I was reading Jake Tapper's blog post on ABC News and became quite disturbed over Governor Palin's association with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party (AIP). I can slough off the baby rumors. I can live with the Governor's conservative ideology. What I can't stand for is the possibility that the first time since before 1860, there is a person of national political importance who believes that the destruction of the Union is a good idea.
A bit of background. I spent three years at Fort Wainwright, Alaska (in Fairbanks) as military police company commander and Provost Marshal (the military version of a chief of police). It is a stunningly beautiful region, filled with wildlife and a pristine view equaled by none in the U.S. Alaska is also the home of a very, very independent strain of Americans, who see themselves, in general, as the last frontiersmen (and women). It is a mixing bowl of ethnic groups, from Russian Orthodox Inuits in Sitka to Chinese and Japanese communities in Anchorage. And not a few fringe elements as well.
The AIP is one of these, but it is one that has substantial political support in the state. The AIP has one unifying goal for the organization (along with a long roster of party planks of a distinctly conservative bent): a "do-over" of the 1958 referendum for statehood. AIP states its objective as:
"The Alaskan Independence Party's goal is the vote we were entitled to in 1958, one choice from among the following four alternatives:
1) Remain a Territory.
2) Become a separate and Independent Nation.
3) Accept Commonwealth status.
4) Become a State.
The call for this vote is in furtherance of the dream of the Alaskan Independence Party's founding father, Joe Vogler, which was for Alaskans to achieve independence under a minimal government, fully responsive to the people, promoting a peaceful and lawful means of resolving differences."
In the 1850's, as pressure to end slavery was applied first by the Abolitionists, then the Free Soilers, and finally the Republican Party, South Carolina's powerful and slave owning elite began to panic. The distinct likelihood that their human chattel would be taken from them drove them to adhere to the idea of "State's Rights." "State's Rights" sounds so, so much better than "the right to own other human beings and work them to death whenever I feel like it." The 'Right' being defended was the right to own slaves; South Carolina was not irate over their inability to coin money or raise their own tariffs.
What we are talking about is the fact that the 1860 planter elite was afraid that the bad old Federal government was going to come and take their property from them. Oddly enough, the AIP makes the same argument in their party platform -- "To support and defend States' Rights, Individual Rights, Property Rights, and the Equal Footing Doctrine as guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States of America and the state of Alaska," "To foster a constitutional amendment abolishing and prohibiting all property taxes," "To support the privatization of government services," and "To oppose the borrowing of money by government for any purposes other than for capital improvements." Simply put, the AIP wants the public land owned by the American People (read: ANWR) to be turned over to Alaska to be used as it sees fit. I can only suppose the fitting use involves digging oil wells, gold mines and other efforts to pull every remaining resource in the state out of the ground. If they can do it as part of the USA, great; if not, they want to do it as a Commonwealth or as an independent nation.
Last week Governor Palin, who presumably still adheres to the values and ideals of the AIP, was named as GOP Vice Presidential candidate. While much of the media attention has focused on her daughter's pregnancy and other soft issues, many of the real questions have been ignored, to include her involvement with the AIP.
While many of the AIP planks are fairly benign ("To provide for the development of unrestricted, statewide, surface transportation and utility corridors as needed by the public or any individual," and support for home schooling), the simple fact remains that it is a political party aimed at forcing a re-vote on statehood. It is, in effect, a secessionist movement, just like that which caused the Civil War.
And the United States is facing a situation where for the first time since 1860, we could end up with an elected official who is in favor of breaking up the Federal Union. On one side, we have a person who has favored, by her membership, secession from the American Republic on the basis of "States Rights." On the other, we have a black Presidential candidate who could finally heal the open scar of slavery and civil war, who could be President of the United States on the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter.
We can go forward or we can go back. That is what this election is about.