Tag Archives: Alaska Democrats

Tea Party Hysteria Rooted in Racism

Tea Partiers & Birthers continue to claim their movement is not based on racism.

Tea Partiers & Birthers continue to claim their Tea Party movement is not based on racism, dispute all the evidence to the contrary.

I was going to open this piece with an analogy about the tea party groups and why they’re treated seriously by the press and the Republicans. The analogy would go something like: “Imagine [insert left-wing activist group here] getting a serious profile in a mainstream newspaper, and imagine serious Democratic politicians appearing at their convention.”

The problem is, when I really evaluated what the various far-left activist groups are all about and compared them with the tea party movement, there really wasn’t any equivalency. At all.

Because when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that’s left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there’s no comparative group on the left that’s similarly motivated by bigotry, ignorance and racial hatred.

I hasten to note that I’m taking about real racism, insofar as it’s impossible for the majority race — the 70 percent white majority — to be on the receiving end of racism. That is unless white males, for example, are suddenly an oppressed racial demographic. But judging by the racial composition of, say, the Senate or AM talk radio or the cast members playing the Obamas on SNL, I don’t think white people have anything to worry about.

This isn’t an epiphany by any stretch. From the beginning, with their witch doctor imagery, watermelon agitprop and Curious George effigies, the wingnut right has been dying to blurt out, as Lee Atwater famously said, “nigger, nigger, nigger!”

But they can’t.

Strike that. Correction. TeaParty.org founder Dale Robertson brandished a sign with the (misspelled) word “niggar.” So they’re not even as restrained as the generally unstrung Atwater anymore.

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In Alaska, Exposure Changes Palin Image for Good & Bad

Palins image has changed, for better and worse, in the six weeks since she joined the McCain ticket.

Palin's image has changed, for better and worse, in the six weeks since she joined the McCain Republican presidential ticket.

Journalist Sean Cockerham, reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, looks ahead at Governor Sarah Palin’s political future after the presidential election, both in Alaska and on a national level.  Following her polarizing, negative campaign for the vice-presidency, Gov. Palin will be faced with a much more aggressive Alaska Legislature that will no longer be intimidated by her or the tactics of her financial backers.

Over the past six weeks, Sarah Palin has morphed on the national campaign trail from bipartisan small state governor to a conservative lightning rod. Even if she doesn’t win the vice presidency, her political career will never be the same.

Palin has always attracted controversy, but she is now a far more polarizing figure, both in Alaska as well as nationally, than before her nomination. If she returns, the Republican governor will face former Democratic allies furious at her campaign attacks. She will also face lawmakers from both parties ticked off at her handling of the so-called Troopergate investigation and her recent false assertions that the investigator’s report cleared her, according to interviews with a number of lawmakers and others who watch Alaska politics.

“We’ve seen her do and say things that are shocking to us, so it’s going to be different, to put it mildly,” said Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula, the House minority leader. “We have a whole different way of looking at her.”

But Palin would also return as a national figure who excited huge crowds across the nation and is already being described as a potential presidential candidate four years from now. She continues to enjoy high approval ratings among Alaskans, and she would come back a seasoned campaigner with new political chops.

“The main thing is, if she comes back as governor and McCain didn’t win, I do not think she’ll be blamed for it all. She won’t come back as a loser,” said Anchorage political consultant and pollster Dave Dittman. “She’d come back, I think as a winner, or as a person who if McCain had paid more attention to her or followed her lead could have been successful. I think she’d come back strong.”

The McCain-Palin campaign is down in the polls, but nearly three weeks remain until election day. In the meantime, her unexpected rise to the national stage and her new political persona has Alaskans speculating about what happens if she doesn’t win and comes back as governor.

“It’s a question on everybody’s mind,” said Mike Hawker, a Republican state representative from Anchorage.

Gregg Erickson, former publisher of a publication on state government who has watched Alaska politics for decades, predicted a rougher road for Palin than in the past.

“I think things will be very, very different for her if she comes back,” Erickson said. “She’s done some things as vice-presidential candidate that are not favorable for her role as governor, her ability to govern.”

Dittman agreed that a returning Palin would face a more aggressive Legislature than before her turn on the national stage, one that probably wouldn’t be as intimidated by her as before.

Palin has always been much more popular with the public than with legislators. Back when pollsters measured her approval rating among Alaskans in the 80 percent range, it was tough for legislators to resist her. Her Alaska approval ratings have dropped since her nomination to as low as 62 percent, at least according to some pollsters. That’s still an enviable approval rating.

The strength of the opposition, Erickson said, would depend on whether she slid any more after the election was over.

A NEW PALIN?

