The Governor of Alaska and the Queen of Georgia.

29 11 2008

chess

Tomorrow, Sarah Palin, like all of us, will make certain decisions about what to do with her time. She, like all of us, will decide where to put her energy and focus and attention. She has a newfound power and ability to influence decision-making on a populist level. And she has made decisions about how she wants to do that.

Tomorrow, Sarah Palin will fly to Georgia to use her influence on behalf of Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. She will appear at four campaign rallies speaking to thousands of voters on his behalf. The run-off election between Chambliss and his Democratic challenger Jim Martin has become an epic struggle, the outcome of which may decide whether Democrats walk away from this election with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate.

The holy grail of 60 seats has not only elevated the Senate race in Georgia to Olympic proportions, it has focused the magnifying glass on the laborious and exacting recount in Minnesota, and has kept Republicratic-independent Senator Joe Lieberman in his plum committee chairmanship for fear of making him mad and losing him to the dark side entirely. It is politics. It is a chess game. It is, as our current President would call it, “strategery.”

But, as political candidates, and strategists, and voters often do, we get deep into that dark forest of strategy and we no longer look at the trees. To many, Chambliss is a political pawn in this Senatorial chess game, who has suddenly made it to the other side of the board, and now has all the significance and power of a Queen. To others, including Max Cleland, the man who ran against him last time, he is more than that.

Matt Zencey was kind enough to do my homework for me today. In the Alaska Notebook, he reminds us:

Chambliss was elected to the Senate in 2002 by running one of the most reprehensible campaigns of modern times. He was up against incumbent Democrat Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam War veteran who lost both legs and his right arm to a grenade during that conflict.

Chambliss avoided serving in Vietnam. He got four student draft deferments, and when his number finally came up, he was medically disqualified with knee troubles.

In the best Karl Rove fashion, Chambliss the draft-evader attacked Cleland the war hero for being soft on terrorism. Distorting Cleland’s votes about workplace rules for the new Homeland Security Department employees, Chambliss portrayed him as a tool of terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

Here’s how the Almanac of American Politics (2006) described it:
“Chambliss ran an ad, much attacked in the press, showing pictures of Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Max Cleland, and saying that Cleland ‘voted against the President’s vital homeland security efforts 11 times.’” (Those “vital homeland security efforts” Cleland opposed were intended to strip homeland security employees of union rights and other workplace protections.)

The man who couldn’t bring himself to serve in the military said a man who left three limbs behind in war was a weakling who would turn the country over to terrorists.

I have no doubt that our Governor is proud of her son Track, who recently enlisted in the army. She wears her blue star pin, and I’m sure there’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t wonder about his welfare, and worry about his safety as all mothers would worry about the welfare of the child that first made them a parent. She thinks about the military differently than she used to, because she now has very precious “skin in the game.” So, I wonder. I wonder how it is that she, and so many others including John McCain who have a personal narrative that is touched by war and conflict, can stand next to Saxby Chambliss and see him as nothing but the shiny new Queen in the chess game.

And while America prepares to witness the most historic Presidential inauguration of our lifetime, and children of every color look at their TV screen at our new first family and think, “Yes, I can” maybe for the first time, we hear again from Senator Chambliss. Here’s what he said about the neck-and-neck race that brought about this run-off election.

“There was a high percentage of minority vote,” Chambliss told Alan Colmes on Fox a couple weeks ago, “but we weren’t able to get enough of our folks out on election day.”

“WE weren’t able to get enough of OUR folks out on election day.” Who is “we”? Who are “our folks”?

During the fall Senate campaign, Chambliss cautioned his followers that “the other folks” are voting. The senator added that the “rush to the polls by African-Americans” has “got our side energized early, they see what is happening.”

In Chambliss’ world it is “our side” vs. the African-Americans. Our folks vs. the minority vote. I am tired of Chambliss’ world. I am tired of racially divisive politics and the words that keep it alive. It was Gandhi who said, “Words become our deeds.” This country has had enough of those words, and those deeds. And this country has had enough of those who support them. This is not a chess game.

