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Outside View: Alaska Politics Seen From Minnesota

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This is America. America was born in revolution, the first colony to break free of the British Empire, an inspiration for the 18th Century’s spirit of enlightened humanity. We are an experiment in human potential.
Here we presupposed that, given the right resources, the human being will express genius. We manifest our own destiny, choosing in our efforts to serve our fellow neighbors with the fruit of our genius.
Some of the things I have seen riding the bus here in Minnesota evoke emotions that defy proper description in the English language. Last weekend, downtown Minneapolis saw teenagers, male and female, running after each other. Why? Because it’s Spring. And in Minnesota, spring actually means Spring.
As I approach my 39th birthday, I am experiencing politics for the first time outside of my Native Alaska. It is sheer culture shock.
A few days prior to this incident I witnessed a gang-related altercation, which included a box-cutter blade and mace. This is on the bus, mind you. A full bus.
I was in the line of fire of the mace. Thankfully, the bulk of the fight happened off the bus.
More interesting is the fact that no one on the bus screamed or shrieked. No one looked shocked. No one tried to intervene. It was as if this was tolerable behavior, which to me was crazy to the point of being scary.
Is this the First World? Is this the shining example the Statue of Liberty represents?
If teenagers are allowed to run rampant through the city without parental control, what is going to happen 10-15 years from now when they are “ready” to make their contribution to the American dream?
Politically, the terrain in Minnesota is a mixed bag. Michelle Bachmann is a one of their eight representatives in Congress. Her ideology probably would fit right into a Mat-Su Valley community council meeting. I guess it’s dawning on me that Alaska has the same crazy as the Lower 48. We forget that sometimes.
On the other side, there is Keith Ellison. Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress, is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota, and he is quickly gaining national notoriety.
Two Democrats, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar represent the state in the Senate.
That provides a sharp contrast to me, a constituent of the Congressman for all Alaska, Don Young. It is a strange feeling to be so far away when I hear about Young throwing around racial slurs.

Why? Did he need to demonstrate that he could still get press? Was that a publicity stunt?
I keep wandering through Minneapolis, confused. Is the crazy everywhere?
Is this what America is like? Or, is this what it is becoming?
I see the kaleidoscope of the city before me. The mixture of humanity passes before me. Hmong. Somali. Hood rats and hood wolves. The longer I live in the land of Jesse Ventura, the more it feels like our generation has to step up to the plate.
Down here, the politicians still talk like Don Young. I listened to a TV interview inside the Minnesota state capital. The conservative looked generic. A gray-haired man, thick set, wearing a plaid shirt and khakis. The script fell from his mouth effortlessly.
The reports I receive, thanks to social media, tell me that the Republican-controlled legislature back in Alaska has hammered through the oil tax giveaway. Again, why? How does that benefit Alaska?
Nick Moe’s write-in campaign for Anchorage Assembly looked puzzling to me too. Seeing that Ernie Hall did not campaign, someone saw an opportunity. All that was needed was the right vehicle and Moe ran with it. Moe was to enter a race as a write-in candidate with only two weeks to go.
Right.
Then, I saw a burst of activity. I post a lot on Facebook. I see a lot of feeds over Facebook. I saw Nick Moe material hard.
Real hard.
Lo and behold, there was a close race between two candidates running for a seat most didn’t even know about three weeks ago.
While I am all for exploring the boundaries of social media, how is this possible? How is it that a man, armed only with only the reach created by Facebook and some dedicated volunteers, can enter a political race and make a competitive showing of it? Seen as a long distance spectator, it is baffling.
Is this how we are going to govern America? Ad-hoc. Crazy style?
Is it really the case that now the average citizen can buy participation into the process with $6 or $10,000?
I am confused. This is not what I learned in school or my family. A democracy, or social order, is only as good as the participation of the people. This requires interaction that is meaningful. What I am currently seeing for the first time is how low-grade our democracy really is. Like the teenagers running wild through downtown Minneapolis, it appears that our leadership is doing the same. Quality is not present. What is being rewarded is the persistence factor. If you are willing to stay at the table, whether you belong there or not, you will get a position when there is no one else to do the work.
This is not good. Not good at all.
I know that democracy is supposed to be messy. It is supposed to frustrate you, the average citizen, because the other side dug deep and made some good points with a cutting metaphor and you don’t have a ready retort. It happened to me a lot in Alaska. True engagement can do that to you.
That is not what I am seeing. What I am seeing is polarization. Our elected servants are choosing to debase themselves before the altar of yellow journalism. It feels as if they are taking the electorate for granted – like a malleable marketplace where the demand is the supply.
After the failure of the Occupy movement to actually create a movement of people around a set of clear objectives, our public spaces are becoming playgrounds where engagement is being reduced to an extended Grateful Dead concert. I don’t know, what’s the bigger cause: social media and a shortened news cycle or the citizen’s trendy obsession with apathy? Either way, it is unbecoming for our two-century-old experiment.
I want more for us. I want our grand experiment to succeed. I want democracy to flourish and for many, many more of us to experience self-actualization because we shared the leadership stick.
Again, for this to occur, we must had an engaged, educated electorate. Right now, I am still searching for it. I want, desperately, to find it.
Cue Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I had the good fortune to meet Nick Moe before the election, and after that encounter, decided to fully endorse him. He and his campaign must not be characterized as “ad hoc and crazy”. To say that would not give credit to the fact that Mr Moe was able to quickly mobilize an intelligent and energetic team. The Mayor and consistently regressive Anchorage Assembly majority manipulated important matters to come up at the last minute. Nick’s only fault was believing a so-called moderate, Mr Hall, might actually allow honest public process. Mr Moe is not crazy, he believed Mr Hall would do the right thing in the end. Mr Moe is not ad hoc, he is a solid, respected Progressive. He is young, and has the qualities of an elder.

    • Peace. I agree with you that Moe is solid. My position leans more to the fact that it is crazy, Alaskan politics is so stagnant Moe can effectively bid for a seat with only two weeks of campaigning.