Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Parting Word on Palin, Pork and Alaskan Politics

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.

Sponsored by Tiny Prints--The place for the perfect holiday invitations.

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Kathryn said...

It's fun to hear your opinions! I think the reason a lot of people voted for Stevens is because when he ends up in jail, Gov. Palin gets to put in another Republican or something. (I'm not sure if that's really how it works.) Seriously though, he's 85. What's wrong with a graceful retirement? I think he should have stepped down and let someone else run. (Although I do like Begich and I think he'll do a good job.)

a Tonggu Momma said...

As a momma to a child of color, I have to agree with all you said regarding the American Dream. Life forever changed for my daughter the day the US elected Barack Obama.

Leigh said...

I like hearing your opinions, too. I feel the same way about Obama - while I voted for the other guys, I was/am fascinated by him and can't wait to see what the future holds.

Anon said...

The honesty of your post is inspiring! Thanks for writing.
Thought provoking to read as we poise for change.

Melissa said...

I like it when you write about politics. I am tired of what the media has to say, but your entries are another story.

Annette Lyon said...

I didn't give the race thing that much credence until I saw images of men who'd marched with Martin Luthy King, Junior opening weeping as they watched Obama's acceptance speech. Then I thought, WOW--this really does mean something big.

The Quiet One said...

I'm so glad you shared this. It actually made me interested in politics again because the media had really turned me off for a while there. You may have even given me courage to share a little something of my own. Thanks! :o)

Tracey said...

I had been wondering how you felt about all this. I would probably feel the same (and did about the Presidential race). Thanks for sharing! ~:-)

Carinne said...

I agree with you on Obama. But, I disagree about Stevens. I voted for him on the chance he was innocent he'd be elected and if not then there would be a new election. I don't want Begich at all. I think he'll work hard, but that's it. But, I still am not convinced that Stevens is guilty. His trial has been a total joke! Have you really followed it? The proscution was accused of hiding evidence and of misconduct on more than one occasion. A jury member disappeared and lied to the court. A key witness has admitted to lying under oath and now saying that his lynch-pin testimony was a lie and was given because he was threatened. The other thing is that he was never accused of taking bribes. There has never been any suggestion or proof that he sold his votes. He's just accused of not reporting gifts from VECO. They've never said that those led to any changes in his votes, nor has there been any evidence that SUGGESTED that his votes were bought. My feeling is that after 40 years in the office and a huge federal investigation, if this is the best they can come up with, then that's tells me that he;s been pretty honest. I don't know if he intentionally didn't pay for his home remodel or not. BUt, I don't think he's a "corrupt" senator. For goodness sake, CLinton admitted to being dishonest and slimy with his whole Monica thing and that was swept under the rug, yet Stevens is being strung up by mobs. I just look at it and say at best he's been completely framed and this is a whole big misunderstanding. At worst, he made a bad, dishonest decision that's not even a felony. Why should one mistake cost him everything? He's being lumped in with the likes of Blagoevich and that's not only wrong, but a shame on all the great things he has done.

Pmom@chocolateandgarlic.com said...

I'm another reader who appreciates you sharing your thoughts on politics. There has to be a place for civil discourse in a democracy or there is no hope for changing our minds when we're in error. Your writing certainly belongs in the "civil discourse" tradition. Careful thoughts, well expressed and respectfully offered, are what we need more of in this country.

Your thoughts on Palin influenced me during the election. I ended up not voting for that ticket in the end, but what you had said was certainly something I considered. Thank you.

Grafxgurl said...

i agree with you about Obama. i dont agree with his plans but i dont think he has got it right.

and WHAT family values??? he stands for Abortion. and that in my book is evil.

If he is so strong about a
"woman's right to choice" he needs to know that a woman choosing to kill her child is wrong wrong wrong.

these days they call a baby a "fetus" so giving it a medical name somehow changes the fact that its ALIVE.

i dont have anything against him, but if he stands for something wrong, then im NOT on his side. And im a minority too.. im Indian , but that doesnt mean im going to vote for him JUST because he is the first African American to run for Prez!!

SuperWife said...

Michelle- you articulated that all SO well, it was absolutely refreshing to read. I'm a democrat, and I felt like through this whole election, things got so pushed to the far right and far left that there seemed to be nobody in the middle anymore. At least not anyone who could see both sides. I get so frustrated that people I know (my family, most often) still are stuck on all the crazy conspiracy theories and wont give the man a chance to do right by our country (which I have no doubts that he will).

and to GrfxGurl- just because YOU think something is 'evil' does not mean the entire country, or world for that matter, agree with you. your morals are YOURS, nobody is Trying to take them from you. You, however, need to not pass judgment or try to impose YOUR morals on others.

Hairline Fracture said...

I enjoyed reading your opinions--you explained them so well and it was interesting to hear about Palin from an Alaskan's point of view.

It sounds like we have similar political beliefs--I'm pretty conservative, and I disagree with Obama's plans, but I did feel glad that a man of color has been elected because it was past time for that barrier to come down.

Amanda P. said...

I always enjoy hearing your opinions, Michelle. You're such a talented, articulate writer.

Randy and Ally said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hadn't heard much about the whole Alaskan senate scandal (what with the feedings every three hours and the millions of diaper changings, I have been a little out of the loop for the past little while) but it is intriguing to me to hear about the local reaction. It will be interesting to see what changes the new administration heralds into the White House. There was a really good John Stossel 20/20 report I watched on YouTube while on bedrest during the election that took on the concept that people idealize what leaders can do for them, especially in election campaigns--the kind of hero worship and belief that the elected official can change everything. If you are ever bored you should check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r3y0ikLPLc

Motherhood for Dummies said...

