Elise Patkotak: Democrats in Alaska won't capitalize on opportunity

commentFebruary 19, 2013 

Since my late teens, the Democratic Party has been the party of disarray and confusion. It was the party that self-immolated at every turn. It gave new meaning to the phrase, "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." So you can imagine how upside down my world seems right now given that the Republican Party has decided to emulate the Democrats and, at the rate they're going, planning to be the all-time champs in the dysfunctional political party world of America.

Think about it. How dysfunctional do you have to be to give more money to the man who lost the last three or four hundred million you gave him, for which he assured you he could buy total victory? That victory not only did not occur, but the money would have given them more bang for the buck if they'd invested in pajama jeans instead of politicians. Yet these same people are opening their pocketbooks again and offering Karl Rove untold millions, not for the purpose of defeating Democrats, but for the singular purpose of defeating the wrong kind of Republicans.

Yep, Republicans, welcome to the world that was once solely occupied by Democrats determined to never win a national election again. It's a heady and elite atmosphere to be in but your brains will eventually get use to the lack of oxygen and then all will seem right again. And defeating fellow Republicans will become the norm.

My first introduction to politics was during the 1960s when a group of anti-war hippies absconded with the Democratic Party and refused to return it for the longest time. In the same way that the tea party represents the far right of conservative thought, anti-war activists represented the far left of liberal thought.

Being part of the revolution was great. I felt like I was helping to change the world. In fact, I was pretty much ensuring that liberals would be eclipsed by Richard Nixon's Silent Majority.

The tea party is definitely taking up where the hippies of the '60s left off in turning a very electable party into an internecine battleground, littered with the blood of those who dare to suggest that most Americans do not live on either extreme but tend to occupy the middle.

Like the activists of the '60s, the tea partyers seem more intent on being pure and right than on winning elections. You can imagine how painful this must be for people like Randy Ruedrich. The former head of the GOP here in Alaska, he spent years building a party that won consistently in just about every highly populated area of this state. The only converts he never seemed to be able to make were those stubborn Democrats in the Bush. Given the demographics of this state, that was no hindrance to his steady march for total dominance of one party in Alaska.

Then those pesky Ron Paul people showed up at his convention last year. Between them and the tea partyers, he never stood a chance. Party regulars were unprepared for the fight. They were, in fact, stunned by what was happening. I'd seen that look before. It was on Hubert Humphreys' face every time he looked out the window in Chicago during the convention and wondered what the heck was going on. He never stood a chance once those images hit TV news.

I rather like the idea that the Alaska Republican Party chose to fire their new leader before he was even in office. Democrats would never do something like that. They'd be too fearful of offending someone. They'd sit down and have a talking circle and try to work things out peacefully.

So I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the battle that's been joined for the heart and soul of the Republican Party here in this state. And I'll hope and pray that the Democratic Party can figure out a way to take advantage of the confusion to maybe pick up a few more seats. In my heart of hearts, I know that probably won't happen because the Democrats will never forget the first rule of their party.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is a time-honored tradition that you will only ever be able to take from their cold, dead hands.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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