I make a motion that we change the name of our state. Henceforth we should be known as the State of Irony, thanks to Sarah Palin's sashay down the catwalk of national politics.
Todd and Sarah's Excellent Adventure during the 50th anniversary of statehood is actually a great vehicle for a meditation on one of the unique aspects of our state: socialism.
Candidate Palin along with such formidable intellects as Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (a.k.a., "Joe the Plumber"), Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Victoriah Jackson, attacked Barack Obama during the campaign for being, variously, a Marxist, a communist and a socialist. Ironically, as Keith Olberman of MSNBC noted last week, Sarah Palin just presided a huge redistribution of wealth when she signed an energy "rebate" of $1,200 for every man, woman and child in Alaska. The money for that wealth redistribution comes from our collective wealth, which we have thanks to our state constitution. Article VIII, Section 2 holds that the resource of the state will be utilized, developed and conserved for the "... maximum benefit of its people." This precept of public management of benefit is precisely what makes Alaska today one of a handful of states that enjoys a budget surplus while other states are struggling with deficits. The framers of our constitution wisely didn't want state resources to be privatized, as they are in Texas, for example, where the people of that state are separated from their wealth by billionaires. Thanks to the framers of our state's constitution, our collective ownership of state resources guarantees low taxes and high revenues, not to mention a Permanent Fund dividend program, another socialist scheme that gave each Alaskan over $2,000 this year.
Alaskans like to boast that they are different, that they "don't give a damn how they do it in the lower 48." Ironically, Sarah Palin and her handlers and many of her fans here in Alaska don't understand how different we Alaskans really are.
Truth be told, when Gov. Palin redistributes the wealth held in common by the people of Alaska, she is fulfilling the socialist dream of many of Alaska's pioneers.
I'm from Fairbanks and each summer we celebrate "Golden Days," a celebration honoring the mining days of yore. Golden Days has morphed into a cowboy Western-style show since the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline; that's understandable, considering where many of the pipeline immigrants come from. Ironically, many of the early miners and pioneers of Alaska were from Europe, with corresponding accents and political views including European socialist views. The history of mining in Alaska in the late 19th and early 20th century has a parallel history of socialist political organizing. Many of our forefathers and mothers here in Alaska were proud members of socialist parties or worker affiliates in Ketchikan, Nome, and Fairbanks.
A local blog, insurgent49.com, published a review of the early leftist history of Alaska. Regarding my hometown the review notes, "Lena Morrow Lewis started publishing the semimonthly Alaska Socialist newspaper in Fairbanks, which lasted for about three years. Two other left-wing Fairbanks publications from this period that were shorter-lived were the Tanana Valley Socialist and the Socialist Press. Around the same time, Gustave Sandberg served as secretary of the Alaska Socialist Educational Society, which did such activities as lecturing in mining camps. At least several times, a young writer named Jack London was one of the lecturers."
In 1914 the Alaska Socialist Party was formed and the platform advocated typical socialist ideas like federal funding of railroads and highways in Alaska.
When Alaskans sing about the "gold of the Sourdough's Dream" in the Alaska Flag Song, we should also remember an associated dream held by many of those pioneer Alaskans honored in that song: a world in which all people would get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and the prejudices and inequalities among people disappear as the fruits of prosperity are shared by all.
Ironically, despite her posturing before adoring mobs in the Lower 48, Sarah Palin has so far been a pretty good socialist governor. I hope that when she returns, she continues her good work and stops worrying so much about how they do it Outside.
Elstun Lauesen is a rural affairs specialist. E-mail, email@example.com.