Influencing Murkowski, The Last Word’s “how not to” guide


Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, photo courtesy of the US Senate via Wikimedia Commons

I have good memories of Lisa Murkowski. I didn’t know her in my time in Alaska, I only knew of her. She was a strong ally of the University in its annual effort to retain full funding of its budget requests, and was a moderating “adult” voice in the state legislature in discussion of just about any political cause. When she was later appointed by her father as U.S. Senator after his election to the governor’s mansion, it was no surprise to me that she would prove to be a rare counter-example against the argument that all nepotism is bad.

For the next few weeks, she will be one of the most important people in the country as the conservative activist judge Brett Kavanaugh goes under consideration for Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She is one of two senators who might conceivably turn against the nomination and vote him down.

According to her written statement, as read by TV commentator Lawrence O’Donnell, Murkowski openly listed her considerations for her decision in the following statement: “I intend to carefully consider the American Bar Association’s rating on this nominee, the information obtained through personal meetings, my own review of Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and record, and the view of Alaskans in determining whether or not to support him.”


Judge Brett Kavanaugh, photo courtesy of the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit via Wikimedia Commons

Right after that, O’Donnell asked, perhaps without a whole lot of research on the idea, if it were the best strategy by those who oppose the nominee (in the hope of preserving Roe vs. Wade and other causes jeopardized by the radically right-wing activist agenda that most observers believe he will follow) to go to Alaska and stir up the population there. My initial reaction probably echoes what most progressives in The Last Frontier would also say to this… “NOOOOO!!!!!”

If there is anything that will turn the tide against any conceivable issue in Alaska, it is the idea that Outsiders (and the capitalization is not a Trumpian typo) are trying to influence their decision. If you haven’t committed yourself to spending a complete year up there, living the life of an Alaskan through both the road construction season and winter, never been overwhelmed by mosquitoes or learned to appreciate real moose meat or salmon, or muktuk if you are so lucky to be offered it, your opinion about what is good for Alaska will at best be annoying.

Emmett Watson, a newspaper writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, used to be an advocate for the cause of “Lesser Seattle”, which was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to keep non-Washingtonians and their influence out of Washington State. However, his views, which included memorably importing the remnants of the Berlin Wall for installation on the California-facing southern border, would have seemed downright welcoming compared to what Alaskans would feel about Outsiders, or even “Cheechakos” (“newcomers”), coming in to stir up any kind of “sentiment”.

If Outsiders really wanted to promote their cause in the State of Alaska, their best bet is to work with the organizations that exist there. Just the same as right-wingers work through their allied churches in places like North Pole and Wasilla, progressives would need to work through organizations like the student groups at the state’s university campuses. Perhaps the organization best set up to help would be the Coalition of Student Leaders, a confederation of student governments operating across the state. Based at the Governance office at the Butrovich Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, the group would have the wherewithal to raise local support for any agenda that its constituent students might support, including the annual effort to retain full funding of the University’s budget requests. (The trick, of course, would be to show demonstrably that they have majority student support genuinely backing the opposition to Kavanaugh – probably not difficult to do.)

My impressions of Senator Murkowski (the younger) have remained quite positive throughout her career. Her political views may not always agree with my political views, but she does carefully consider her decisions as a lawmaker. My impressions probably will continue to be positive even if she votes in favor of Kavanaugh’s appointment. After all, I know what the conservative activist support that he enjoys is like, that it is probably knocking on her door even as I write these words, and I know how difficult it will be to defeat them in the figurative shouting match to come. But she will at least listen to Alaskan students, the future decision-makers of her state. She always has.

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