Lisa Murkowski has at long last taken Alaska’s Senate seat—wresting it from the grasp of Joe Miller, the official Republican candidate who was propelled onto the ballot in the state’s primaries by an energetic heave from the state’s Tea Party activists.
So: Sarah Palin’s handpicked candidate has been defeated by the state’s handwritten alternative. Conservatives were (and are) inclined to say that Murkowski, the “write-in,” was anything but right on for taking on the Republican Party’s own man. But I’m inclined to disagree vigorously, and to declare my support for the Murkowski Model: Don’t take, lying down, a mugging in the primaries. Don’t retreat; reload.
Alaska, like too many other states in the Union, has closed primaries. These frequently low-turnout affairs are susceptible to hijacking by determined voter-activists, who foist on the general electorate candidates that are often far outside the mainstream. For the GOP, this can yield disastrous outcomes: Witness the Senate election in Delaware, and the governor’s race in New York, in both of which the Republican Party ran candidates who were ideologically “pure” (by the application of the crudest shibboleths) and yet utterly unelectable. (My colleague, John Avlon, crunched some eye-opening primary numbers in a recent piece for the Beast.)