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Former President Donald Trump rallied the troops in Anchorage this weekend in support of Republican candidates Kelly Tshibaka and Sarah Palin in an event that was pretty much what you’d expect for a Trump rally in 2022. There were election conspiracy theories, conservative grievance, demonization of the Other, plenty of flag waving and a guest appearance from the My Pillow Guy. Hopefully you spent the day doing literally anything else.
Far away were any of the recent revelations that Trump had a more active and knowing role in the January 6 insurrection than previously thought, replaced with the ongoing fantasy that Trump lost the 2020 election because of a complex conspiracy rather than, well, it being Trump and the first four years of his presidency on the ballot. His positions aren’t broken, it’s the system! That was certainly the theme of the day as Trump joined Tshibaka and Palin bashing the elites and sowing seeds of distrust about the voter-approved Ballot Measure 2. It’ll be the system that beats them, they argued, and not anything to do with their extreme positions.
“This is really horrible what’s going on with our elections. So-and-so had five votes for fifth place, so we’re going to give them the victory. It’s crazy. It’s crazy,” said Trump, giving a flat-out wrong reading of how the election reform measures actually work before giving a flat-out wrong explanation of how the measure was enacted. “And you know who got it put in? Lisa Murkowski got it put in because she knew, just look at the polls, she knew that she could not win a straight-up election. So, she went to crazy ranked choice. You never know who won in ranked choice. … It’s a total rigged deal, just like a lot of other things in this country.”
Then, like much of the rest of his 90 minutes of remarks, Trump veered off into talk about immigration, the border wall and Murkowski’s apparent opposition to both. While much of it all will be excused by most as the blatherings of a man disconnected from reality, it’s important to understand just how much the crowd was eating it up. The audience seated behind reacted with true emotions, boiling anger at Murkowski and the “elites” and melodramatic grief at the fabricated stories of late-term abortions.
As for Tshibaka and Palin, they were both more than happy to play their part and reinforce everything that Trump had to say. Tshibaka, we shouldn’t forget, suggested that the long-shot lawsuits to overturn the election—the precursor to the events of Jan. 6—could be weaponized to overturn the parts of the 2020 election that she didn’t agree with, which would be Ballot Measure 2’s ranked-choice voting system.
It’s worth noting that while the ranked-choice voting system that will make it tough sledding for Tshibaka against Murkowski, it’s also that same ranked-choice voting system that we can all thank for giving Palin a shot at the special election (the previous system would have kept the parties in the driver’s seat). But, hey, it’s not like there was a lot of room for nuance at the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday.
- While Alaska Republican elected officials were happy to throw their full support behind Kelly Tshibaka in her race against Murkowski, they were far more reluctant to weigh in on the race for Congress. None of the elected officials quoted in stories I read were willing to go on the record with support for Palin over Begich.
- While Gov. Mike Dunleavy was supposed to be the third candidate featured at the convention, he didn’t show up and reportedly didn’t take a meeting with Trump either. Perhaps he confused it for a 2018 candidate debate? Anyway, it’s likely a wise move for Dunleavy, who isn’t exactly popular among the far right. Per the Alaska Beacon: “When Trump announced his support of Dunleavy, that statement received a mixture of cheers and boos, the only time the audience voiced anything but wholehearted support for the president’s words.”
- Extreme-right Republican candidate Christopher Kurka didn’t let the governor’s absence go unremarked upon. Per the ADN: “Dunleavy didn’t want to be on the stage so as not to offend Murkowski supporters. He’s basically trying to play both sides,” Kurka said after the rally. “Everybody knows he didn’t want to be here, or he made the strategic decision not to be here. It’s quite offensive to Trump supporters.”
- It wasn’t an all-Alaskan crowd. I don’t know why I found it surprising, but a fair chunk of the rally-goers are Trump groupies who’ve made following Trump from one rally to the next a whole thing.
- “I got you ANWR, I got you the railroad, I got you the Cove road or whatever the hell it’s called,” former President Donald Trump said while taking credit of several things that Murkowski and the rest of the delegation fought for.
- Trump on Elon Musk decision to back out of his purchase of Twitter (where he was expected to unban Trump): “You know, he said the other day, ‘Oh, I’ve never voted for a Republican.’ I said, ‘I didn’t know that, he told me he voted for me.’ So he’s another bullshit artist.”
- While much of the ire was directed at Murkowski, Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan was also persona non grata. He drew heat for endorsing Murkowski with a swing from Trump, “Murkowski is a bad person and Dan Sullivan should never ever have given her an endorsement. Dan Sullivan should be ashamed of himself.” Can Dan Sullivan feel shame? Stay tuned!