I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lisa Murkowski: Free Bird in the Senate?

A Politico article published today features Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was recently re-elected in a historic write-in effort after losing the primary. I wrote my paper about that election, but didn't have much space to talk about its consequences for Senatorial politics. The consequences, however, are significant:

Murkowski is "liberated in a lot of ways," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "She didn't have to kowtow to her party. She is caucusing with Republicans but she doesn't owe anything to the leadership."

At a closed-door session in September, Senate Republicans rejected a bid by DeMint to strip Murkowski of her leadership role on the energy panel after she’d decided to run as a write-in candidate. "I think McConnell and a couple of others made sure they didn’t do that because they all of a sudden realized that if she won that would really be a problem for them," Ornstein said.

"I do not expect her to be a regular thorn in the side of her own party's leaders," he said. "But she's going to pick her spots."

In the past, those spots have been issues like DADT repeal and the Matthew Sheppard hate crimes legislation -- moments when she broke from her party to vote with Democrats. In the future, these spots might include energy issues, especially those particularly important to Alaska. It is possible that Murkowski will buck the party line more often this term since she owes her election to a broader coalition of Alaskans, including liberal Democrats. On the other hand, she can't afford to completely lose the conservative vote in a Red state like Alaska. So Murkowski has to walk a fine line: voting with the party on some issues, and choosing -- wisely -- when to disobey. Whatever she does, it will be interesting and important to watch.

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