I usually steer clear of politics around here--not that I don't have an opinion or anything, those who know me know I've got nothing if not lots of opinions--but I'm not someone who thrives on conflict. But the dust and fury of November's election has settled and I've had a few asking my thoughts about how Alaska has played into the historic changes we're seeing.
This election has been like no other. First, to have a hometown presence on the national scene has been strange and I'm not sure we Alaskans have enjoyed the new public scrutiny. Sarah Palin has returned home rather bruised but still kicking, having shaken things up for better or for worse. I found her terribly interesting--sometimes I cringed, sometimes I rolled my eyes but I couldn't help but watch, waiting to see what would happen next.
Then add to that Barack Obama. I don't agree with Mr. Obama's plans for our country (at least the plans he outlined during his campaign--those might change once he takes office) but even that hasn't stopped my fascination for the man. If I had any criticism of Ms. Palin it would be that she simply is not a statesman. She is down to earth, she is intelligent, she is gutsy but she can't move your emotions the way Obama can. Every time I listen to him it doesn't particularly matter what he says (or if he says nothing cohesive at all) I'm awed by him, riveted by his charisma and poise.
As I watched the election I felt this strange conflict. While I agreed most closely with the McCain/Palin plan (notice I said most closely) I couldn't help but put myself in the shoes of millions of African Americans who seemed to look to Obama as proof that they really could finally and fully share in what it means to be an American. Listening to radio interviews while driving to pick up kids I heard it expressed several times by people saying, "All my life I've had people try to convince me that I could accomplish anything, that I could even be president, but that was never true until now."
While I disagree that race should be a factor in casting one's vote how could I not empathize? How would it feel to be a parent encouraging your children to do their best when history had continually proved that there were insurmountable limitations to their ambitions? Somehow Obama seemed to truly embody hope for so many who had felt detached from the "American Dream."
While I did cast my vote for the party I most agreed with I couldn't help but root for Obama when no one was looking. I may not agree with his plans and there are a couple things I question about him but I've admired the way the Obama family actually feels like a family and it seems to me he is a man who truly wants to do his best for the country.
So with one candidate a decorated war hero who offered everything to his country and with one who seemed on track with family values and hope for equality I wasn't exactly upset on November 5th to learn that my votes had gone to the losing team. You want to know what really was upsetting?
Contrasting the national scene, Alaska has been tucked away from the rest of the country and we've watched with a touch of wonder, a touch of self-righteousness that the problems plaguing other states haven't affected us, that somehow we've managed to keep ourselves above the grime and corruption down below. Then the FBI started arresting our state legislators.
And if that weren't enough soon we heard that our long-time senator Ted Stevens himself was under federal scrutiny. But an odd thing happened: yard signs advertising for Stevens' upcoming senate campaign started popping up in little defiant jabs as if to say "We don't believe he could do anything wrong. We won't believe it and we're voting for Uncle Ted anyway!"
The months progressed with his case looking blacker and blacker until if you asked someone about their opinion you most often heard, "Well I'll have to wait until the trial." Which is to say, "Darn it he looks guilty but I really really really REALLY don't want to vote for anyone else so I'm going to hold out until he's actually convicted before making up my mind that he could possibly be guilty."
This all was rather irritating. I'm a strong Republican but I don't care how "Republican" an official is if they're doing something underhanded I'm not going to vote for them. Yes I'm well aware of "innocent until proven guilty" but the reality is that because Stevens has been in power for so long and has so much seniority he's been able to bring home a lot of bacon for Alaska--really a staggering amount--and people were loathe to give all that up.
In essence, the very same thing the government was accusing Stevens of doing we Alaskans were guilty of as well. If Stevens taking money and favors from oil companies was a crime then what would you call a whole state full of people who were willing to vote for someone merely because he gave them money? Stevens was buying our votes just as surely as VECO was buying his.
The whole thing made me pretty squeamish. I hoped that the trial in true Hollywood fashion would uncover The Truth and find that it was all a horrible misunderstanding and that this 85 year-old man who'd been so kind as to write my sister a personal letter of condolence when her son died would be exonerated. And just as Hollywood would have wanted Stevens took the stand in his own defense but it was all for nothing. He came off as a belligerent old man and was convicted.
The worst part is, did that stop people from voting for him? Nope. Even as a felon Stevens still managed to pull in so much of the vote that the election lingered for weeks for every absentee vote to be counted. In the end he lost by a mere 1500 votes and his supporters screamed about liberal conspiracies and tainted juries and unfair trials until I felt sick.
I'm not sure which is more disappointing to me--that half of my fellow Alaskans would vote for a man convicted of taking money and favors so he can continue to line their own pockets with federal cash or that the Republican party of Alaska was so enamored of Senator Stevens that they refused to plan for his possible conviction by presenting us with any other legitimate voting options (I wouldn't vote for "Vic" Vickers for hall monitor) or that Senator Stevens was arrogant enough to think having our senator on trial (let alone convicted) was the best thing for the state of Alaska, upheld the dignity of the office or did anything but tarnish our state's reputation. Obviously he was more interested in hanging onto his power and pride than considering the best interest of his constituents.
So now not only does Alaska have the distinction of being the state that sent Sarah Palin on a run for the White House during one of the most historic elections in our nation's history but also having one of our senators serving as a felon. I don't care if Stevens serves jail time, I don't care if they rename Ted Stevens International Airport, I don't care who replaces him I just want him and his scandal to go away so our state can get back to minding its own business and hiding out from the rest of the country.
Congratulations to Amy at Experience Imagination for winning the Patrick Dempsey giveaway--and no, she didn't win him, she won a bottle of Unscripted along with a sample of Avon's new jewelry collection. Congratulations also to Connie from ANCHORAGE, ALASKA! Woo hoo! First Anchorage winner I've ever had I think. She's won the mom-and-me aprons from Rick Rack Attack and the bowl from Baby Dipper.
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