Tuesday’s results from a number of states with late primaries, including Florida and Alaska, prove the anti-establishment tide crosses party lines in a major way.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican somewhat to the left of her party on such issues as abortion and taxation, was teetering on the edge of defeat after falling behind by a 51-49 percent margin to a political neophyte endorsed by the tea party movement and Murkowski’s long-time rival, Sarah Palin.

The margin was close enough that about 8,000 absentee ballots, to be counted over the next week, will determine if Murkowski joins two other senators, Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., in the ranks of incumbents turned out by primary voters.

That, plus victories by tea-party-endorsed candidates in the Florida GOP governor’s race and elsewhere, including a strong turn to the right on the issue of illegal immigration by Palin-endorsed Sen. John McCain in Arizona, show that November’s vote is shaping up to be far different than what has gone before.

A conservative with serious views on national politics spoke in Portland last night, when Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund addressed a dinner in honor of Calvin Coolidge on the topic of introducing Americans to an “alien culture” — that of Washington, D.C.

In a telephone interview the day before his talk, Fund offered his views on current issues. Here are a few of them:

n Fund is totally convinced that Sarah Palin will not run for president in 2012, because she understands she has not yet overcome the public’s view that she remains unprepared for the challenges of that job, and to her credit, she has concluded that the public is correct.

“Palin is in a position of power now, making lots of money, able to exert influence in races all over the country, and keeping in the public eye. She has a symbiotic relationship with the media, which can’t stop quoting her, so she doesn’t have to spend anything to get her views out to Americans.”

Palin will use the next few years not only to exert political pressure on the GOP, but to build her experience to prepare for a run in 2016, Fund believes.

One of her weaknesses, he says, is her colloquial and regional speaking habits, which “give urban sophisticates (in both parties) the fits” — something she and many of her followers appear to enjoy, perhaps too much to try to broaden her appeal, at least at present.

Another weakness is that “she’s not a detail person, her talent is in defining and verbalizing trends in ways the average person can understand and relate to.” His point, it appears, is that those she picks as advisers and aides must therefore be detail-oriented or this will harm her in the long run.

Another prominent woman in politics, Hillary Clinton, has been mentioned as a potential rival to President Obama in 2012 if his popularity continues in its current free fall.

But Fund thinks that won’t happen, first because she would have to quit as secretary of state before she could say one word in opposition to Obama, and second “because 30 percent of the Democratic primary vote is African-American, and with his popularity remaining at 90 percent in that group, she would have too large a disadvantage to overcome. She would leave so many hard feelings that she could never win a general election.”

But there is one way she could be lured out of her top Cabinet job: Offer her the vice presidential slot in 2012, something Fund says could happen after “just one or two more YouTube gaffes” by the current veep, Joe Biden, who seems to specialize in committing verbal blunders when on camera.

The tea party phenomenon, in Fund’s somewhat surprising view, has a lot in common with another populist grassroots movement: the left’s antiwar campaign during Vietnam.

“Both came out of popular dissatisfaction with current policy, both created strong feelings spurring people to participate in large protests, and both had (or are having) a substantial influence on a major political party.”

That led the antiwar movement to a level of influence within the Democratic Party that produced the presidential nomination of George McGovern in 1972, and the successful election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, Fund says. True, the tea party movement, surfing on social media and the Internet, isn’t picking presidential candidates for the GOP just yet.

But Fund thinks that it’s only a matter of time, because the issues motivating it — deficits, overspending and waste, coupled with a strong perception of elitist disdain on the part of the media and the political and cultural establishments — will only serve to increase its fervor in coming election cycles. Recent primaries verify the movement is making great progress.

Finally, Fund thinks Obama made three critical mistakes that led to his current troubles.

First, he campaigned as something he wasn’t — a healer, a moderate, a unifier. Instead, he was and is a community organizer, using the model created by Saul Alinsky, the radical founder of the movement, who believed polarization and the isolation of opponents was the way to prevail in Chicago-style bare-knuckle politics.

Second, Obama has the soul of a law professor, and people see him lecturing them with his nose upturned in arrogance.

Third, he honestly thought his stimulus would work and he could safely turn away from job creation and the economy to the policy-wonk issues much closer to his heart, particularly his deficit-enhancing campaign for health care reform. When the stimulus failed, however, he had no fallback plan,

Unless you think blaming George W. Bush is a viable option — which he obviously does. 

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

[email protected]


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