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Outsiders vs. Insiders: The establishment’s sad Obamacare failure will end in primary reckoning

We hear about it a lot – or at least occasionally – a politician taking a “principled” stand on an issue, defying the leadership of his or her own party and casting what could be the deciding vote for or against a bill that will certainly impact the entire country.

Such was the case for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski the other day, who rose up on “principle” to defy Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and virtually the entire Republican Senate caucus by joining the unified Trump tweetDemocrats in voting against beginning debate on the Obamacare repeal issue.

In doing so the media treated her as some sort of conqueror, a Joan of Arc-type heroine who stood stalwart in the face of ill-conceived change to save the federal Medicaid dollars of her rural constituents up in Sarah Palin territory. You know, the place with the midnight sun, grizzly bears, above the Arctic Circle oil drilling and the northern lights.

If Murkowski’s defiance had succeeded she would likely have gone down in history as the savior of Obamacare. In reality, what Murkowski would have preserved was the establishment status quo. The Murkowski family has been doing it for years in Alaska and in Washington – and none of it is surprising.

Not so coincidentally President Trump wasn’t wild about Murkowski’s grandstanding.

Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reported, “President Trump singled out Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Wednesday for her votes on healthcare Tuesday, and said she let down Republicans and people all around the country.

“’Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.”

It seems Murkowski gets some sick pleasure from attracting all the media attention – and for defying President Trump. And why not? She’s got the Alaska political machine behind her, having waged what was perhaps the most successful write-in campaign of all time. She’s used to callously trading money for votes, so this recent episode is hardly shocking to those who are familiar with her record.

If the media’s looking for a Republican chump to throw a wrench in the gears of change, Murkowski’s always a good place to begin the search (so is Maine Senator Susan Collins, but that’s another story).

But it’s also funny how the news media doesn’t lionize Democrat holdouts in a similar way. For example, during the now infamous final days of the House Obamacare debate seven years ago there were plenty of stories concerning the immense pressure then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi was applying to her caucus to move them to vote in favor of nationalizing healthcare.

Poor former Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak allegedly went into hiding to avoid all the protesters at his district offices and the media was all too happy to keep the narrative alive by running “Where is Bart?” reports. The supposedly pro-life Stupak (and his merry band of fellow pro-life Dems) eventually caved, allowing Obamacare to advance and plague us all.

According to the media Stupak’s “principled” vote in favor of the law made him a champion of the people, but his own constituents didn’t think too highly of it. He was tossed out of Congress (he “retired”) and continued to receive jeers in rare public sightings even years later.

The Democrat leadership was notorious for doing whatever it took to win votes for Obamacare back then including the notorious “Louisiana purchase” (which secured the backing of then Sen. Mary Landrieu) and “Cornhusker kickback” (which convinced then Sen. Ben Nelson to get onboard). A little political payoff only increases the level of “principle” involved in such matters.

Majority Leader (at the time) Harry Reid said of the sleazy side deals, “You’ll find a number of states that are treated differently than other states. That’s what legislating is all about. It's compromise.”

“Compromise” to Democrats apparently equals putting the taxpayers up to hundreds of millions of extra dollars to secure political votes. There’s little doubt that’s what Murkowski is after now. As soon as McConnell offers to sweeten the deal she’ll relent. Everyone has a “price,” right? And when you’re talking about one of the establishment’s most hard-edged “negotiators” that price is often steep.

Contrast the way the media currently treats Murkowski with the reception they gave Sarah Palin when she entered the national scene as John McCain’s running mate in 2008. For presenting herself as an unapologetic conservative Palin was depicted as a clueless airhead who didn’t read the newspaper and could barely identify Russia on a map.

Palin never tried to hide her populist side and to this day remains well-received in conservative circles because of her authentic championing of conservative causes. The fact the media still loathes her only deepens the devotion of the grassroots. Palin’s original sin stemmed from challenging and defeating Murkowski’s father (Frank) in an Alaska GOP primary, a crime against the establishment that has condemned her to eternal ruling class damnation.

But still Murkowski (the Senator) persists. She’s even got the clowns at MSNBC defending her.

Steve Benen wrote yesterday on the Rachel Maddow blog, “In a narrowly divided Senate, Republican leaders have no real margin for error if they’re going to pass a regressive health care bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) already appears to oppose her party’s entire initiative and wants to start anew with a less ridiculous approach. Other GOP skeptics abound.

“It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump effectively said, ‘I know what to do! While the process is still ongoing, I’ll accuse Lisa Murkowski of a partisan and national betrayal!’

“This will almost certainly push the Alaskan even further away, which is the opposite of what GOP leaders wanted to see. Trump could be reaching out to Murkowski right now, trying to negotiate with her, or perhaps even selling her on the merits of his ideas. But he doesn’t know how to do any of that, so he’s trying Twitter abuse instead.”

It’s always humorous when Democrats offer Republicans advice but this bit is a true gem. Liberals want Trump to act like they do, buying off any wayward members behind closed doors with “purchases” and “kickbacks” – the way politics is supposed to be.

Instead Trump chooses to lay bare Murkowski before the national spotlight, alerting his vast grassroots army that there’s a potential traitor in their midst who is standing in the way of true reform. By publicly calling out Murkowski Trump denied her the convenient cloak of silence. Let the hundreds of millions of people adversely affected by Obamacare know who the real enemy is.

And let the perpetrators be ripe for primary challenges. It’s about time.

Erick Erickson wrote at The Resurgent last Friday, “Mitch McConnell has repeatedly bent over backwards to help moderate and liberal Republicans win re-election and has repeatedly thrown his conservative colleagues under the bus while using the NRSC to try to block the election of other conservatives...

“We need to ditch Mitch and challenge the moderate Republicans and liars. These people have promised, for seven years, to repeal Obamacare and now they refuse. It is time to find good candidates to oppose them in primaries and now there is a President signaling his willingness to help challenge the establishment. There is no better time to stand up to the status quo.”

In reading this it made me think back to the post-Obamacare days of 2010 and the birth of the Tea Party movement.

Though the conservative grassroots focused the majority of its angst at Democrats after the passage of Obamacare, if there is a small group of Republican House members or senators who block some sort of repeal/replace effort it could very well stir up the same kind of reaction against the GOP establishment now.

A lot has been written about how Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 GOP presidential primary was the ultimate blow to the Washington establishment and his unlikely (to some) election was the result of a one-time “we’ve had enough” emotional outpouring from Americans in search of relief from the status quo.

I can’t help but surmise the same type of energy will reemerge next year should establishmentarians like Murkowski and a handful of GOP holdouts be successful in sabotaging the genuine endeavors of conservatives and most Republicans to improve the badly faltering healthcare system. When it fails – and it’s going to fail – there will be accountability.

And if the events of recent days are any indication people won’t have to search very hard to discover the real culprits. In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote, “Frailty, thy name is woman.” In 2017, it’s more like “Failure, incompetence, corruption and fecklessness, thy name is establishment.”

For this observer at least, next year’s primaries couldn’t come soon enough.

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The Senatorial Swamp

The description of Lisa Murkowski "callously trading money for votes" fits John McCain to a T. Unfortunately the Menshevik kingmakers in Juneau and Phoenix have more power than us well-informed voters in either state. And we Arizonans (and all Americans) are stuck with John McCain for 5 more years, if he should live that long.