Dear Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: I raised money for you. Please, change the filibuster

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin on an elevator.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III, both Democrats who oppose altering the filibuster, take an elevator to the Senate chamber in September.
(Los Angeles Times)

Dear Sen. Sinema:

As you may recall, I hosted a fundraising event for you in 2012 at my house in the Hollywood Hills when you were running for your first term in the House of Representatives. I was impressed by your firebrand personality, your family’s history of struggle, your courage to run as an openly bisexual candidate in Arizona, and your commitment to the underprivileged and those outside the corridors of power.

Now that you’re a U.S. senator, I know you have a wider, very different constituency. I respect the strategy behind your moving to the political center, of creating leverage for yourself by holding your cards close to your chest.

You have said you want to preserve the Senate filibuster so that rule changes don’t eliminate the minority party’s ability to influence legislation. You want to preserve the possibility of bipartisanship in legislating. I get that as a general principle.

However, when it comes to protecting the right to vote and the sanctity of our election process, there is so much at stake that I’m afraid your protection of the filibuster is akin to winning the battle but losing the war. If Republicans are allowed to repress voter registration and participation, subvert the vote counting and certification process, and basically steal future elections regardless of the will of the voters, then American democracy will have failed. This failure will trigger catastrophic consequences for our economy, our standing in the world, our ability to attract investment and the best minds, the world balance of power, and Americans who are not wealthy, powerful or in the cultural and social mainstream — the people you so wanted to serve when you attended the fundraiser in my home nearly 10 years ago.


The values that you proclaimed to stand for when running for the House in 2012, and the bipartisanship for which you advocate now, will not be protected by a Republican president or Republican Congress in their current far-right orientation. They couldn’t care less about bipartisanship. Imagine the consequences for reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, people of color and the already uphill battle against climate change.

If Republicans gain control of Congress, they will not hesitate to change the filibuster, any more than they have hesitated in other areas to do whatever they feel is expedient to increase their power.

You and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) can be credited with saving American democracy, or be remembered as the senators who saved the filibuster in the name of theoretical bipartisanship but allowed Republicans to steal elections. Please, save our democracy and your place in history by changing your position on the filibuster as it relates to voting rights and elections.

Irwin M. Rappaport, Los Angeles