There was just one. During the debate over Brett Kavauagh’s Supreme Court nomination, opponents of the Republican jurist hoped to find two or three GOP senators who would vote “no,” but in the end, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska stood alone.
Her willingness to break ranks was ultimately inconsequential – the new justice was confirmed anyway – but some of Murkowski’s fellow Republicans are not prepared to let their sense of betrayal fade away.
In a brief telephone interview with The Washington Post, Trump said voters in Alaska “will never forgive” Murkowski for voting against confirming Kavanaugh, and he forecast her defeat in a Republican primary should she run for reelection in 2022.
“I think she will never recover from this,” Trump said. “I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.”
Donald Trump’s whining was bolstered by partisan grumblings from Murkowski’s home state. The Associated Press reported last night:
Alaska Republican party leaders plan to consider whether to reprimand U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for opposing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The party has asked Murkowski to provide any information she might want its state central committee to consider.
Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock says the committee could decide to issue a statement. Or he says it could withdraw support of Murkowski, encourage party officials to look for a replacement and ask that she not seek re-election as a Republican.
There are a few angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that Murkowski’s future is probably on firmer ground than her intra-party critics care to admit. In 2010, the GOP’s far-right base defeated her in a primary, forcing Murkowski to run for re-election as a write-in candidate. Despite having a tough-to-spell last name, the senator won by four points – and then won a landslide victory six years later.
Murkowski isn’t up for re-election until 2022, when last week’s developments will be pretty far in the rear-view mirror. If I had to guess which Republican is still in elected office in January 2023, Murkowski or Trump, I’d bet on Murkowski.
Second, the idea that the Alaskan “will never recover” is predicated on the idea that the GOP senator did something wildly unpopular. That’s backwards – most of the country wanted the Senate to reject Brett Kavanaugh. Trump and his allies are effectively arguing, “How dare you do what a majority of Americans hoped you would do!”
But even putting all of this aside, it’s amazing to see Murkowski face this kind of blowback from her own party over one inconsequential vote. When Democrats directed similar rhetoric at Joe Lieberman after he voted with Republicans on the war in Iraq, the party faced a significant amount of criticism from the Beltway media about their demands for “a Stalinist line of discipline.”
I suppose it’s possible the GOP will face related criticism now, but I’m skeptical.