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Someday this will stop…


Paul’s excellent piece on the President of Alaska hits on a few things that are worth keeping in mind, regardless of Palin’s affiliation or non-affiliation with the AIP.

Culturally- and ideologically-speaking, there is a certain type of Anglo-Alaskan who regards the rest of the United States — conventionally known, with a mixture of disdain and fear, as “Outside” or simply “South” — as a foreign land to be held at arm’s length. For social conservatives, Outside is a dangerous place, bloated with unwholesomeness; for libertarians, Outside is infested with bureaucrats and brownshirts who will confiscate your guns and fishing reels, tattoo your necks with barcodes, and swab your cheeks for DNA to be loaded into a database administered by the Federal Reserve, Illuminati, and the ZOG; and to populists (left and right), Outside is the Great Expropriator, the colonial overlord who permits non-Alaskan corporations to strip the mineral, timber, and piscine frontiers without fairly compensating those who live here.

It’s a bizarre stew, and its not altogether unlike the right-leaning counter-cultural chafing we might find anywhere in the trans-Mississippi West. But Alaska’s unique geography and history have nourished a political culture that’s clearly incomprehensible to most of the rest of the country, in part because it’s premised on the deeply conflicted view that the rest of the country is a predatory force to whom we must, however, appeal for our own economic survival. The Alaskan Independence Party, obviously, tries to resolve the contradiction through the science fiction fantasy of Alaskan self-sufficiency — a gesture that would make sense to your bog-standard adolescent or to men who sustain the market for inflatable sex dolls, but should be laughable to everyone else.

Other political figures — Ted Stevens and Don Young being the most emblematic — recognize and revel in the arrangement, justifying our dependence on federal largesse by insisting that Alaska’s politically youthful status entitles us to virtually endless developmental aid. Never having been in a state whose favorite son or daughter has been recruited onto the presidential ticket, I obviously have no basis for comparison. But since Palin’s nomination last week, her Alaskan supporters have been positively obsessed with the question of “How will this benefit Alaska?” Some have offered the inane rationale that an Alaskan in the White House will bring “respect” to the state. Others, realizing that both Don Young and Ted Stevens face possible defeat in November, are simply expecting that Vice President Palin would be able to keep the budgetary arteries open. No one, however, is making the case that a Palin Vice Presidency would be good for the United States, because that’s an argument that would be more or less alien to mainstream Alaskan politics. Even advocates of accelerated drilling know that it’s a ruse. More oil from Alaska will do nothing to drive down gas prices for the rest of the country, nor will it provide the United State with “energy independence.” It would, however, amount to a massive public works program for Alaska and will provide new sources of revenue for state government. And as an added bonus, it will remind the polar bears who is the boss of whom.

Now obviously, local and state institutions are provincial by their very nature; and obviously, local and state politics are interdependent with larger governmental structures, national and international in scope. But it’s safe to say that the circumstances of Alaskan politics are not conducive to the emergence of a broader national vision — the sort of thing you’d expect from, say, a person nominated as the vice presidential candidate of a major party. Truth be told, I actually don’t believe that Sarah Palin identifies with the extreme views of the Alaskan Independence Party, for the simple reason that her political career indicates that, all maverick pretensions aside, she seems perfectly comfortable with Alaska’s permanent, remoral attachment to the rest of the nation. In this way, she’s a pretty conventional Alaska Republican; if you happen to think this makes her an acceptable candidate for vice president, you’re being played for a sucker.

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