Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski once again made national headlines on Thursday as one of the few elected Republicans in D.C. willing to (finally) stand up and say something’s not right with President Donald Trump. She agreed with the statements made by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, which accused the president of intentionally sowing division and discord in the country.
In Murkowski’s words, it’s a sentiment shared by many other Republicans who are unwilling to express it publicly lest they run afoul of the president and his base.
“When I saw General Mattis’ comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” she said.
Earlier in the week, when asked about the use of force to clear peaceful protestors for the president’s photo-op she said “I did not think that what we saw last night was the America I know,” and on Thursday admitted that she was “struggling” with whether she’d support the president’s re-election.
The backlash from the president has been as swift and apoplectic as it is was unsurprising.
“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski. She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else…” the president tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “Unrelated, I gave Alaska ANWR, major highways, and more. Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”
From Trump, it’s a clear (and characteristically factually inaccurate) message to other Republican politicians. That they must continue to fall in line, overlooking his egregious and deeply racist behavior, or face angry tweets with the promise of a threat he’s not likely to keep.
And let’s be clear, this rabid attack on Murkowski is over what is one of the most milquetoast condemnations that came with the suggestion that while she is “struggling” to support his reelection, she is still trying to find a way to get to filling in that circle in November. We shouldn’t forget that she’s still helped him reshape the courts, rollback environmental and consumer protections, and cut taxes for the wealthy.
But in a time where the party cannot muster any courage to stand up against attacks on people exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, an ounce of courage is still better than nothing.
What Murkowski has done with her statements is not just a rebuke of Trump but a rebuke of a party that has bowed down to his worst instincts. It’s a party that is driven by maintaining the inequitable status quo, backed by self-interested politicians and a propaganda system so driven by the profits of fear mongering that it finds a way to spin everything from people protesting for their right to not to be killed by cops to drive-through burritos into an apocalyptic us-versus-them scenario.
It’s a party of feigned fragility and grievance that meets discomfort and challenge with a brutal refusal to own up to reality or even acknowledge the inequities in the system. To them, either America is PERFECT or you’re against them.
That’s certainly the track chosen by Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan who this week denounced police brutality without so much as a mention of the person fanning the flames.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Murkowski called for a quality that has been rare in modern politics and unheard of in the Trump White House: humility.
“We heal when we acknowledge our weaknesses, when we acknowledge our failures and we vow to address the things that matter, like equality and justice,” she said. “What we say and how we say it truly matters.”
She acknowledged that as a white woman she can never truly understand the plight of people of color, but said she would do her best to listen and learn.
Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin reflected on Murkowski’s words and the week that brought us to this point in a column entitled “How history is made: Not everyone hops off the sinking ship at once”. The stand taken by Murkowski, who’s been imperfect and frequently disappointing in the Trump era, is not the end, Rubin writes, but the start.
“That is how things change — incrementally, unevenly. Indeed, it is remarkable that all of what I described has happened since Monday,” she writes. “There is a market for cynical insistence that nothing matters and that no one is persuadable. Some on the left are eager to scoff at recent Republican allies; many Republicans are eager to believe the status quo holds. But cynicism in this case requires denial and moral blindness. The truth is that a significant, rapid shift in public sentiment that goes beyond partisan politics is underway. This is how history is made.”