Ex-President Donald Trump dropped an “f-bomb,” went off on a tangent about trans athletes, described Elon Musk as “another bullshit artist,” said climate change will give us “a little more beachfront property,” and mouthed the word “garbage” to describe Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski — all in a 90-minute Saturday speech before 5,000 rapturous supporters in Anchorage.
The 45th president came to the 49th State in quest of revenge against Murkowski, lone GOP senator to vote against confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The rally at Alaska Airlines Center was instructive, not in Trump’s false claims, but for the tone of what Politico described last week as “Trumpification” of the Republican Party. Courting crossover voters is out, motivation and mobilization of the “base” are in, as the party approaches the 2022 mid-term elections.
“This is your precious chance to dump the horrific RINO [Republican in Name Only], Lisa Murkowski, who’s worse than a Democrat,” Trump told his true believers. “She’s a total creature of the Washington swamp and a tool of a corrupt establishment the likes of which we’ve never seen. The fake news media loves her.”
The former president said Murkowski “wiped our ANWR,” referring to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The truth be told, Murkowski slipped a provision into Republicans’ 2017 tax bill that opened the coastal plain of the Refuge to oil and gas leasing. “She voted to impeach me, and I did more for the state than any President in history, and that piece of” – Trump mouthed the word “garbage” – “voted to impeach me.”
Alaska will be a test for Trumpification. In 2010, Murkowski lost the Republican primary in August to a far-right Tea Party challenger named Joe Miller. The senator mounted a general election write-in campaign to hold onto her seat. It was the first such effort to succeed since 1956, when Strom Thurmond won in South Carolina.
Alaska has moved to ranked-choice voting this year. The top four vote getters in the August 16 primary, regardless of party, head onto the November ballot. Voters will rank their choices. Trump decried the new system, saying without evidence that ranked voting “can be crooked as hell.”
“We’re stuck with it,” said No. 45. “You know why? Because of Murkowski. It’s the only way she can win.”
Ex-Gov. Sarah Palin, a Trump-backed candidate for Alaska’s vacant U.S. House seat, depicted the mid-term election as a holy war. “It’s no longer Democrat vs. Republican,” she told the crowd. “This is about control versus freedom. It’s good versus evil. It is a spiritual battle.” Added Palin, backing a 2024 Trump comeback, “Sir, we need you. Four more years. Four more years.”
Trump did far more venting at Murkowski – “a lousy senator,” “She’s the worst” — than praising the senator’s challenger Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska state official. The former president also took after Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, who has endorsed his seatmate Murkowski. “Murkowski is a bad person and Sullivan should never have endorsed her,” said Trump. “Brian Sullivan should be ashamed of himself.”
Trump was on a vengeance mission, but Trumpification could bring changes to the U.S. Senate and intensify gridlock in Washington, D.C. Murkowski has been central to what bipartisan cooperation there is in the capital. She helped craft the bipartisan gun safety bill passed by Congress after the Uvalde, Texas, massacre. She was a force behind the infrastructure package, which will provide $3.5 billion in highway funding for Alaska and money for essential ferry service to support rural communities. Murkowski and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have broken the ice to get construction underway on a new polar ice breaker, with a second under design.
Several Senate Republicans, backers of infrastructure and gun safety, are retiring this year. Would-be replacements in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Missouri are hard liners. Running to replace Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, Rep. Ted Budd has called the infrastructure package “a liberal Trojan horse for a socialist agenda.” J.D. Vance, nominated to replace Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has described the bill as “a total disaster for our country.” Celebrity physician and TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, running to replace Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, has abandoned his past support for such gun safety measures as red flag laws, and vowed to “fight against federal gun control schemes.”
Trump is a speaker who goes off in many directions. He butchered pronunciation of the name of new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, talked about giving advice to U.S. commanders in Iraq with the words: “I’d hit ‘em on the left, hit ‘em on the right, I’d hit ‘em in the f*****g center – Right smack.”
He morphed into a denunciation of transgender athletes, describing NCAA swimming champion Lia Thomas as “a person with a man’s body.” Once “totally pro-choice,” Trump took a victory lap over the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe vs. Wade. “We got it done,” said Trump, who named three of the justices in the majority opinion.
Nor could Trump ignore the decision by Tesla maker Elon Musk to bail out of his $44 billion plan to purchase Twitter. “Elon. Elon. Elon,” exclaimed Trump. “He’s not going to buy Twitter. He’s got himself a mess. I’ve looked into his contract. Ya know, Elon says he’s never voted Republican, but I didn’t know that because he told me that he voted for me, so he’s another bullshit artist.”
Such words are frequently used to describe Donald Trump.