The Last Frontier
The New York Times featured a piece this morning asking various people what questions they would ask the VP candidates.
This is something only an Alaskan can say without being accused of being an elitist by Republicans:
Governor Palin, as we both know, Alaskans are a special breed. I grew up in Fairbanks, a few hundred miles north of Wasilla. I was proud to live on the frontier, far from civilization. Like many Alaskans, I lived in a log house on a dirt road, with no city water, sewer system or trash collection. We didn’t get much from our government, and we didn’t want much.
I love my frontier state, but the first thing I learned when I moved to the Lower 48 was how unlike the rest of the country Alaska is. How would you govern America when as mayor and governor, you hardly had to provide basic public services? In Wasilla, less than a tenth of the town is connected to the sewer system.
Alaska’s economy runs on oil proceeds — we don’t even pay income tax. And despite our disdain for Washington, we are given hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government each year. How would you handle our financial crisis when you’ve never had to balance a budget while tax revenue fell?
— RACHEL KLEINFELD, the executive director of the Truman National Security Project. Read more from Ms. Kleinfeld on the Campaign Stops blog.
Now, it's true that a lot of federal money goes to Alaska for "defense" and a lot of it goes for native Americans and to support a population that is isolated and out of the mainstream. As a good liberal, I don't actually think there's anything wrong with federal largesse to create jobs and support populations where there aren't a lot of opportunities. (The Bridge to Nowhere type projects were a disgrace because they gave a lot of money to rich friends of Ted Stevens, for very few jobs or long term benefit.)
But, what this writer says is absolutely true. I also lived in Fairbanks for many years and as I wrote on the day Palin was nominated, it's not just like a foreign country, it's like a foreign planet. And they have the weirdest amalgam of libertarian/socialist politics anywhere in the world. Alaska is not like the rest of the country and being a politician there does not prepare one for national leadership. It's not to say that combined with other experiences (as fine Alaskan politicians like Tony Knowles or Nick Begich have) that you couldn't be prepared, but Palin is so limited that she literally knows nothing else.
Alaska is a great and beautiful place with some of the most interesting and intelligent people I've met anywhere in the world. I'm married to an Alaskan and many of my closest friends still today are Alaskans. For every two wingnut weirdos, there is one incredible environmentalist nature lover or poet or liberal individualist who has chosen to live an authentic and vibrant life outside the suburban or urban hustle and flow.
But Sarah Palin isn't one of them, even though she fooled a fair number of them by blindly stumbling into some popular political decisions when the Republican political establishment in the state crashed in a corruption scandal. Many of them have been as appalled by her ignorance as the rest of the country. And any one of them would be more qualified to be Vice President than she is.