Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Things We Learned From Alaska's Senate Race

There was an interesting opinion piece by John P. Avlon on CNN that I thought was interesting - in discussing the Alaskan senate race that saw incumbent Lisa Murkowski win a write-in bid (the election results are being contested by sore loser Joe Miller), Avlon states three things the race highlighted: closed primaries are problematic, Sarah Palin isn't really a political kingmaker, andthe GOP needs to move to the center.

On closed primaries, Avlon wrote the following:
Murkowski's win is the latest evidence that closed partisan primaries are distorting our democracy -- and creating a particular problem for the Republican Party. Primary elections in which only those enrolled in a party can vote, empower candidates who appeal to hardcore party activists and ideologues, but not the electorate at large.

Palin said Murkowski "reneged on her primary vow to not contest the will of the people" -- but she makes a fundamental mistake. The primary does not represent the will of the people, it represents the will of the party, and the two are not the same.
Avlon is absolutely correct and the political scholar Sarah Palin was absolutely wrong.  If you want another example of the failures of a closed primary, look at Florida's senate election, which saw moderate Governor Charlie Crist run as an independent - while Crist may have lost in the general election, more people voted for Crist and Kendrick Meek then they did for conservative candidate Marco Rubio, who was backed by the tea parties.

Closed primaries gave us other losing candidates like Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Carl Paladino.

On Sarah Palin's power:
The Palins are media celebrities at this point, but their political power is overstated outside her passionate conservative populist base. The reality is that Palin is deeply polarizing in the Republican Party and even in her home state.

Murkowski's win was a direct repudiation of Palin's chosen nominee, Joe Miller. And while the Murkowski and Palin families have a political rivalry that resembles the Hatfields and the McCoys, it's still significant that the newly elected Murkowski is speaking out against a possible Palin 2012 run in terms you rarely hear in Washington.

"She would not be my choice," she told CBS News. "I just do not think she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies. You know, she was my governor for two years, about two years there, and I don't think that she enjoyed governing. I don't think she liked to get down into the policy."
While many in the media have focused on the victorious Palin candidates like Nikke Haley, calling Palin a political genius, the fact of the matter is that only half of Palin's picks won.

Palin is about as effective as flipping a coin.

Also, consider this non-scientific poll from The Daily News that shows how polarizing Palin really is:

On the GOP's need for it's centrists:
Murkowski was attacked as representing the "center-right" by Sarah Palin in the primary, and even called an "out of touch liberal" -- from the far-right's perspective, anyone who doesn't agree with them 100 percent of the time on social and fiscal issues is often dismissed as a liberal.

Murkowski now stands as one of the leaders of Republican centrists in the Senate alongside Massachusetts' Scott Brown, Illinois' Mark Kirk and Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. It is a distinguished but dwindling tradition, but Murkowski's win is a reminder that it is important to the GOP's long-term success. And for those who foresee nothing but gridlock from the closely-divided Senate, these GOP centrists, working together with Democratic centrist senators, could hold the balance of power and allow bipartisan legislation to move forward.

Not incidentally, all these GOP centrists are pro-choice (and most are more fiscally conservative than the bring-home-the-bacon Murkowski). In contrast, it's worth considering that of the five statewide candidates the Republican Party put forward who opposed abortion even in the cases of rape and incest, four went down to defeat in an otherwise overwhelmingly Republican year: Joe Miller, Nevada's Sharron Angle, Colorado's Ken Buck, and New York's Carl Paladino. The bottom line is that the GOP needs both wings to fly in the future, not just the right wing.
After the 2008 elections, I heard many right-wing pundits call for the GOP to become more conservative because they believed the GOP became to liberal and that is why they had lost.  They viewed the tea parties to be their answer.  Considering the Alaskan senate race, where in the face of the right-wing tea party, in a right-wing state, a candidate ran a write-in campaign with a moderate message and won - that is extremely historic.  For such obvious reasons, the right-wing media has been very quiet on the Alaskan election - where are all the enws reports from Fox covering their darling Joe Miller's defeat?


  1. This article hit the nail right on the head and is clearly indicative of the problems facing the Republican party. I am a proud father of 5 children, all with my first and only wife. I have been self-employed for the past 28 years and have a very successful business. I owe a great deal of my success in life to the fine education I received from the public education system in my home state. As anyone who has followed politics at all knows Palin owes her success to the wingnut branch of the Republican party. If you want to taste of their views, simply visit a Fox or Breitbart website. Any person who does not toe the exact party line is a: Maoist, communist, socialist, and baby killer. These views are now the dominant view of how the Republican party views any opposing view. In my opinion, Obama is partially to blame because he let Faux News and Rush Limbaugh define his presidency and tried to be civil when they were hitting him constantly below the belt. Now the chickens have come home to roost. As a result of the past elections, the Republican party is going to have to show it has the ability to govern. There are major economic issues facing this nation and perhaps the most important is raising the debt ceiling. Well, John Boehner, good luck, you are going to need it. If you want to see another landslide in two years, don't raise the limit. You will learn a very hard lesson that you do not mess around with the senior citizens of this country.

  2. The GOP is fully aware that they must cater to the older voting bloc, which is why they created their Senior's Bill of Rights, or whatever it was called. They made it a focal point of their party last year but quickly buried it and moved on to the next scare tactic. The problem is while most Americans may have forgotten, senior citizens are the most reliable voters, and when it comes to their benefits, they don't forget...


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