So who IS Sarah Palin?
From Stonekettle Station:
Well, I've got tell to you, I'm not happy this morning.
And it's for purely selfish reasons.
It's all over the news, of course. And it's bellowing out of the TV right now here in my den, the cheering and gushing rhetoric, the flapping flag noises, and the 70's rock and roll that was crappy then and is even more crappy now. It wasn't any secret, even before McCain made the official announcement.
John McCain has picked Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin, as his VP running mate.
This just ticks me off.
Don't get me wrong here, I like Sarah Palin. I do. A lot. Her house is less than ten miles from my own. She grew up right here in the MatSu Valley, just down the road from Stonekettle Station. I've met her. My wife has met her - and we've got the pictures to prove it. She's tough, and smart, and very Alaskan. She's been good to the military here in Alaska, and unlike a lot of Republican Neocons these days she has a son in uniform who is serving in Iraq right now. She stood up to her own party and went after corruption with a vengeance. She slapped Big Oil upside the head, something that is completely unheard of for an Alaskan politician. She not only bit the hand that fed her corpulent predecessors, she dammed near gnawed it off - which is something that fills me as an Alaskan with more than a touch of glee. I don't agree with everything she stands for, especially her stance on core Republican agenda planks, but I do very much admire Sarah Palin and respect her.
I voted for her - after I swore I would not vote another goddamned Republican into Alaskan office. And I fully intend to vote for her again when and if she runs for reelection as Alaska's Governor.
I think her exceptional common sense, tough frontier mentality, and tenacious no-nonsense attitude is a good compliment to John McCain. I think Sarah Palin will make a dandy VP, and an even better President a few years down the line.
I also happen to think that she's the best thing that has happened to Alaskan politics in a long, long while.
So what the hell is my problem?
Well, I happen to think she's the best thing that's happened to Alaskan politics in a long, long while.
And I want to keep her. Here. In Alaska.
I'm just greedy that way.
Alaska became a state in 1959. 1959 wasn't all that long ago. For the first fifteen years or so nobody gave a crap. Three electoral votes and the frozen ass end of nowhere - unless you were a fanatical fly fisherman or a member of the military, you probably didn't even know where Alaska was other then somewhere vaguely north of the actual United States, somewhere up there in frosty Canada or something. The American educational system being what it is, most people visualized Eskimos and log cabins and igloos, polar bears and sled dogs and The Call of the Wild. Alaska was too far from anything that mattered, both geographically and politically. It made the news, there for a while following the Good Friday Earthquake in Anchorage. But by and large, most Americans neither knew nor cared about the state - which was perfectly fine with Alaskans. I remember a Michigan elementary teacher, back in the 60's, telling us kids that while Alaska was the largest state geographically, Texas was the largest real state in the Union.
Industry? Investment? Not so much, Alaska was just too dammed far away to make it economically viable. It was a poor remote land, rich in inaccessible resources and beautiful scenery and not much else. The Alaskan State Government could have been a bunch of buckskin clad, bearded guys in fur hats, and often was. They slugged it out in Juneau, making deals and greasing the wheels of state government the old fashioned, frontier way, through fisticuffs, bribery, chicanery, and nepotism. Nobody cared, least of all Alaskans. We keep our government isolated, far away from the rest of the state, reachable only by boat or plane - and for a long time if you didn't like what was being decided there, well, you either got on a float plane and went down there and punched somebody in the nose, or more likely you just ignored it. Alaska is a vast land, if you moved far enough into the bush even the government couldn't bother you in those days.
You know what happened, of course. The 70's. OPEC and the oil embargo. And suddenly Alaska was a big dammed deal indeed. And the money flooded in, oozing from every crack in the energy industry like oil from a ruptured Exxon tanker. And suddenly the state government was awash in dough. Giant piles of cash. So much money, in point of fact, that the politicians decided to give some of it away to the citizens in the form of the Permanent Dividend Fund. Politicians giving money away to people - now that's a lot of money. And the politicians were all lined up at the trough, side by side, squealing and grunting like suckling piglets latched onto the belly of that big pork barrel sow. Deals were made - not on the floor of the State House, but in dark, smoky hotel bars in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Roads got built and ships started arriving, followed by mining and exploration that was almost as lucrative as oil. And then the Pipeline was completed and when they opened the tap, money just started falling out like an eight hundred mile long goose crapping golden eggs. Then came the tourists, up the ALCAN in their RV's, and then came whorehouses and strip clubs and hippies, dippies, big box stores and retail outlets and fast food joints and various and sundry others, seeking adventure and opportunity and big, big money.
A more perfect recipe for corruption there never was, toss in a Middle Eastern dictator or South American despot or two and we would have probably seceded from the Union and gone off to become our own third world Oil Empire. Over the last thirty years, blatant corruption in Alaskan politics has been not only business as usual, it is the usual business. The same old bastards, or their kids, have been running things for the last thirty years - everything from the local school boards all the way up to the Governor's Office - and as long as the state benefited too, well most Alaskans just didn't give a steaming pile of moose nuggets if Uncle Teddy got a nice new Girdwood McMansion and a hot tub out of it or that Exxon and Veco were making all of the real decisions in Juneau.
But the good old days are gone now. The Alaskan Frontier that we all speak so fondly of around here is being pushed back by Super Wal-Marts and a brew of Starbucks - seriously, when you are no more than five minutes in any direction from a latte and a Big Mac, you aren't living on the frontier any more. And it's past time that Alaska grows up and joins the rest of the Twenty First Century. Sad? In a way, but it's progress or slow stagnation and that's just the way it is - and most Alaskans understand that, and they've grown tied of the stench wafting up from that big old pile of business as usual in Juneau.
