Kelly Tshibaka wants Alaskans to believe that Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a lifelong Republican, has “been complicit with the left’s agenda” for 20 years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t see it that way. Even though Tshibaka was endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party, he’s backing Murkowski.
“It’s important for Lisa to be reelected,” he said last April. As “one of the few” Senate moderates, she’s “a key player in advancing bipartisan legislation.”
This week, the state Republican Party censured McConnell. They’re upset about “millions of dollars from the Senate Leadership Fund” being spent on “divisive and misleading” campaign ads attacking Tshibaka. But apparently, it’s fine for their endorsed candidate to send out four-page campaign letters filled with divisive language and false statements.
McConnell, and America for that matter, needs lawmakers like Murkowski. She’s part of a shrinking minority who believes that the willingness to negotiate and compromise with the opposition party is an essential tool for governing a free, pluralistic society.
Months before she announced her candidacy, Tshibaka seemed to think so too. She called on all Americans to “restore a sense of national unity in which diversity of thought and differences of opinion result in healthy dialogues and debates, not in division and discord.”
That statement was published just days after news networks across the country projected that Joe Biden had won the presidential election. Her objective was to reach a “just resolution” of the “election controversy” that began when then-President Donald Trump declared it was fraudulent.
Conservatives, Tshibaka suggested, would be “willing to accept the outcome of elections, if they believe the process was fair and election laws were followed.” She said the same about those who voted for Biden, but the only election integrity challenges she mentioned sprouted from the right.
She argued “we must address the credible claims” about poll watchers being “barred from observing ballot counting in several states; that a glitch in a Michigan county voting software program resulted in 6,000 Trump votes being tallied as Biden votes.” She also referenced sworn affidavits from individuals who claim to have witnessed election fraud in Michigan. Both sides, she wrote, “should join in calling for a prudent pause in declaring a winner until these myriad matters are adjudicated and resolved.”
Every one of those claims and more were adjudicated. None were found to be credible. Trump lost.
Tshibaka knows that. But she’s refused to keep her side of the bargain.
McConnell knows it too. But he’s not afraid to say it out loud. He forcefully condemned Trump for lying to his supporters after the January 6 insurrection. His decision to spare Trump the indignity of being the first president ever convicted of impeachable offenses was a political calculation aimed at securing Republican majorities in the 2022 midterm elections.
That’s still his focus. And he has no respect for candidates who have tied their political fate to Trump’s caustically dishonest grievances.
Murkowski isn’t just a powerful negotiator for McConnell. Her fierce independence is grounded in what she sincerely believes is best for Alaska and America. That’s evident by her endorsement of Rep. Mary Peltola, the Alaskan Native Democrat who won the special election in August and is seeking to win a full term in Congress.
Knowing that decision would upset a lot of conservatives, Murkowski could have chosen not to publicize it. But perhaps she’s seeking an Alaskan ally in the House who believes in working across the aisle as much as she does.
While serving in the state legislature, Peltola understood “being confrontational and combative doesn’t work really well” for members from small communities. By embracing a philosophy of “governing with consensus,” she helped other minority-caucus lawmakers from rural communities develop healthy relationships with Republicans.
Alaska isn’t a small state geographically. But having only one member in the House translates to almost no political clout. Our representation will be weakened further by sending either Sarah Palin or Nick Begich to Congress. Both have presented themselves as hard core, no-compromise Republicans.
Tshibaka isn’t interested in building relationships with Democrats either. Or even most Republicans. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have stretched reality beyond recognition by accusing McConnell of enabling Biden’s “socialist-supporting, America-obliterating radical agenda.”
That statement alone tells me that the writer who called for healthy political dialogue and debate wasn’t the real Tshibaka.