It was the bathroom visit heard round the world. Literally.
Just when you thought your capacity to be shocked by the crassness of American politics had vanished, viral video emerges showing young activists hectoring Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az) over her reluctance to support President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan at a level they find acceptable.
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The activists, who are associated with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), are shown confronting Sen. Sinema at Arizona State University, where she lectures in the School of Social Work. While it later emerged that the young protesters did not have permission to be on campus, so far so good – this is the kind of access to lawmakers that distinguishes democracy from authoritarianism.
But there are limits, surely.
Sen. Sinema tries to excuse herself from the group that’s berating her, and enters the ladies room. They follow her in, iPhones rolling (with sound – eeewww!). The activists literally point the camera at the door where she’s doing her business as they threaten to oppose her re-election and demand immigration reform. The lead scold explains that she herself is in the country illegally and thus was unable to visit Mexico when her grandfather recently died.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the president’s budget or of Sen. Sinema, it was hard not to be shocked by video of a US senator being prevented from using the bathroom in peace.
Surprisingly, LUCHA defended its actions. In the face of nearly universal condemnation over the egestive videotaping, LUCHA said, “We wouldn’t have to resort to confronting Sen. Sinema around Phx if she took meetings with the communities that elected her.”
One of the activists was even more direct. Sophia Marjanovic said, “None of you have a right to tone police my desperate demands for labor protections” and attributed the ills of the border to “White Supremacy.” For good measure, she added the hashtag #FuckAroundAndFindOut.
LUCHA has now come under fire for these guerrilla tactics. It emerged that their largest backer is permanent progressive bogeyman George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation gave the group $1.5 million in 2019. The Nonprofit Explorer, a service of ProPublica that provides research on Tax-Exempt Organizations, shows that LUCHA had $1,693,113 in total revenue in 2019 and over $2.5 million in 2018.
But another funder is Bold PAC. Bold PAC is comprised of Latino elected officials, including several senators –Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and others. Why a group funded by Democratic senators is hounding a Democratic senator is anyone’s guess. According to the FEC, Bold PAC gave LUCHA $12,500 just two months ago.
But more surprisingly, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is among Bold PAC’s brightest stars. She is featured on the top row of the website photographs displaying the group’s considerable Washington muscle. Now locked in a tight race against likely Republican nominee Adam Laxalt — her polling shows her up 4; his shows him up 2– Cortez Masto is unsurprisingly trying to tack to the center. She recently shocked and disappointed the progressive wing of the party by opposing taxes on the mining industry to fund Build Back Better.
The mainstream media’s near silence on the funders of LUCHA makes it easier for Cortez Masto not to answer for its over-the-top tactics.
The Nevada Globe emailed Cortez Masto to ask if she would encourage Bold PAC to direct its funding elsewhere and if LUCHA owes Sen. Sinema an apology for its antics. The Globe also called Cortez Masto and was told by Connor in her DC office, “I’ll see if that’s something the press team is interested in and then they’ll get back to you.” This story will be updated if she or her team does in fact reply to the Globe’s call or email.
The tack-to-the-center is hardly a new dance. Those without primaries and expected competitive general elections often pivot to the center as November nears. Whether that reflects upon the authenticity of a candidate is not for the Globe to say, and that maneuver certainly happens on all sides of the spectrum. What is different here is Cortez Masto’s seeming ability simply to assert that she is a moderate without being pressed by the media on questions such as whether a moderate ought to be supporting a group that chases her fellow female senator and next-door neighbor elected official into the toilet.
President Biden was roundly criticized on Monday for calling the tactics in the video “part of the process” and concluding that “it happens to everybody.” Spokeswoman Jen Psaki then had to clean up the mess and characterized it as “inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Cortez Masto has not faced the same scrutiny over her response, or to this point lack of one.
This is surely a self-serving suspicion, but the media’s role in a democracy cannot be overstated. With fewer and fewer close races, if the media does not ask tough questions—or the voters reward elected officials who ignore tough questions—we can expect more politicians who hide from the public. And activists will cross more red lines in search of attention for their issues.
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