“Political parties will become extinct,” warned Alaska Republican Party chairman Glenn Clary during a June hearing in what was supposed to be a warning about the slate of election reforms contained in Ballot Measure 2.
Of course, even at the time it sounded much more like an endorsement of a measure aimed at empowering Alaska’s moderates and wrenching control of the state’s elections from political parties, specifically a Republican party that has placed party purity, power and Trump over everything.
It seems even better today.
Nothing has proved the decay of the Republican party truer than the seditious effort to oppose certifying the presidential election by more than 100 GOP U.S. representatives and a dozen GOP senators with the support of dozens of high-level Alaska Republicans, as was reported by the Anchorage Daily News on Monday night.
This is not some earnest attempt to push for a “a serious, thoughtful, nonpartisan investigation” as House District 24 GOP chairman Bruce Schulte told the ADN, ignoring the fact that dozens of court cases have failed to muster the barest of evidence for widespread wrongdoing in the 2020 elections.
It’s the same insincere and performative outrage that Republicans have used for years to divided the country—pushing every political issue into the extremes—while a robust effort to manipulate voting access, election districts and just about any other tool imaginable ensures they’ve stayed in power while the actual base for their actual platform has diminished.
What constituency is there, after all, for massive corporate tax cuts or for rolling back regulations on cancer-causing chemicals?
Rather than put in the hard work necessary to listen to voters and adjust their platform to win over a broader base with good policy, the Republican party has retreated to a coddling safe space rife with conspiracy theories, racist dog whistles and breathless fearmongering.
This temper tantrum has held the country back and it’s why the extinction of political parties was appealing to the majority of Alaska’s voters who pushed Ballot Measure 2 over the finish line in November. It will enact open primaries with the top four candidates advancing to the general election, where ranked-choice voting will ensure that the winner has the support of a majority of their district.
As we saw this year, Alaska’s semi-closed primaries are frequently the only race that matters in many legislative districts and—barring herculean write-in efforts—in most statewide challenges. The primaries have encouraged candidates to run further to the extremes, as they cater to those who have been carefully groomed by their outrage machine of preference.
In a practical sense, it’s left much of the Republican party incapable of finding broader reach, incapable of understanding how repugnant their own messaging is to others and incapable of accepting the reality that Dear Leader President Trump—or “House Speaker” Rep. Lance Pruitt, for that matter—just aren’t that popular.
The election conspiracy theories—whether they’re convoluted national storylines or baseless accusations mustered at Anchorage residents who sold their homes ahead of the election deadline–are dangerous. And not just in a “End of democracy as we know it” kind of dangerous, but dangerous to any semblance of progress for Alaska and the country.
How can we begin to tackle the tough issues of the state budget, recovering from the pandemic, and just about anything else while we afford room for people who don’t want to play by the rules and who won’t abide by the will of the voters?
As the GOP fumed at every one of Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s mild transgressions against the president and as it aimed its state-level efforts at ending the careers of pro-business Republicans—ultimately losing ground to Democrats and independents—I found myself wondering if they would have brought a primary challenge against the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens for his immortal words of “To hell with politics, just do what’s right for Alaska.”
We’ll have a decent enough idea in 2022 when Murkowski—who’s as close to “To hell with politics, just do what’s right for Alaska” as any Alaska Republican during the Trump presidency—is up for re-election, when Ballot Measure 2’s efforts to pull elections away from the extremes will first go into effect.
No longer will it be a handful of Republican primary voters deciding between Murkowski and her most likely challenger, Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, a person who has not only embraced Trumpian politics but has also suggested that the will of Alaska’s voters in the 2020 election (including passage of Ballot Measure 2) could be ignored.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Tshibaka mused about how Texas’ lawsuit could give Alaska the ammunition needed to “fix the problem” of people voting in a way she didn’t support: “Imagine what this could mean for Proposition 2 (where absentee ballots tipped votes in favor of the jungle primary) and for certain State Legislature races? Alaska can throw out all absentee ballots without a witness signature, for example.”
In 2022, thanks to Ballot Measure 2, all Alaskans—not just the ones preferred by the Republican Party—will have the opportunity to decide who represents them in Congress.