Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a senator vital to the fate of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" agenda, departs the Senate before meeting with Biden at the White House, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

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How far is too far, in the world of political activism?

We found out the answer to that question this week, as liberal activists from the organization Living United for Change in Arizona decided to mercilessly harass Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema for her refusal to support the entirety of Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion “social infrastructure” bill.

Sinema, who is a lecturer at Arizona State University, was accosted by the activists on her way out of her classroom. “We need a ‘build back better’ plan right now,” they shrieked as they followed her into a nearby restroom. Undeterred, a woman followed her into the bathroom while a compatriot held open the door and filmed the inside of the restroom. As Sinema entered a stall, an activist named Blanca stood directly outside her door, angrily berating her. “We knocked on doors for you to get you elected,” she said, “and just how we got you elected, we can get you out of office if you don’t support what you promised us.”

That, of course, is a threat meant to scare her into doing what they want her to do. Vote for what we tell you to, or else.

Sinema, to her credit, was unintimidated, and calmly washed her hands, walked back to the classroom and moved on while the activists continued to shout political propaganda at her. “Build back better,” they chanted, rather lamely parroting the simplistic partisan newspeak name given to Biden’s bill.

This is a horrendous violation of any notion of civil behavior in a political debate. Following a United States senator into a bathroom and harassing her because she simply disagrees with a piece of legislation you support is revolting. No one — yes, including people who disagree with me — deserves to be subjected to that kind of attempted intimidation.

And yet right now, President Joe Biden and his far-left allies in Congress are doing what they can to rip Sinema to shreds, politically, over her refusal to give in to them. When Sinema — and her colleague Joe Manchin — rebuff their advances, we see stories in the press about her supposed stubborn  intransigence. The offensive is working, too, because not only have hard-left activists been goaded into badgering Sinema in the lavatory, but her approval rating among Democrats has declined significantly.

To the left, she deserves the vitriol. Listen to the left-wing echo chamber, and you will find some truly repellent justifications for Sinema’s treatment. Take the far-left online magazine Jezebel, an unholy spawn of Gawker that has a long history of insane commentary. In a column penned by author Ashley Reese, activists are encouraged to “absolutely confront [Sinema] outside of her bathroom stall” because Sinema “is holding all of us back” and people are apparently “sick of it.”

Well, I am sick of a lot of things my representatives do. I’m tired of politicians — Republican and Democrat alike — lying to my face and telling me to my face that they care about the deficit and plan to do something about it, only to consistently make the problem worse.

That doesn’t give me the right to follow Bernie Sanders into the men’s room and basically threaten him.

By the way, can you imagine what the press reaction to this incident would be if the activists were Republicans, and they followed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into the bathroom? A full-on meltdown likely would have taken place, complete with “war on women” narratives and the word “assault” repeated often.

But when it is hard-left activists doing the deed, publications like the Washington Post say the behavior is simply “representative of the dissatisfaction that many Arizona Democrats […] have voiced over Sinema’s resistance to the reconciliation bill.” No big deal.

I agree with Krysten Sinema about virtually nothing, it should be noted. She may be currently irritating liberal activists about this bill, but that doesn’t make her conservative or even moderate. She still supports the $1.2 trillion bipartisan physical infrastructure bill, and while she doesn’t want to spend $3.5 trillion in the secondary bill, she is still willing to support spending trillions more in a second bill. She just doesn’t support the full (and ridiculous) wish list of items.

Yet despite my strong opposition to both of those positions which she holds, I can’t help but admit that I have quickly grown to admire her strong and unwavering stance in the face of overwhelming, and frankly — as is the case of this bathroom harassment — disgusting opposition.

But admiration aside, this kind of behavior is unacceptable and should be universally condemned by everyone. If only it was.


Matthew Gagnon, Opinion columnist

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist...