality for progressives — both inside the Senate and outside — who had hoped their party might be provoked into nuking the filibuster and approving legislation with a simple majority.

Perhaps a targeted campaign against Sinema and Manchin would still make theoretical sense even in this case. If they can bully the more courageous members of the Senate Democratic caucus, they could more easily cow the rest of them into submission. As I said before, though, all these attacks do is make voters more comfortable with Sinema and Manchin, as well as those who poke their heads above ground momentarily while those two take the flack. It’s no coincidence that another of the presumed filibuster protectors is Sinema’s Arizona colleague and endangered 2022 Democrat Mark Kelly:

Among them is Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who is noncommittal on changing the rules.

“What I’m open to is considering and looking at any proposed changes in the rules. And I will ultimately make a decision based on: Do I feel — is this in the best interest of the state of Arizona and the country?” he said. “And I’m not looking for something that is in the best interest of just Democrats.”

Progressives are making the same mistake the Tea Party made in 2012 and 2014 — letting the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. They’re about to conduct a purity campaign that will leave Democrats with 45 or so seats in the Senate, again, which will make the filibuster argument moot.