Alaskans are used to Sen. Lisa Murkowski waffling, but this week, she waffled to the correct position: She said she would wait to see who the president nominates for the Supreme Court. She’ll hold off judgment.
Trump is expected to make that nomination on Saturday afternoon.
Murkowski, who often mixes it up with President Donald Trump, had stated earlier this summer that the next president should be the one to appoint a new Supreme Court justice in the event that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Murkowski reiterated that position last week after the 87-year-old finally succumbed to her courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
Murkowski said she would not vote on a Trump nomination. The new president should pick the replacement for Ginsburg.
Alaska Republicans were livid. As far at least 52 percent of them are concerned, Trump is going to be the next president.
Then, after it became evident the president would not back down from his constitutional duties, Murkowski flipped — she now says she’ll wait to see who Trump nominates.
It was a rare retreat for Murkowski, who many Alaska conservatives think has her finger in the wind too often, to see which way she will blow. She has often seemed far too comforting to the Democrats she serves with than her fellow Republicans.
Last time a nominee was offered by Trump, she went with the darlings of the Left. More than 100 women from Alaska went to Washington, D.C., and she met with many of them in her office while they pleaded and beseeched her to oppose Brett Kavanaugh. A letter from 350 women attorneys in Alaska arrived at her office in opposition to Kavanaugh.
“Believe all women,” was the mantra. And she meekly went along. The pressure was too great. But in the end, she didn’t vote at all. She simply was marked as a convenient “present.”
Political maturity is hard to measure and happens over a matter of years for all of us. For Murkowski, perhaps we are seeing a measure of political maturity that germinated from her experience with the Kavanaugh confirmation process, when she was photographed with Sen. Dianne Feinstein lording over her, looking like a junior high school thug trying to steal Murkowski’s math homework.
This Murkowski seems more politically savvy than the one who has held the president in political disdain for the past four years.
Today, she has come to realize that the confirmation vote will go on with or without her, and for her to be marked “present” again would be political suicide. This time, she has to pick a team.
People outside of Alaska often don’t understand why a bright red state would reelect Murkowski, but they forget some important points.
The first is that Alaska was a Democrat stronghold before the pipeline started revving up the economy in the 1970s. With jobs came workers who pay taxes and pay attention to politics. But many of those jobs are leaving the state under the current global economic shift, and they’ve been replaced by Obamacare expansion jobs in healthcare. Those jobs, funded by government, brought in thousands of Democrat voters to the state.
There are, in fact, a lot of liberals who call Alaska home, and many of them either have government jobs or get government checks for various reasons. The state is more blue than people realize. Without the Mat-Su Valley, a huge Republican stronghold, Alaska would be a Democrat-leaning state.
Second, Republicans in Alaska voted in 2010 for Joe Miller over Murkowski in the Republican primary, but she appealed to the non-aligned voters when she pulled of the most successful write-in campaign in U.S. history in the General Election, a feat that she accomplished in mere weeks.
She knows her base, and it only includes some of the Republicans. This has forced her to the Left to scoop up moderates and practical Democrats who want to avoid what they’d see as a worse choice.
Third, at least some Republicans in Alaska remember that Murkowski was one of the few who stood by the late Sen. Ted Stevens while he was being railroaded by the corrupt Department of Justice. Even Gov. Sarah Palin abandoned Stevens politically, as did many others in the public arena. Stevens had few friends who defended him. But Murkowski did, at her own peril. It was an act of courage and loyalty.
Some Alaskans will forgive her for a lot of her sins because she showed political courage during that witch-hunt.
Murkowski won’t have to face Alaska voters for two more years, but she has to start building back some of her support among less-forgiving Republicans if she wants to return to Washington, D.C. in 2023.
There’s a lot more work and influence ahead for her if she does return to serve, as she has since 2002, because she is now 20th in terms of seniority, and she may climb even a few steps after November’s election.
If the Senate flips blue, Alaska will be glad it has a senator who can work with the other side of the aisle.
Although her approval rating in Alaska is generally low — in the low 40s — Murkowski still has support here, and if she draws upon her constitutional training, she may be able to win back some of her harshest critics.