Kyrsten Sinema was looking for attention last week when she was sworn as the first female Senator elected in the state of Arizona — and she got it. Bold, blonde, and beautiful, she wore a gray fur stole atop her bare shoulders for the main event. Why not go super extra for one of the most exciting days of your life? I’m here for it.
Unfortunately, her fun fashion choice and notoriety for becoming the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate were not the only things the press flocked to.
Media outlets nationwide breathlessly awaited her interaction with Vice President Mike Pence, attempting to will some awkwardness into existence.
A number of headlines proclaimed the hilarity of “infamous homophobe” Pence having to swear in an atheist, bisexual woman on a a law book containing both the U.S. and Arizona constitutions instead of a Bible. A spokesperson for Sinema said she chose it because of her love for the Constitution.
Considering she’s not religiously affiliated, that’s a respectable choice, and there’s no reason or indication Pence would have a problem with it. After all, the Constitution declares no religious tests, and Pence is nothing if not strictly committed to the Constitution.
However, a tweet featuring a video of the swearing-in says Pence “seems uncomfortable” and now has over 147,000 likes. After watching it several times, the words that come to mind for me are more like "charming," "heartwarming," and "civil."
Homophobe Mike Pence had to swear in Kyrsten Sinema, the first out bisexual Senator in history, on a law book and not a bible. He seems uncomfortable and she’s having fun with it. This is everything. pic.twitter.com/1VxBsK1l0u
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) January 4, 2019
Both of them seem to be in good spirits and appear happy to participate together in the historic ritual. Sinema made a joke, saying “I’m new at this,” and Pence graciously instructed her where to stand.
It’s clear that the very conservative Pence and ultra-liberal Sinema likely won’t align on many policies. But on this day, they had the opportunity to put those differences aside and share a unique moment in history together.
If Sinema agreed with the sideline journalists and wannabe pundits that Pence is a racist, bigoted, homophobe who wants women barefoot in the kitchen and gays outcast from society, it's hard to believe she’d be so civil.
And if Pence believed Sinema is a blaspheming, slutty sinner who has no right clicking her heels on the Senate floor, he sure didn’t show that — not even a little bit.
I worked for Pence for two years when he was chairman of the GOP Conference. He’s not bitter or hateful. His old tagline was, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not in a bad mood about it.” He urged his fellow conservatives to be “cheerful partisans and happy warriors.”
I don’t know nearly as much about Sinema, but she seemed cheerful last week — and there were no reports of negative language or behavior from her ( unlike another newly elected female Democratic member of Congress).
“I think there's this pressure to get rid of the fun that makes us human,” Sinema said when she was first elected to Congress in 2013. “It hasn't worked on me.” Clearly.
Pence and Sinema seem to share an optimism about life that’s not all that common to most people. If we’re going to overanalyze their brief encounter, can this little detail be part of it?
It was a jovial day on Capitol Hill, one full of smiles and children and plenty of firsts, especially for women. It’s in these peaceful moments of in-person bipartisanship that we can mute the tweets and remember we’re all (most of us anyway) just trying to do right by America, despite varying perspectives and approaches.
It was unfortunate that so many used this rare moment of civility as a prop to slam the vice president.