I have to admit that I agree with Carinne. People are going crazy with the Ted Stevens when the whole investigations/trail has been silly. Even if he did do what they say... it isn't even a falony and after 40 years of work he has put in for Alaskas, I think I can get over a mistake. But mainly I really REALLY didnt want Begich in... not because he is a democrate... I really don't care about that.

I am definently interested to see how Obama is goign to do though. It will be interesting to see how a President does when his people people in him and have his senate & house supporting him unlike other president we have had.

Scribbit said...

I can understand those who want to support Stevens because of his record for public service but there are a couple of things that don't sit well.

First, don't think that he didn't know what he was doing was wrong. Yes I did follow the trial pretty closely and the evidence was overwhelmingly against him. The jurors lying had nothing to do with the evidence (which is why there was no mistrial declared).

And then to claim that he wasn't "convicted" was so over-the-top arrogant that I couldn't believe it. I don't know what else would have had to happen for him to consider himself convicted.

If he is so innocent and just made a mistake why hasn't he said anything in the way of an apology? The citizens of Alaska have paid his salary for 40 years, he lets us down and nothing. Not a word. Apparently it's because he thinks he wasn't convicted, thinks he wasn't wrong and is angry that anyone would dare to attack him.

Just the qualities we need in leadership. I'm sorry but regardless of how bad you think he messed up, he did mess up and his attitude just shows his entitlement mentality that is so dangerous in politicians. No remorse, no humility. Shows he should have left Washington years ago.

And if one doesn't object to Begich because he's a Democrat then why is it?

And liberal or conservative to me the number one quality I need in a public servant is honesty. Stevens wasn't.

Naomi said...

Really a great post, thanks. I suspect our politics might not be in line but how great is it to hear someone say that we should think for ourselves instead of towing the party line?! No kidding, people.

Deanna said...

I also appreciate your political discourse. Would give more of an opinion, but basically it's "what Carinne said". Until the day before the election I was ready to vote for Bob Bird. Two things changed my mind:

Irritation that this was happening over a 250K addition at the same time that corporate heads were getting away with multiplied millions. And I became convinced that the trial was a farce. I don't think he should lose office over a kangaroo court.

Not wanting to see the seat to go to a liberal Dem.

Thanks again for your two cents. On another topic: Have you ever considered taking a day off?

Anonymous said...

Great post. And how in the world is Grafxgurl's post trying to "impose" her morals on others. You can't HAVE morals and stick by them in this country anymore without the liberals calling you intolerant. You have to be wishy washy (It's not for me, but okay for others). Good for you, Grafxgurl.

AlaneM said...

I feel the same about the election - I too voted for the party who 'most' closely fit my convictions but was not disapointed in the final results. I wholeheartedly do not agree with the many conservatives that seem to think this is the end of our great country - so not true!
And it's interesting to hear your take on Palin & Stephens - we all hear the same news reports but we don't often get the views of someone who lives in the state.
Thanks for sharing!!

thediaperdiaries said...

I like it when you talk politics. Partly because I agree with you, but also because you put forth an intelligent well thought out discussion not just some regurgitated post full of sound bites. Politics needs a whole lot more of that.

Sonja said...

Amen to diaper diaries! I couldn't have said it better.

Good job, Scribbit!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have really been curious to hear your political opinions ... thanks for being brave and sharing them :) !!

Anonymous said...

It was great to read your opinion. I agree with everything you said but have been to nervous to share my thoughts on the whole Stevens trial w/anyone, including my husband. Thanks again for your thoughts. (See you Christmas Eve)

alperen said...


Inkling said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. It's nice to hear it from someone other than the usual media talking heads.

My husband and I just watched a film on the Pebble Mine mess that was included in the Banff Film Festival Tour this year. It was actually quite moving, and made me want to come up and protect your rivers and salmon. But what was really interesting was to hear the reaction to Sarah Palin's voice announcing fishing season. Here I was an American in Canada, and their reaction was anything but tame. It was kind of surprising and rather surreal to think that American politics ended up being such a big thing here - to the point it eclipsed Canadian elections held just weeks before. It was also interesting that Sarah Palin would have become such a spark plug (that's not quite the word I'm looking for, but my brain seems frozen at the moment) across the board.

calicobebop said...

I enjoyed reading this post because it outlines several points that I have thought about but unable to express. I wish more people were able to think objectively about politics. Thanks for sharing your view!

Karen Olson said...

I suppose I'll be the oil in the water, but I just don't know what it is about Obama's "plans" that you disagree with. Affordable health care and education? A tax cut for the middle class? He's a lot more centrist than the media made him out to be, and I think his picks for his administration are showing that. As for Roe v. Wade, choice is the law. Grafxgurl chooses not to have an abortion, and that's her right. But she has a choice. And while I am pro-choice, that's not the same as being pro-abortion. No one I know is pro-abortion; it's an incredibly difficult decision to make and women who do have abortions live with that the rest of their lives. It's not done lightly. But as women we must have the right to choose, just as Sarah Palin's daughter chose to have her baby. Why would you want to take that choice away from your own daughter?

Anonymous said...

Because I don't want my grandchild murdered.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

You Alaskans have had quite a year, haven't you? I'm sure the glare of the limelight got to be a little bit much at times. Maybe we'll all leave you alone now for a bit.