Watching the GOP primaries during the run-up to this year’s elections has been much like watching a National Geographic special on predatory pack animals. Like wolves or hyenas, Republicans appear to work together like a single organism in pursuit of what they see as a common goal—such as yesterday, when GOP Senators unanimously voted against even debating this year’s Defense Authorization Act because of a single amendment.
The pack works together in marvelous harmony. However, should any of their number be perceived as weak or wounded, the others turn instantly, savagely tearing apart and devouring their former pack mate.
Thus, as Lisa Murkowski fights for her political life in Alaska, her fellow GOP Senators have turned against her, making sure she pays a heavy political penalty for dodging politics as usual and making a play of her own.
Never mind that Joe Miller, Murkowski’s opponent and the now-official GOP nominee, is an extremist of the first order—an addle-pated states’-rights idealist who believes that unemployment compensation is unconstitutional and that the government “steals” money from people’s paychecks to pay for Social Security. The Tea Party-backed candidate, endowed with the blessing of Sarah Palin, has won the primary, and the pack is by-God sticking with him.
Murkowski has a long record as a devout Republican who worked hard for what she believed to be the best interests of her state. Having served in both the House and Senate since 1998, she has experience in how to get her way in Washington. Like any reasonably sensible member of Congress, she sees her role as finding a balance between the interests of her state and the interests of the nation.
To hear Joe Miller tell it, each state should be sovereign unto itself and each citizen a totally autonomous entity with no responsibility to contribute to the common good. (Click here for a somewhat sanitized version of his position statements.)
In terms of demographics, Alaska is a strange place, as most Alaskans would proudly admit. It’s a land of fiercely independent, rough-and-ready survivors, some of whom come out of the frozen Alaskan wilderness only once or twice a year to get supplies. In a state roughly equal in population to that of the city of Portland, Oregon, one vote goes a good deal further than it would in a more populous state. (Sarah Palin, for example, was elected governor on the basis of just over 114,000 votes—a mere 17,500 more than her Democratic opponent.)
In normal times, what plays well in Alaska wouldn’t necessarily play well in the rest of the country. Alaska has always been a place of extreme individualists, suspicious of government and determined to break everything down to the simplest terms. But in today’s Tea Party nation, notions that used to sound crazy are beginning to sound “normal” by virtue of repetition.
Thus we have a situation in which Joe Miller, an extremist even in a land of extremes, is poised to become one of a select 100 individuals who make decisions daily that have great impact on the lives of each and every American. Rather than contributing to our common interests, his goal is to destroy the very structure that makes it possible to pursue those interests. For all his frequent references to the Constitution, he’s not a man who knows or cares what it means to “promote the general Welfare.”
Together with other extremists and simplistic thinkers—Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Christine O’Connell and the like—Joe Miller has emerged in this unique period of American history as a viable candidate for national office. Unless sanity prevails in the next election, he and others like him, who are unfit for national office, could set this nation back another generation in terms of growth and progress.