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Small Victory for Obama in Alaska

20 11 2008
US PRESIDENT
Total
Number of Precincts 438
Precincts Reporting 438 100.0 %
Times Counted 325054/495731 65.6 %
Total Votes 323820

Baldwin and Castle AI 1652 0.51%
Barr and Root LIB 1575 0.49%
McCain and Palin REP 192631 59.49%
Nader and Gonzalez IND 3757 1.16%
Obama and Biden DEM 122485 37.83%
Write-in Votes 1720 0.53%

Obama did not win in Alaska. Polls had him on an average of about 11 points behind in the weeks before the election. Alas, the numbers reflected in the polls turned out to be worse for Obama in the general election. At one point it looked like McCain-Palin took a whopping 65% of the vote.

With all the excitement of the Senatorial race, all anyone could think about was Begich vs. Stevens. First Stevens up, and Begich down. Then separated by 3 votes. Then Begich up and Stevens down. Begich more up. Uh-oh, Stevens gaining. Begich up again. It was dizzying, and everyone’s laser-sharp focus was trained on those returns.

But there’s one small victory that hasn’t been talked about much. After the whopping 90,000 votes that were counted in Alaska after election day, there was a shift in the presidential race. After the final tally, McCain-Palin won by 59.49%. LESS than 60%. And we can even round down to 59%! I’ll take it.

2008 McCain/Palin 59% Obama/Biden 38%

2004 Bush 61 – Kerry 35
2000 Bush 59 – Gore 28

Obama won the hearts of more Alaska voters than any Democrat in recent memory. And McCain-Palin, despite their surface appeal, with the Alaska Governor on the ticket, frankly, didn’t do all that well comparatively. I’m looking forward to 2012. I think we’re headed in the right direction.





A Mat-Su Teen Speaks Out

18 11 2008

Days in Alaska politics tend to focus on things like the Legislative Council, The Ethics Act, the endless and ongoing vote count in Alaska, the corruption and conviction of Alaska politicians and the latest comings and goings of our Governor… So when something like this lands softly in my inbox, it stops me in my tracks. This is part of an essay written by a self-described “Caucasian high school girl” named Waverli Rainey who lives in Palmer, Alaska. Palmer is the little town that sits right next to Wasilla.

Nov. 4 was a momentous moment for me. I went to the Wasilla Sports Complex for what was called a community event. We were told it was non-partisan because it’s a city building. However, once inside, it seemed as if it was a Republican-only event. Despite this, we stayed. Although I am too young to vote, I sat at the Sports Complex to see who would be the new president. I felt joy as I saw Sen. Barack Obama’s electoral points grow and grow. I clapped for and was impressed by Senator McCain’s graceful speech and his call for unity and support for the new president-elect.

I anxiously awaited what Present-elect Obama would say. Between speeches, a live band played music. However, when President-elect Obama began to speak, those running the event had to be asked to have the band stop so we could hear him speak. Eventually, they stopped playing, but we missed the beginning of the speech. Then half way through this historic speech, former Mayor Keller turned down the audio of President-elect Obama and put on a call from Governor Palin. I certainly understand the desire of Valley residents to hear from the governor, but if this was a non-partisan event, I feel that interrupting the next president was disrespectful. I also feel it did not represent the coming together of America that Senator McCain had only moments before asked his supporters to do.

The event was supposed to be for all parties, for all people, but it didn’t feel like it. I was shocked and offended. The event was supposed to be for supporters of Senators Obama and McCain and no one paid respect to President-elect Obama’s historic moment. Finally, another step toward complete equality and it seemed no one cared.