Palin foes and allies agree she’s likely to seek another national office if she doesn’t win the vice presidency. While she has been ridiculed by some, she has a devoted base of supporters and there’s speculation a U.S. Senate run could be in her future, or even a presidential bid the next time the Republican nomination comes open.

North Pole Republican state Rep. John Coghill said if Palin returns to Alaska as governor, there will always be the question of whether her decisions are being made for the good of the state or to position herself for national office.

“If she comes back then she’s going to have to be very clear of what her motives are in her decisions,” Coghill said.

Coghill said, overall, he’d expect a returning Palin to be more experienced and a little savvier. He said Palin would have national horsepower that she could use to advance Alaska’s interests. He said it would put Alaska in a “nice, favored position.”

But Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton suggested in his newsletter this week that Palin’s broadside about Barack Obama “palling around with terrorists” and other one-liners from rallies have potential blowback for Alaska if Obama is elected and Palin has to work with the Democratic administration.

It’s clear that Palin’s relationship with Alaska Democrats is in deep freeze. That’s a turnaround from pre-nomination days, when Palin’s fiercest critics in the Legislature were Republicans and she relied on Democrats to get through her two biggest bills — a tax increase on oil companies and a license for a Canadian firm to pursue a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski, one of the legislators who allied with her on those big issues in Juneau, said he “barely recognizes” the current Palin.

“It’s disappointing to see her bashing Democrats when her main political successes would never have passed without significant support from Democrats,” he said.

Anchorage Republican Hawker said Palin’s frostier relationship with the Democrats could have the effect of helping some Republican legislators warm up to her who weren’t Palin fans before. Hawker said Palin might also now realize that “just because you are a Republican in Alaska does not make you an evil person.”

Many Alaska Republican legislators have complained Palin has been too broad during her time as governor in suggesting that the state’s politics are corrupt.

REBUILDING TRUST

Kenai Republican Rep. Mike Chenault, considered to be a potential speaker of the state House when the Legislature convenes in January, said it remains to be seen how Palin’s new political persona plays with Republican lawmakers.

“It’s hard to say which if any Republicans would change their position on the governor based upon either her running for vice president or her handling of Troopergate,” Chenault said.

There’s resentment among some legislators of both parties for how Palin handled the Legislature’s investigation into her dismissal of her public safety commissioner and if she improperly pressured him to fire a state trooper once married to her sister.

The governor’s surrogates bashed the Alaska Democratic legislators leading the investigation, who were some of her biggest allies on oil and gas issues, saying they were Obama fans who made their bias clear. The investigation, though, was authorized by unanimous vote of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and some Republicans bristled at Palin’s refusal to cooperate in it as well as her attorney general’s failed challenge of the Legislature’s subpoenas.

Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, released his report on Friday concluding that Palin abused her power and broke state ethics law in pressing for the trooper to be fired. But Palin’s response to the report was to say that she was vindicated and “I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there.”

The report said Palin’s removal of her commissioner, Walt Monegan, was not solely about his refusal to fire the state trooper but it was likely a contributing factor. Palin has the right to dismiss a commissioner for any reason she likes.

Legislators are far from united in their reaction to the report, with some Republicans agreeing with Palin it was a political circus. There’s no sign lawmakers are planning to take any formal action against Palin. But hard feelings abound.

“Those people who don’t believe and don’t support the governor, I think the events will perhaps exacerbate their outrage,” said Hawker, the Anchorage Republican. Likewise, he said, Palin supporters are likely to “express their moral outrage at what they feel is a persecution of the governor.”

If she comes back as governor, Hawker said, “It will be one of her immediate challenges to get through, rebuilding fences, rebuilding trust. Those issues will be there with both the Democrats and the Republicans.”

Exposure Changes Palin Image for Good & Bad

Palin’s Popularity Tumbles Among Alaskans

Anti-Palin protest in Anchorage, Alaska

Anti-Palin protest in Anchorage, Alaska

The Miami Herald ran a report on September 30, 2008 by Chris Adams on the recent dramatic drop in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s approval ratings with her home state constituents.  As details emerge about the Troopergate ethics investigation and the many controversies and scandals surrounding Gov. Palin come to light as a result of her choice by Republican Senator John McCain as his vice presidential running mate, the 80%+ approval rating Palin once enjoyed continues to slide downhill among many Alaskan Democrats and Independent voters.

Ask a governor if she’d be happy with a 68 percent approval rating and she’d probably laugh at the question. It usually doesn’t get much better than that.

For Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, though, that represents a hefty drop.

Since John McCain tapped the first-term governor to be his vice-presidential running mate, Palin’s sky-high home-state approval ratings have come down to Earth.