And so, two years ago we put Sarah Palin in the Governor's Office on the promise that she would clean up the mess.
And she made good on that promise. A number of corrupt former Alaskan politicians are learning new trades today - as license plate manufacturing technicians and prison wine connoisseurs - because of her. She put the fear of God into Exxon and the rest of those greasy bastards. She did what her predecessor couldn't, or wouldn't, and got the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline moving, finally - and she awarded the contract to a Canadian company when every American company wanted to play reindeer games, thinking they had us by the short hairs. Screw them, they had their chance. Step up or step off, that was her message, one way or the other, the job is getting done and getting done correctly and within the law. She's tough, smart, straight as an arrow and she's one of us, equally at home on the deck of a fishing trawler, or in a hunting camp, or talking to foreign businessmen about investment in Alaska.
It's obvious, of course, why John McCain would choose Sarah Palin for his running mate.
First, she's young, at 44 younger even than Barrack Obama. Traditionally, when you think of Republicans you think of old white men in dark suits and solidly colored ties - you think, well, of John McCain. Sarah Palin is none of those things. She's vibrant and shrewd and smart and attractive and she knows how to sincerely reach people, all people not just those in her own party. McCain desperately needs to reach the very people that Palin resonates with. He tries, he does, but it's like watching your arthritic old grampa out on the dance floor at a family wedding, tooled up on one too many Pabst Blue Ribbons and doing the geriatric jazz hands thing to a bad cover of Steppenwolf. It's embarrassing. Whatever he is, John McCain isn't young - Sarah Palin is.
Second, and just as important, change. Obama's been beating the change drum for a while now, and it's a beat that resonates with a lot of folks both liberal and conservative. Now, change means something different to republicans and democrats and otherwise. I was talking to my mom the other day, she works at her local polling station in Southern Michigan, and she brought up this very topic. When people answer the exit polls, and especially young people, they all say the thing they want most is change. However, when pressed for details, well, they're all a little vague as to what change, exactly, they're looking for. And that's my experience too. As far as I can tell, change to democrats means no more George Bush and Dick Cheney, no more old bastards in dark suits and power ties. Change means an end to the dammed war and lower gas prices. Change means saving the polar bears and an abortion in every womb. Change means, well, going back to the Clinton administration. To Republicans, change means finishing this war on Terrorism even if it takes a hundred years. Changes means drilling for oil in ANWAR. Change means one man, one woman and no faggoty civil unions, just the way God intended it to be. Change means "alternatives" to evolutionary theory in the schools and dinosaurs on the ark. Change means jobs at home, and all the illegal immigrants get sent back to where they came from. Change means not having to push "1" for English, dammit. Sarah Palin is a clear sign that Barrack Obama isn't the only one who can make change.
Third, she's squeaky clean. What's that you say? They tried to bring charges of abuse of power against her here in Alaska because she cashiered a number of folks that crossed her path? True, very true. It didn't take though, and the rest of the country knows exactly zip about it - and Alaska doesn't have enough of a voting population, even if they actually gave a crap about it, to make any kind of difference on the national level. And all of our electoral votes, all three of them, are going to be cast by Republicans any dammed way. And that takes us to my forth and final point today:
Last, she's squeaky clean. No, I didn't stutter. She's been cleaning up Alaskan politics. She's sent members of her own party to jail. She has made more change in the state in the last two years than we've seen since 1959. And that scares the ever living crap out of a lot of very powerful people, the vast majority of which are republicans. And see, that's where we come right down to it. Business as usual in Alaska. Big Oil, Big Mining, Big Tourism, Big Government - it's been easy to do business in Alaska, a pile of cash across the right palms and you're off and running. And then, suddenly, gas is four bucks a gallon, and the cost of metals and minerals is through the roof, the Big Business is just drooling at the shear magnitude of it all - but instead of business as usual, they got Sarah Palin, the Barracuda. Now ask yourself something, what's the best way to get this popular and suddenly powerful governor out of the way? They tried to get her indicted on trumped up bullshit, and that didn't work - Alaskans just laughed, we didn't like the guys she axed either. So now what? How do all of the big special interests clear the decks so business can proceed in the usual, approved, corrupt Alaskan fashion?
Why, we have the party promote her, of course.
She brings with her all of the things the Party needs if John McCain is to sit in the big chair and it gets her the hell out of Alaska and into a job that's largely ornamental and powerless -because there isn't anyway in hell that John McCain is planning on giving her the power that George gave to Dick - and that, folks, is what we refer to in governmental cliched terms as a "Win-Win."
But I'll tell you something about Sarah Palin, something that most of us Alaskans already know: she's called Sarah Barracuda around here for a reason - as her predecessor, former senator and governor Frank Murkowski found out by a landslide in the last state election.
If the GOP takes the White House this time around, will Palin be a good Vice President (there is no such thing as a "great" VP, think back, name one), yes. She will. Of this I have no doubt. And four years from now, or maybe even eight, she'll make a truely great president - and by then, hell, I might even be voting republican again.
Is that a good thing for the United States and the rest of the world? Yes, absolutely. Sarah Palin is hands down the best choice John McCain could have made.
Is that a good thing for Alaska. No. Selfishly, no.