Broder Misdiagnoses 2010 Election

David Broder, three weeks after the election, explains "What Murkowski's write-in win says about the electorate."

David Broder, three weeks after the election, explains “What Murkowski’s write-in win says about the electorate.”

The demographics required that Murkowski seek support from Democrats and independents, as well as Republicans. But she said their expectations did not differ from group to group. “I think what they are looking for is the same thing that any Alaskan is looking for: Represent our state. Work together with people that have opposing viewpoints to build good policy that allows our state and our nation to go in a positive direction.

“I think that’s what voters are looking for. I don’t think that most are looking for somebody that is going to follow the litmus test of one party or another, and never deviate from it. I think they want us to think, and I think they want us to work cooperatively together. So, that’s my pledge to all Alaskans, regardless of whether you are the most conservative Republican or the most liberal Democrat, I’m going to try to find a way that we can find common ground to help the state and to help our country.”

Want to know what the election was about? That’s an authoritative answer.

It may be “authoritative” but it’s also obviously wrong. Murkowski managed to win because the Republicans nominated a not-ready-for-prime-time candidate who turned out to be rather nutty and the Democrats nominated a token candidate in a state where they don’t have a chance.  In that environment, a professional politician with immense name recognition and piles of money was able to win.

And, certainly, the 2010 election writ large wasn’t about bipartisanship.  The polarization of the electorate continued apace.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Environment, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tano says:

    Well, granted that it may be wishful thinking, but the defeat of most of the teaparty extremists, at least at the Senate level – Miller, Buck, O’Donnell, Angle – might well argue for the notion that hardcore ideology was not exactly the key to winning.
    There is actual polling on this question:
    “Regardless of which party wins the majority in November or what issues you think are the most important, do you think it is more important for politicians in Congress to stick to their principles and hold to the issues they campaigned on, or for politicians in Congress to work with members of the other party and make consensus policy?
    Stick to principles – 38%
    Make consensus – 56%

  2. Tano says:

    That was a Reuters/Ipsos poll done a few days before the election.

  3. @Tano:  The public usually prefers the abstract notion of agreement up and until the details of a given piece of legislation are on the table.
    In re:  Broder, interpreting the win of an entrenched politician whose family has deep political roots in a relatively small electorate as a national lesson in bipartisanship simply underscores that perhaps his analytical skills do not match up with his stature.

  4. Tano says:

    I certainly do feel in a strange position defending Broder. I agree with your overall assessment of him, but I don’t think he is far off base with this one.
    Sure, Murkowski had plenty of advantages –  but that didn’t do her much good in the Republican primary. And, of course, part of the reason that she had such advantages is because she is acceptable to the broad center of the electorate.
    As for the notion that the public only supports bipartisan agreement in theory, or until the details of bills hit the table, I am not so sure about that. I think that the overwhelming majority of people are not activists, and are not particularly engaged with issues. In fact, the more you get into a discussion of details on an issue, the more people tune out. Most people are not getting outraged about this issue or the other on a daily basis.
    I think that the ideal of the politician who manages to get things done without absolutist demonization of the other side, but who finds and supports solutions that a majority can live with, remains a compelling one to most voters. Just not in primaries.

  5. Tano,
    I think that generically the idea of a politician who can either do the “right thing” or find practical, even bipartisan solutions is appealing.  The problem is in defining what the “right thing” is at any given moment in time.