The Murkowski Experiment
Today, as Republican primary winner Joe Miller and primary loser Lisa Murkowski assemble legal teams to determine the validity of thousands of write-in votes, the “news” blathers on and on about the historic significance of a “write in” candidate winning an election, an occurrence which hadn’t happened since Strom Thurmon won a Senatorial seat as a write in in 1954. But while much of the media pats her on the back and rehashes details of the animosity between Murkowski and a plethora of GOP stars, including Palin and DeMint, they miss the real significance of the Murkowski win.
Murkowski isn’t a fringe candidate who struggled against the power of the mainstream parties for attention and finance. She isn’t an unknown who won by convincing the public to support her new, ambitious plans and ideas. She isn’t the representative of a group of independent voters dedicated to promoting a particular issue like McMillan’s “The Rent Is Too Damn High” party. No, Murkowski is no “write in” candidate and her win isn’t historic. It may however prove to be a turning point in American politics and in the future of representative government.
On the surface, Lisa Murkowski is just another career politician from a family of career politicians, who believes that she is entitled to the seat, voters be damned. A textbook definition of nepotism and political corruption, the Murkowski family has held court in Alaska for a quarter of a century. After a failed political bid in 1970, Frank Murkowski worked in the banking industry until 1980, when he landed a seat in the Alaska Senate. In 1998, eighteen years into his twenty-two year long Senatorial career, Frank helped his daughter Lisa win a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives.
Four years later, when Frank became Governor of Alaska, he made history by taking the office with the highest vote percentage in state history. His popularity was extremely short-lived. Immediately upon taking up the mantel of the Governorship, Murkowski appointed daughter Lisa to fill his vacated Senate seat. A seat that the party had tapped Sarah Palin to fill. Alaskan’s cried foul. The overt nepotism set him at odds with his opponents and left a bad taste in the mouths of supporters. Alaskans gritted their teeth and marked their calendars, planning on ousting “Daddy’s girl” in 2004 during the next election cycle.
In 2004, Alaskans found themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place, when Tony Knowles announced that he would be running against Lisa Murkowski for the Senate seat. Hoping for a strong Republican contender to give the seat back to the voters, instead they got “Where’s Tony.” While a likeable character, the two term, ex-Governor and Democrat was seen as weak and indecisive by Republicans and Democrats alike. Begrudgingly (and by a narrow margin) Alaskans chose to keep Lisa, the undeserving rather than give the seat up to Tony, the incompetent.
Her newly elected six year term marked a turning point in the family political empire. The father daughter Murkowski team seemingly embraced controversy. Frank was beset by financial scandals, attempts to by-pass legislative approval, and then there was that jet. Despite legislative objection and uproar from citizens, Frank used state funds to purchase a $2.7 million jet that he then used for exotic trips; including a trip of the Far East AFTER he lost the primaries. Lisa had her own financial scandals, “special” real estate deals, and shadowy entanglements, leading watchdog organizations to rank her in the top ten most corrupt in Congress.
In 2006, Frank was unable to stave off challenges to the Governorship from within his own party, losing to Sarah Palin. Campaigning largely on a “clean up Murkowski’s mess” platform, Palin vowed to sell the jet and rid Alaska of corruption. After only a single term, Frank Murkowski left the Governorship of Alaska with a 19% approval rating, one of the lowest in US history.
Many Alaskans saw the 2010 midterm elections as a way of finally getting rid of the Murkowski political stranglehold. Lisa Murkowski’s ongoing ethics problems, the lingering distaste in Alaskans’ mouth’s over nepotism, as well as her bizarre, immature feuds with Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, and a host of other Republican politicians, emboldened citizens to rise up against her as a candidate. A virtually unknown, local business man, Joe Miller, was embraced by the Tea Party movement, conservatives, and even Murkowski’s own Republican Senate colleagues. Alaskan’s spoke with their vote and Murkowski was rejected in the primaries.
Prior to her primary loss, a confident Murkowski stated that she “respects the electorate and would support whoever wins.” Clearly this respect and support only extended so far. As soon as Murkowski lost the primaries, she hung out the “I’m for sale” shingle. Liberals, almost hysterical from Tea Party and conservative candidate wins across the country, saw Murkowski as an easy turn coat. Dangling the carrot of liberal money to back a write-in campaign and the promise of tens of thousands of Democrat voters willing to support her, Murkowski announced that she would be the candidate for “all” Alaskans, whether they wanted her or not. And where will Murkowski’s loyalties lay? Certainly not with the Republican and Conservative voters who fired her.
Joe Miler summed up the feeling of conservatives across the country, on Greta Van Sustern’s show, “She is just another politician that has gone back on her word,” Miller said. “She is obviously not a person of character; otherwise she would not be doing what she is doing, which is disrespecting the will of the voters.” He described it as “reflective of the liberal approach, if you have power, you don’t relinquish it at any cost.”
But Lisa isn’t simply a selfish politician, desperate to hold onto the cash cow and power. The Murkowski write-in campaign was an experiment. A “how-to” for future campaigns. Ultra-liberal financiers were able to tap their “grass roots” organizations who then mobilized Democrats to cross party lines, vote the write-in candidate, and derail the conservative. It worked. The script has been written and representative government is in peril. Candidates, unable to win in the primaries but willing to run as a “write-in” candidate to either stay in power or gain power will be actively courted by deep pockets. And what works for ultra liberals, could be used by other groups, foreign nations, enemy organizations….
While Lisa Murkowski has proved to be a duplicitous, self important, entitle-ist, the real story is that this write-in debacle isn’t a singular event. It’s just the beginning.