So the next day I borrowed my mother’s Obama shirt and walked into school wearing my pride on my chest. Finally the campaign was over and I was actively supporting our new president, even though I knew I would be vastly out numbered at school. I expected complaints and qualms about the new president, but I was not prepared for the flat-out racist remarks said openly in the halls and classrooms. I was appalled. While I sat at my desk trying to do my work I could hear my fellow classmates:

“I think we should kill Obama,” one said.

“I hope someone comes up and shoots him in the head,” another would say.

“I hate Obama … he’s black.”

On went the racist words for the full 80 minutes of that class. Angered, I began to think of the injustice of it all and the ignorance of the students I was surrounded by. I wondered where they learned to be so hateful, and I wondered why the teacher never stepped in – why no adult, no student, including myself, had the guts to cut in and say it was not OK. Because it’s never OK for intolerance. It is never OK to cut someone down and dehumanize them because they do not look like you, or think like you, or talk like you, or worship the way you do.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

All men are created equal. All men. That does not mean only if you’re the same color as me, think like me, talk like me, or worship who or how I do. It means regardless of age, gender, race, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or religion – we all have the right to life, liberty and happiness. Guilt does not follow race. All Arab-Americans are not Muslim extremists; being Arab-American simply means their family came from a certain part of the world. All Asian-Americans are not all like Kim Il-sung; Asian-Americans come from countries like China, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore and they are not all the same. All African-Americans are not guilty of the genocide seen in places like Rwanda and Kenya.

If we were all guilty of the sins of our race, then what am I — a Caucasian high school sophomore from Palmer, Alaska — guilty of? Am I guilty of stealing land from their Native owners? Am I guilty of enslaving Africans? Am I guilty of the slaughter of entire races of people? Am I guilty of imprisoning Chinese and Japanese in American interment camps?

As a Causation high school girl, it’s easy to forget things like in America you wear a color — often called black, or white, or yellow, or red, or brown. We do not pick our name or race — we’re not chameleons who can change color at will, it’s how we’re born and raised. Being African-American, or Latino, or Asian-American, or Native American, or Alaska Native, or Arab-American is not a crime. Being Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic is not a crime. Wearing a burqa on your head, or glasses on your face, or studying all views of the world and seeing the flaws of all governments is not a crime.

Sometimes I think of a place where all of our languages are mashed together, singing of our own multi-heritage pride; the pride of a truly unified America. A place where we can be proud of our accents because this is how American English sounds, too. A place where there is no more White Power! or Black Power! Where it’s American Power! Or better yet, where it’s Human Power! A place that proudly conjures images of colonists throwing tea into a harbor, Martin Luther King Jr. standing on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, and immigrants working hard to achieve their American dream all at the same time. We are the story of our culture and colors and I’d like us all to take pride in it.

If ignorance and intolerance and bigotry is our past, then Waverli Rainey and those young people like her are surely our future. And we’re going to be OK.

To read the entire article in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, and leave a note of support for Waverli, click HERE.

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More on Alaska’s ‘Puzzling’ Election Results.

8 11 2008

The Anchorage Daily News has now gotten on the bandwagon casting a critical eye on Alaska’s “puzzling” voter turnout.

Did a huge chunk of Alaska voters really stay home for what was likely the most exciting election in a generation?

That’s what turnout numbers are suggesting, though absentee ballots are still arriving in the mail and, if coming from overseas, have until Nov. 19 to straggle in.

The reported turnout has prompted commentary in the progressive blogosphere questioning the validity of the results. And Anchorage pollster Ivan Moore, who usually works with Democrats, said Friday that “something smells fishy,” though he said it was premature to suggest that the conduct of the election itself was suspect.

With 81,000 uncounted absentee and questioned ballots, some of which will be disqualified, the total vote cast so far is 305,281 — 8,311 fewer than the last presidential election of 2004, which saw the largest turnout in Alaska history. That was the election where Alaska’s selection of George Bush for a second term was a foregone conclusion, though there was an unusually hot Senate race between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Gov. Tony Knowles.

