By Quentin Choy
March 30, 2021
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is up for reelection in 2022, and a Republican primary challenger, Kelly Tshibaka has announced that she would challenge Senator Murkowski for her Senate seat. Tshibaka serves as the state commissioner of administration in Alaska, and she stated that she would step down from her current job to challenge Murkowski. So, what’s the big deal?
Tshibaka frames herself as a political outsider compared to Murkowski who is seen as too moderate of a Republican for Alaska. Tshibaka frames herself as a “true” Republican saying “I’m a conservative, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and America First.” During her campaign video, Tshibaka draws a clear “us-versus-them” narrative with true conservatives such as herself battling the Democrats, RINOS (Republicans-In-Name-Only) and Lisa Murkowski who has become one of them. Tshibaka brands herself as “one they can’t bully, one they can’t control, and one they can’t silence.”
Donald Trump vowed to challenge Lisa Murkowski with someone from Trumpworld, and Tshibaka is the one who has come forward. Her campaign in many ways is similar to that of former Senator Kelly Loeffler in Georgia who fully embraced the Trump brand in her politics.
“I will not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski. She represents her state badly and her country even worse. I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.”Donald Trump
“I will not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski. She represents her state badly and her country even worse. I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.”
Tshibaka has taken up that mantle from the former president, saying in her announcement video that “she’s been hurting our way of life. She’s become more like them than us…you know she supported Joe Biden for President and his radical agenda to stop oil and gas development.” Murkowski’s support to confirm Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was viewed as more ammunition against her in Tshibaka’s video.
Tshibaka finally touches on one of the main grievances that Trumpian Republicans have against Murkoswki, saying “Lisa Murkowski is so out of touch, that she even voted to remove Donald Trump from office, even after he was already gone.” Trump’s second impeachment trial following the January 6th Capitol insurrection was viewed as a move too far by some moderate Republicans and five Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) voted to convict Trump, angering much of the conservative base. Murkowski also proved to be an occasional ally as a moderate Republican, voting “present” during the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and voting to confirm Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Her vote to impeach Trump also showed her willingness to vote her conscience rather than simply voting out of blind loyalty. Murkowski has also been an advocate for indigenous rights on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee serving as Vice Chairman.
I think that this voting of conscience is being filtered out of the post-Trump Republican Party where Senators like Murkowski, Romney, and Collins are being pushed to the sidelines, and conformity to Trumpworld and its ideals are expected by all in the GOP. Murkowski’s voting record, while too right-wing for my own liking, allows her to be an occasional ally to the left in the way that Joe Manchin (D-WV) is an occasional ally to the right. Moderates in the Republican Party are the last frontier in keeping the Republican Party from becoming Trump’s party. Trump despises disloyalty and mavericks like John McCain and wants the Republican Party to fall before him.
If Lisa Murkowski is ousted from the Senate, Trump’s handle over the party will become closer to being complete. It will be a win for those who stormed the Capitol out of blind loyalty and a loss for Senators who stray from the party leadership. This cannot happen, and moderates in the Senate must prevent Trump’s incursion and continued pervasion into our politics.
Image Courtesy of NPR.