Alaska voters appear headed to the polls today to make a choice between Satan and The Devil as their next governor.
Or so one might fairly conclude after driving around the state listening to political advertisements on the radio leading into this election.
The negatives thrown at Democratic candidate Mark Begich, the state’s former U.S. Senator, and Republican Mike Dunleavy, a former state legislator, have only two things in common.
No matter which of the two men is elected, it appears he is going to take away your Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) and turn the criminals loose on the streets.
Oh yeah, and if it’s Dunleavy, he also has a secret plan to give the Port of Anchorage to his rich, evil, Outside-businessman brother who is preparing to jack shipping rates sky-high to make a lot of money off struggling Alaskans.
Yes, it could happen. So could an invasion by aliens from space.
What the hell is going on in this country?
We can’t really blame the candidates personally for all of this negativity. Most of the ads aren’t sponsored by them, but by their supporters.
But then again, we can blame the candidates for this. They certainly haven’t been rushing to denounce the worst of the mudslinging.
“Going negative,” as it is said, has become an ugly trend in American politics, along with candidates accusing each other of going negative while they run feel-good ads about themselves.
Surely most Alaskans have by now seen the one wherein Begich talks about the never-solved disappearance of his father, Rep. Nick Begich, and Rep. Hale Boggs, D-La., on a 1972 flight from Anchorage to Juneau. The ad is moving and heart-felt.
To lose your father when you are a teenager is a difficult experience. To lose your father never knowing what happened to him is sure to stay with you forever. If you have a heart, it’s impossible to watch that ad and not feel for Mark even today.
But an ad focused on a 46 year old airplane crash has nothing more to do with what kind of governor Mark Begich would make today than those ads featuring Dunleavy’s Alaska Native children in hopes of attracting the votes of Alaska Natives.
And the truth of the matter is that Dunleavy and Begich, at least from their political histories, are far more alike than different. Begich is a liberal Democrat who opposes gun control, which is something liberal Ds don’t do.
Dunleavy is a conservative Republican who supports taking money away from businesses (or least some businesses) and spreading it among the “people,” a view he shares with most other Alaska Republicans going back to iconic Gov. Jay Hammond, who if he were still alive would likely be getting beat about the head for being a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
Both Dunleavy and Begich are political pragmatists. Begich edges toward unions; Dunleavy edges away from them. Dunleavy is a little right of Begich or Begich is a little left of Dunleavy, however, you want to view it.
Both are slightly left of the center of the American mainstream, living as they do in a socialist state.
Yes, Alaskans can talk all they want about how the Permanent Fund Dividend isn’t taking money from the oil companies to hand to Alaskans, because it’s taking interest from earnings of the Permanent Fund to hand to Alaskans.
But the reality is that the Permanent Fund was started with money taken from the oil companies, and that behavior pretty well fits the definition of socialism – an economic and social system characterized by social – ie. public – ownership.
Alaska’s state founders decided oil found on state lands in Alaskans would be owned by all Alaskans, not just by the people who discovered it. It was a radical departure from the General Mining Act of 1872, which defined American capitalism:
You find it; you stake it; you invest the sweat and cash to prove there are minerals there; and the land and the gold becomes yours.
Up until 1920, that law applied to oil and gas, too. But Congress amended the original mining act in the name of the national interest after fears arose that oil lands were being claimed so rapidly there might not be enough oil left for the U.S. Navy.
Alaska, of course, went beyond the growing interest in public ownership of resources – a socialist idea that traces back to President Theodore Roosevelt – in coming up with a scheme to share the wealth generated by those resources or at least some of those resources.
Most have forgotten that Roosevelt spawned the Progressive Party, which was not quite the same as today’s progressives, whatever they might be.
“Then he declared in his ‘Confession of Faith’ at the Progressive Party convention, ‘We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord,’ ” writes Sidney Milkis, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
“The religious language was no accident, as Roosevelt was drawing support and inspiration from the Social Gospel Movement, whose members saw the Progressive Party as a political expression of their commitment to promoting Christian social action on Earth. It was, if you will, a religious Left that was very important at the beginning of the 20th century.”
Imagine that, a religious element on the Left.
Left, right, wherever
Now the country has a Fascist element on the Left and a white supremacist element on the Right, which the respective Democrat and Republican parties tolerate and sometimes even appear to court.
A smiling Barack Obama once met with a beaming Louis Farrakhan, the Jew-hating leader of the Nation of Islam. Obama later denounced some of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic rantings. But Obama never denounced Farrakhan himself and even suggested Farrakhan might have been honored by a Chicago magazine for “his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders.”
Trump took a similar approach to white supremacists, although he later went farther to say “racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Still, there are those in this country who remain unsure of his denouncements, and Trump might well be happy about that. The political thinking in America 2018 would appear to be that you don’t want to offend voters by condemning them as deplorable even if they are deplorable.
Farrakhan was in Iran this week chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel,” according to Iranian TV, which led New York Post columnist Karol Marcowisz to observe that “a conservative marching alongside white nationalist Richard Spencer, because they both happen to agree on, say, economic issues, would rightly be pilloried. This should be no different.”
Don’t expect that to happen. Unless absolutely forced to do so, no politician in America today wants to confront the uglier elements associated with his or her own party out of fear it might cost him, or her, votes. Besides, it’s handy to have the Spencers and Farrakhans around to lob accusations at your opponents – accusations which, true or false, might have some reach outside their blocks of fans.
And winning elections has become largely about tossing enough of the right dirt.
“Across the political spectrum, every election brings the same exhausted complaints: ‘I hate watching TV anymore because of all the negative ads! I just can’t wait for this election to be over!’,” campaign consultant Andrew Ricci wrote for The Hill as the previous election cycle was nearing an end. “Those types of common refrains would suggest that negative ads turn people off and therefore actually carry more risk than upside.
“That suggestion, though, is wrong; the reason so many candidates turn to negative advertising in this and every election cycle is simple. Negative advertising works….Those of us who make our livelihoods doing this know that it can be the best strategy for getting to the magic number that means victory. And in any campaign, victory is everything.”
Now go vote against the devil of your choosing, but be aware, the one you’re voting for….could it be, Satan?
CORRECTION: An early version of this story flipped Mark Begich’s position on gun control.