Four years later, the lead-in for the 2008 election was extraordinary:

• Unheard of participation in the Democratic caucuses and strong Republican interest in theirs as well.

• A huge registration drive by Democrats and supporters of Barack Obama that enrolled thousands of first-time voters.

• Obama’s historic candidacy.

• Gov. Sarah Palin’s unprecedented bid for vice president as an Alaskan and a woman.

• A race in which Republican Ted Stevens, a 40-year Senate veteran, was facing voters as a recent convicted felon against Anchorage’s popular mayor, Mark Begich, a Democrat.

• A Congressional race in which Republican Don Young, in office almost as long as Stevens, was seeking re-election after a year in which he spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending against an FBI investigation of corruption involving the oil-field services company Veco Corp. Young’s opponent, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, had been filmed on the state House floor in 2006 demanding an end to Veco’s corrupt practices weeks before the FBI investigation became known. The news clip played over and over as legislators and then Stevens were indicted and convicted, boosting Berkowitz’s status.

 

 

The full article, including reactions from pollsters, the Democratic and Republican parties, the Division of Elections, and progressive blogger, Shannyn Moore.

The fact that this is on the radar of all those mentioned above is a very good thing.  After the last eight years, it’s become more and more difficult for those ‘puzzling’ election anomalies to slip under the radar.  Mark Begich himself set up a legal team to monitor the vote counting to make sure every vote is counted.

So on it goes.  The election in Alaska is not over yet.

 

 





So, What’s Next for Sarah Palin?

5 11 2008

palin-183

Sarah Palin has taken the collective soul of national politics, divided and conquered. In eight short weeks, a political unknown from Alaska went from hockey mom Governor, to national megastar, and finally came to rest with the simultaneous titles of “Conservative Rising Star” and “Most Feared Woman in America”. It’s been quite a ride.

Alaskans are sitting here wondering exactly what will happen. A political hush has fallen on the land. There’s been a lot happening up here while our Governor was whisked away to tour the nation, soak up the limelight in front of cheering crowds, and get a taste of political life outside her borders. She was confident, she told us. Confident in her readiness. She was wired for the mission. And no one who was paying attention would argue that point.

But, what IS the mission? When Palin was asked, months before her selection as the VP running mate for John McCain, if she was interested in the position, she came back with her now famous quote, “I’d have to know what it is that the VP does every day.” But, she then went on to say that she would need to know that the position would be “fruitful, especially for Alaska.” She finished up the interview by saying, “This job is pretty cool too.” That made Alaskans feel good. It made us feel like our Governor was special enough to be considered for a spot on the presidential ticket, but wans’t interested in all that. She was thinking of us first, and her commitment to the people of Alaska.

Then a strange transformation began to happen before our eyes. After the surprise nomination, and the subsequent campaigning, our hometown girl started acting differently. Maybe it was the crowds, maybe it was the taste of power, maybe it was Neiman Marcus. But suddenly here was our governor talking about expanding the powers of the Vice President, dropping tens of thousands of dollars in other people’s money on fancy clothes, smearing local politicians and public servants back home, and dropping hints that she’s entered the national scene and may not want to leave, at least for the long term. That was a lot to take for many Alaskans.

We sort of feel like the high school sweetheart whose steady girlfriend went off to the big city and found somebody better, somebody more worldly, somebody with more money, and dropped us like a hot potato. Only now he broke up with her, and she’s on her way back. Awkward.

It remains to be seen if Alaska, the jilted boyfriend will take Sarah back. There are lots of fences to be mended, and relationship counseling in our future. While there are many Sarah fans who will welcome her back with open arms, there are many who have turned their back, and others who feel downright vengeful. It will be a tangled knot to untie.