Above 80 percent approval for parts of her term – she was at 82 percent in a key local poll twice this year – Palin’s popularity has swooned as new information about the local abuse-of-power investigation known as Troopergate has trickled out, and as national and local media pick over her track record as a governor and small-town mayor.

Palin still has overwhelming support among Alaska Republicans. But many Democrats and independents, who gave her positive marks just a month ago, have changed their views.

“My problem is not with Sarah Palin the governor,” said Ron Zandman-Zeman, 60, a recently retired schoolteacher from Anchorage. “She was doing the job she was elected to do. I don’t think she can do the job she wants to be elected to do. And that’s why I’m here.”

“Here” was a rally in a downtown Anchorage park this past weekend, where several hundred demonstrators gathered under a brilliant blue sky to protest Palin and her attorney general, mostly for their handling of the Troopergate controversy.

Until this summer, there were plenty of Alaskans who’d supported or been neutral toward their governor. Palin built a reservoir of goodwill during a handful of key issues, including prodding the state’s oil industry to cough up more of its profits, which fund the vast majority of state operations.

After McCain shocked the political world by picking Palin, the rest of the country experienced a flash of infatuation with the charming, gutsy governor. But some Alaskans turned against what they saw as her newly aggressive, mean-spirited demeanor.

At the studio of KENI in Anchorage, Andrew Halcro has become a focal point for anti-Palin advocates. Halcro is a former state legislator who was beaten by Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial election. (Running as an independent, Halcro finished third behind Palin and former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat).

But he’s also a Republican. He has been disillusioned with Palin for, among other things, her handling of the Troopergate issue. For the past month, he’s been hosting a daily talk radio show.

At first, callers were defensive on Palin’s and Alaska’s behalf – particularly as the national media and left-wing blogs published information about the governor’s family and questioned her record in office.

“It was uncomfortable to even talk about a story in the morning paper,” he said. “People would say, ‘You need to move on.'”

Palin had done a good job of governing from the center, he said. But her recent mocking of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, for example, is a surprise to many Alaskans.

“I see a real change in the callers,” he said. “People are seeing Gov. Palin in a different light.”

Zandman-Zeman, for example, said he had respected McCain in the past, until the Republican presidential nominee changed his approach to appease more conservative elements of his party. Zandman-Zeman also had come around on Palin during her time as governor (he supported somebody else in the 2006 election), and he might’ve supported her for re-election in Alaska.

But he still considers her out of her league on the national scene. On Saturday, he held a sign near a street corner as cars whizzed by, drivers honking in support of the demonstrators.

His sign read: “Palin – A Good Gov in Way Over Her Head.”

While many demonstrators objected to Palin on partisan or ideological grounds, two issues that clearly rankled Alaskans had nothing to do with party loyalty: openness and independence.

Ivan Moore, a local pollster who works with both Democrats and Republicans, recently found that Palin’s support had slipped to 68 percent. The poll was conducted from Sept. 20 to 22 among 500 likely Alaska voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Inside those numbers was a dramatic drop in support from Democrats and independents, although support from Republicans remained strong at 93 percent. Among Democrats, her approval rating dropped from 60 percent to 36 percent, a 24-point drop. Among independents, it fell from 82 percent to 64 percent, an 18-point drop.

Moore said those numbers were likely driven by the harsher tone Palin has adopted on the national campaign trail, as well as the fallout from Troopergate.

Palin’s lost many supporters because she’s worked to thwart a bipartisan inquiry into Troopergate after saying she’d cooperate. (Troopergate involves the firing of the state’s public safety commissioner, who’d refused to fire a state trooper who’d been involved in a messy divorce with Palin’s sister).

In addition, fiercely independent Alaskans resent moves by the McCain campaign to control what they see as purely state matters.

Sondra Tompkins, a reliably Republican voter, found herself speaking out at the rally – upset, she said, because of Palin’s handling of the trooper issue and the example it sets for children in the state.

“They’re listening, they’re watching, and they’re asking questions,” Tompkins called out to the crowd. “Do we tell them it’s OK not to tell the truth? Do we tell them it’s OK to bend the truth? Do we tell them it’s OK to distort the truth if you have a gaggle of lawyers to defend you?

“It’s not OK, and I think Alaskans have had enough.”

Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., said an approval rating in the 60s for a governor is good. His recent polling in six western states found two governors with approval ratings in the low-80s, two in the 60s and one in the 50s.

The sky-high ratings Palin once had are somewhat unusual, he said – but not unheard of.

“Governors in smaller states tend to have much higher performance ratings because their constituencies are smaller,” he said. “They have personal contact with the voters and so there is more familiarity between them and the constituents. But 68 percent is pretty good.”

Palin’s Popularity Tumbles Among Alaskans