OPINION: Lisa Murkowski has let down her constituents

The hypocrisy of politicians is usually hardly considered newsworthy, but occasionally an example emerges that is so egregious that it boggles belief. Such an event took place on May 3, when Lisa Murkowski told reporters that the leaked draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade “rocks my confidence” in the U.S. Supreme Court. I was surprised to hear that she held SCOTUS tradition in such esteem, as she voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to a seat that by all precedent should have been filled by Merrick Garland, as nominated by President Barack Obama. Her statement on Garland’s nomination cited her belief that a Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled so close to a presidential election, and should instead be left to the next administration. Garland was nominated on March 16, 2016, well before the November election, and was blocked from ever advancing to a hearing. Four years later, after reiterating that she was against a nomination so close to an election, she voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Court on Oct. 26, 2020, eight days before the election Biden would win.

Followers of the senator’s career will be familiar with the long list of civil rights stances she has championed in campaign messaging and promptly disregarded as soon as they came to a vote. Given her history, confirming three justices who strongly oppose abortion rights to the bench despite her theoretical embrace of those rights isn’t remotely surprising, only rage-inducing. Sen. Dan Sullivan voted the same way, but he’s a typical obedient Republican (during the 115th Congress, he voted with Mitch McConnell on 96% of 578 votes).

Murkowski’s betrayals feel so personal because she’s supposed to represent the streak of libertarian independence in Alaska. Her historic write-in campaign succeeded on the premise that she wasn’t another sycophantic conservative that voted as they were told. In the 115th Congress, she voted with McConnell 93% of the time. Perhaps she considers that 3% difference between her and Sullivan to be a mark of a truly independent thinker, but I do not.

A true representative of a state that rejects government overreach would block measures allowing the government to forcibly violate a citizen’s bodily autonomy. In response to the leak, Murkowski stated that she was under the impression that the justices would uphold Roe. Trump publicly vowed to appoint justices to overturn Roe, and the track records of all three justices made it clear they were anti-choice. The idiot defense is employed to good effect in elementary schools, but it is an audacious excuse for voting to disenfranchise half the American public.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why Murkowski failed to protect her citizenry: words without actions are empty air. As a young woman in Anchorage, ready to attend college and return home to serve my community, I looked up to Sen. Murkowski. At the National History Day national competition, on the steps of the Capitol as a 16-year-old, I listened to her addressing the Alaskan students and felt proud and excited that I could count a self-possessed Independent as one of my senators. That memory is bile in my mouth.

When disasters strike, when a global pandemic kills and cripples millions, when an armed militia attacks the Capitol to overthrow an election, we desperately need a leader who is wise and courageous. A leader with righteous anger and powerful compassion, a leader not moved by greed or swayed by bribes, a person of principle who plants themself like a stone before those who must be defended and holds their ground unflinchingly. It’s a damned shame we got Lisa Murkowski instead.

Hannah Watkins is a recent college graduate, full-time health care worker and student at the University of Alaska Anchorage completing her premedical courses.

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