The Alaska Legislature upon whose bipartisan support Palin depended to actually accomplish things is now fractured. She never had solid Republican support, and depended heavily on friendly Democrats…friendly Democrats that she didn’t think twice about throwing under the bus during the Troopergate investigation. Keep in mind that when I refer to “the Troopergate investigation”, I mean the real one, conducted by the Alaska State Legislature. I don’t mean the one that Palin instigated herself, to investigate herself, to clear herself which was conducted by a 3-person board, appointed by the governor, that reports to Palin herself. Just so we’re clear on that point.

Chances are, too, that the very engaged, very motivated Obama supporters in Alaska were not too pleased with our Governor as she whipped crowds across the nation into a froth about their candidate “palling around with terrorists (plural),” resulting in shouts of “Kill him” and “Terrorist”. We now learn that Palin decided to bring Bill Ayers into the picture without clearing it with the McCain campaign, and that the Secret Service reported an upsurge in threats against the President Elect and his family right around the time that Palin began amping up the divisive rhetoric.

And don’t forget, Palin asked for Republican Senator, and Alaska political icon Ted Stevens to step down after his seven felony convictions for failure to disclose gifts on his Senate disclosure forms. This may seem like an eminently rational thing to do, but remember that Stevens is currently out front in this hotly debated Senate race. The results are so close, we won’t know for two weeks whether Alaskans have indeed elected an 84-year old convicted felon to the U.S. senate. But about half of Alaskans like him enough, despite that fact, to vote for him anyway. This is Stevens country, and Uncle Ted’s troops will be looking at Palin with a critical eye when she pops back into our lives, after shoving him on to the ice floe in front of the nation.

This is the new Sarah Palin, who went from an approval rating hovering at 90% after her election, to inspiring the largest political rally in the history of Alaska – not a rally to congratulate her, but a rally to demand that she come clean with her promise of “open, honest, and transparent” government. And then there was the second-biggest political rally – Alaska Women Reject Palin. And the third biggest – Alaskans for Obama. Any way you look at it, there is now a rabid, engaged group of considerable size that opposes Palin with every fiber of their being, where there used to be none at all.

But, this is also the same Palin who got a hundred or so supporters to line the streets in Wasilla before daybreak to wave signs as her motorcade passed on the way to the airport to join John McCain after she voted in Wasilla on the morning of the 4th. And this is the same Sarah Palin on the presidential ticket that won the state of Alaska handily, despite the amazing organization of the opposition.

Palin has sliced her state down the middle and polarized her constituents in a way that I would not have imagined possible just a few months ago. The majority of Alaskans still support her, but her negative ratings have soared as Alaskans and the rest of the country have gotten to know her, and her political life will not be the cake walk it once was. And there are many investigations, and skeletons in the closet that are just beginning to emerge.

As for her future aspirations? She refuses to give a clear cut answer about 2012, saying that “Oh, you know, it seems like so far.” But Palin has tipped her hand as a political opportunist, and as one who has tasted power, celebrity and adoring crowds, and she likes what she sees. How will she handle going back to li’l old Wasilla? It’s anyone’s guess.

Her next opportunity to move upward on the national politial scene comes if Ted Stevens is elected, and subsequently expelled by the Senate. She is not able to appoint herself or anyone else to the seat, but she is eligible to run for that seat in a special election. Failing that, the next window of opportunity comes in 2010, when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is up for re-election, as is Republican Congressman Don Young. It is also the year she would run for her next term as Governor. There are many options, but there is a lot of ground to cover between now and then.

Has she so damaged herself politically in the state, that she will become an ineffective Governor, and one-term wonder? Has her foray into national politics captured the imagination of the people so much that they will want to see her back in DC, perhaps making her own presidential bid? Has the national Christian Conservative base found their dream girl? Or has the country, perhaps, in its landslide election of President Elect Obama shown itself to have evolved beyond the culture wars, and to have transcended the divisive politics of the past which Palin has now come to symbolize for so many.

It may be that Palin has found her national niche, but that this niche, with the help of a two-term Bush presidency and a weary nation, has proven too narrow to wield any actual power in turning a national election. Whatever the outcome, there is no question that Sarah Palin has been let out of the box.





