Saturday :: Sep 13, 2008

"America’s socialist state"


by Mary

Just out, a piece by Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker about Alaska, Sarah Palin's state. Philip had traveled to Alaska to find out about how Alaska was coping with the scandals surrounding their senior senator and he conducted some interviews with Sarah Palin in the months leading up to her selection as McCain's running mate.

The blizzard of words that we've seen in the interviews with Charlie Gibson are a trait that Gourevitch noticed in his interviews.

Palin, who studied journalism in college and worked for a time as a sportscaster, has an informal manner of speech, simultaneously chatty and urgent, and she reinforces her words with winks and nods and wrinklings of her nose that seem meant to telegraph intimacy and ease. Speaking recently at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, she said, “It was so cool growing up in this church and getting saved here, getting baptized by Pastor Riley in Little Beaver Lake Camp, freezing-cold summer days that we had at camp—my whole family getting baptized when we were little.” She sounded the same when we met, high-spirited, irrepressible, and not in the least self-conscious. On the contrary, she is supremely self-confident, in the way of someone who believes that there is nothing she can’t talk her way into, or out of, or around or through. There was never a hesitation before speaking, or between phrases, no time for thought or reflection. The words kept coming—engaging, lulling, distracting—a commanding flow, but without weight. Yet, for all the cozy colloquialism, she cannot be called relaxed. She’s on—full on.

One of the things he has been delving into is what happens with Alaska when it no longer has Ted Stevens to bring home the bacon. Here's Sarah's perspective, again before she became a McCain maverick.

As she talked about her hopes for Alaska, she often seemed to skip from slogan to slogan without ever touching solid ground. I mentioned at one point that I had met several Alaskans who described the state’s relationship to Washington as that of a colony—rich in resources, governed from afar, and dependent on that distant power to sustain it—and I asked how the state could survive without the sort of federal appropriations that Ted Stevens had fought for relentlessly and that John McCain has made a cause of denouncing.

...Confronted with the choice between subsistence and subsidy, the Alaska patriot has traditionally favored the pragmatic compromise: subsidized subsistence.

Sarah Palin seemed to understand this. Earlier this year, she wrote in a newspaper column, “The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.” And, for all her talk of Alaska fending for itself, she told me, “There isn’t a need to aspire to live without any earmarks. The writing on the wall, though, is that times are changing. Presidential candidates have promised earmark reform, so we gotta deal with it, we gotta live with it, understanding that our senior senator, especially—he’s eighty-four years old, he is not gonna be able to serve in the Senate forever. We will not have that seniority back there anymore.” Suddenly she called out, “Alaskans, wake up!” Then she went on, “That means we have got to get ourselves in a position of seizing opportunities to develop and pay our own bills. ’Cause we’re not gonna see that largesse coming to our state as we had in all these years. Whether we like that or not or support that or not, that’s reality.”

She promotes a state which lives off its own resources, including those herds of moose and caribou. And that's why she doesn't like wolves: they steal food out of Alaskans' mouth.

She had just got through explaining why she opposed a ban on aerial wolf shooting. In the past decade or so, Alaska’s voters have twice rejected this practice—the chasing and gunning down of wolves from small planes—and on both occasions the state reauthorized it. Now the anti-wolf-shooting crowd had forced a third referendum on the issue, and Palin, who kept a pair of wolf pelts hanging on her office wall, behind a cradle swing for Trig, was keen to see the initiative fail.

“It’s not aerial hunting,” she claimed. “What the state has been engaged in for the past four to six years—and I support—is predator control.” Shoot the wolves, she said, and moose and caribou herds will increase, providing more food for Alaskans. That was the argument: “Let the people who live off those herds not buy and import meat.” In Alaska, a state that is equivalent in size to a fifth of the continental United States and doesn’t have much agriculture, such self-reliance—hunting or fishing to feed yourself and your family—is known as subsistence, and subsistence is widely held by Alaskans to be a fundamental right. “It’s an emotional issue,” Palin said.

Could Alaska survive if it was not for the dividends from the oil companies or the largess of the US taxpayers? It is a question that most Alaskans are not anxious to find out. Sarah Palin has been one of the strongest promoters of using Alaska for Alaskans and using Uncle Sam for funding the party. It seems like she was for earmarks before she was against them.

This is definitely a piece worth reading.

Mary :: 10:56 AM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!