Could Bernie Sanders win Alaska's caucus Saturday? Absolutely, and here's why.
1. Alaskans are independent.
If there's one thing that unites Alaskans, it's that gut feeling that we'll do things our own way, thank you very much, and you're not the boss of me. In an election defined by anti-establishment angst, Alaskans fit right in. No political party is going to decide how we think, and it's an odd mash-up of values and lifestyle that define our political preferences. Enviro hard-rock miner? Check. Gun-toting liberal? Double check.
If our support of a "unity ticket" for governor is any indication, enough of us vote common sense over party affiliations to decide major elections. This bodes well for Bernie Sanders, the longest-running independent in Congress. Like our governor, Sanders puts principles over party and enjoys wide bipartisan support in his home state.
This year, independent voters are crucial in both the primary and the general elections. Take the March 22 votes. Arizona refused to allow independents to register Democrat on election day, and Sanders lost. Utah and Idaho welcomed independents and Bernie took a whopping 80 percent. Alaska's Democrats allow party changes the day of the caucus, like Utah and Idaho.
2. Alaska is too diverse to let a racist become president, and Sanders polls best against Trump.
With hundreds of Alaska Native tribes and one of the most diverse major cities in the nation, Alaska is brimming with cultural diversity and proud of it. To be clear, hate is not an Alaska family value and Alaska will not support an unapologetic bigot for president.
I know, I know, you keep hearing that voting for Clinton is the best way to defeat the proto-Hitler insulting his way to the Republican nomination. But au contraire, say the data. Bernie is handing Trump his butt by 20 points in national polls, while Hillary can't get a lead wider than the margin of error. Unlike Trump and Clinton, the two primary front-runners the nation hates more than it loves, Bernie is the only candidate with net positive favorability ratings. If we want to defeat Trump in November, Alaskans should vote this weekend to make sure someone we actually like is on the ticket.
Sanders has been a consistent advocate for the rights of diverse, working class people his entire political career. He is the only candidate to speak boldly about Native issues and history in his stump speeches. Last week, Coast Salish representatives honored him for this legacy, giving him the Native name ofdx?shudi?up, the one lighting fires for change and unity.
3. Alaskans understand the need to grow private enterprise and small business.
Many think Sanders supporters just want free stuff and that the Republican Party is the pro-business choice. But the reality is that trickle-down Reaganomics has proven disastrous for the middle class and Bernie's New Deal-esque investment in rebuilding federal infrastructure could help Alaska businesses. Alaskans understand the role federal dollars play in our economy and we're not in a position to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Bernie knows that Medicare for all Americans and free public college means a middle class family's disposable income can be invested in the family business, rather than absorbed by health insurance corporations and tuition bills. In fact, my own family could be developing our direct-market fishing business faster if we weren't throwing would-be capital into health insurance premiums, hospital bills and student debt.
4. Alaskans value military service and we respect our veterans.
Vets got on the Bernie bandwagon before most, and for good reason. According to Vets for Bernie, as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders led a bipartisan effort to pass the most far-reaching veterans legislation in decades: to expand veterans' health care, establish dozens of new VA clinics, hire more doctors and nurses, and increase transparency and accountability at the VA. It is no wonder that the VFW honored Bernie Sanders with its prestigious Congressional Award this past March, noting, "Veterans everywhere should be proud and comforted to know that this United States senator has their back in Congress."
Bernie also has support from Iraq War combat veterans like Hawaii's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Unlike Clinton, well-known for her support of the Iraq War, and Trump, a wild card with an ignorant vendetta against an entire religion, Sanders has Gabbard's support because of his vote against the Iraq War and his understanding of what it means to put troops in harm's way.
5. Sanders was the only presidential candidate to receive public support from an Iditarod musher.
Two words: Monica Zappa. You can bet this musher for Bernie will be bright and early at her local Alaska caucus location on Saturday.
Malena Marvin a 38-year-old Alaskan fisherwoman, designer, yogi and writer. More of her writing is available at www.CancerisaSymptom.wordpress.com, and at Medium.com, where a longer version of the preceding commentary first appeared.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any Web browser.