Sarah the ‘Fiscal Conservative’ Comes Out of the Closet.

5 11 2008

‘If people knew how frugal we are,’ said Sarah Palin. She told Fox News that her ‘favorite’ store is an Anchorage consignment shop called Out of the Closet. That was how she defended herself from the accusations of an over-the-top shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and other high-end clothing stores.

An article coming out in Newsweek tomorrow has more information from behind the scenes. According to the article, Palin spent far more on her family’s wardrobe than the originally reported amount of $150,000 that was reported last month.

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin’s shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain’s top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family — clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent ‘tens of thousands’ more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide … said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.”

Newsweek reports that McCain rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were “sure he would be offended.”

An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast,” and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

While already being labeled as a “drag” on the McCain campaign, Palin may end up being her own worst enemy. She’s back home in Alaska now, and her antics on the campaign trail of this supposed ‘fiscal conservative’ will follow her. Not merely an obscure Alaskan politician who will fade into the woodwork, Palin’s unlikely celebrity will continue to fuel her coverage in the media over the coming months.

Expect Palin’s wardrobe, and other evidence of her fondness for suspect spending to come out of the closet. Pass the popcorn, and put it on my tab!

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Push-Poll to Nowhere. GOP Starts to Panic About Alaska!

3 11 2008

We’ve had an interesting new development here in the Last Frontier, as we approach election day. A few days ago, I found out that a rash of robocalls and push-polls were going out in the state of Alaska. When I heard about this, I was irritated for the same reason that other progressives are irritated at this tactic – spurious accusations of Obama being a terrorist sympathizer, a socialist, a Marxist, an elitist, and someone with blatant anti-plumber tax policies. All nonsense, but some people actually listen to nonsense.

Then the bigger picture hit me like a ton of bricks. Why on Earth would the Republican National Committee, or any Republican group have to robocall and push-poll Alaskans about the presidential race!? With only slightly more than hours to go, surely they have better things to do than preach to the choir.

Well, apparently, the choir has stopped singing. They’re kind of standing around, staring at the hymnal and looking at each other thinking, “Do we really want to sing this?”

The fact that the Republicans are robocalling Alaskans means they are worried. They may or may not be worried about actually losing the presidential race in the state, but they are worried about the margin of victory. At this point, it’s all about saving face for the party, and for Sarah Palin. Yes, the Sarah Palin who said that robocalls were “annoying”.

So, where are these calls happening? Ted Stevens’ neighbors in the sleepy chalet-filled hamlet of Girdwood, have been getting them. Summarized by one one Girdwood resident, the call reiterated Stevens’ assertion that he is not a crook, and threw in a few fun facts about how Barack Obama is a “terrorist who will run this country into the ground.”

But my favorite was a push-poll to Ketchikan. Ketchikan is the infamous “Nowhere, Alaska,” where that bridge was supposed to go. And yes, Ketchikan residents are rightfully miffed that they got labeled with that nickname, and then got thrown under the bus so Sarah Palin could have a talking point. You can hear the real story of the bridge from Bob Weinstein, mayor of Ketchikan, when he spoke to Rachel Maddow way back on September 2nd.

Back to the push-poll.

One resident of Ketchikan was the recipient of a fairly sophisticated interactive push-poll from americansincontact.org. After identifying himself as an Obama supporter, there were two main pushes. First, Obama’s association with, and acceptance of funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Would it make a difference “if you knew that?”

Second, “If you knew Obama supported the biggest tax increase in history, averaging more than $2000 for an average family, would that make a difference?”

This is the standard leading misinformation we have come to expect. So, why do I love this call? The Obama supporter they called was the aforementioned mayor of Ketchikan himself, Bob Weinstein!

(A big hat-tip to Mayor Weinstein for bringing this to my attention, and a shout out to all the wonderful Mudflatters in Ketchikan!)

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