Oh, my darling Alaskans. The wringing of hands and hearts seems a bit over the top in reaction to this week’s election. Despite the bipolar quality of the results so far, I’m hopeful for the future of our state. If I couldn’t find a few silver linings, I’d have to insist that we stop having elections and just put our political offices on eBay.
My poll watching this week has been somewhat obscured by a boat and bait, so I was a bit surprised that Dan Sullivan doesn’t want to wait for my vote to be counted. I’m sure it’s not because he knows there’s no way on God’s green earth I’d blacken an oval next to his name, so it must be something else.
See, Alaska is a little different, Mr Sullivan. If you’d spent much time here, you’d know we’ve raised cliff-hanger elections to an art form. I once attended a coin toss that decided a state House seat. Right now we have one House seat with a 15-vote margin, and another with a 35. So, Dan, just cool your jets until all the votes are counted.
Progress arrives in Alaska more slowly than our glaciers melt, but it’s happening. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry. just like everyone else. So far no reports of hetereosexual marriages imploding as a result. I’m hoping that someone will explain to the morality police that gay marriage — or what I like to call “marriage” — isn’t mandatory, and the only one you need to worry about is your own.
The good folks of Anchorage voted to reject Mayor Dan Sullivan’s hit on public unions. I guess the idea of firemen, police officers and other public employees being able to bargain collectively didn’t strike fear into the hearts of the voting public. Not even close.
Alaskans had the good sense to stop making criminals of those who use marijuana. The anti- campaign included quite a list of horribles but, no, pot cookies won’t be added to school lunches anytime soon. But a substance people will keep using — whether or not you and I approve — can now be regulated and taxed. You know, commerce. You saw that pot got more votes than anyone running for office, didn’t you?
In another landslide, Alaskans voted to raise the minimum wage. Why? Because the current wage is way, way out of date, and our lowest wage earners shouldn’t have to work two and three jobs just to starve more slowly. People understand: if you give someone at the bottom of our economy another dollar or two an hour, THEY WILL SPEND IT, maybe with you.
How did people who care about Alaska’s environment do? Well, Alaskans told those who would sell our Bristol Bay heritage for pocket change to forget about it. Of course that should have been a no-brainer for everyone — with the exception of the guy I hope will soon be our former governor and a few folks still digging paychecks out of the Pebble Partnership. More Alaskans voted to protect Bristol Bay than for anything else on the ballot.
If Bill Walker becomes governor — and he’s ahead right now — we can look forward to health insurance for 40,000 lower-income Alaskans, reversing the myopically inhumane and petty partisan action of his predecessor.
The vote tally by the Division of Elections isn’t complete yet, and won’t be for a few weeks, but there are hopeful trends. With almost 50,000 votes still to count, I see more Alaskans voting Democratic than there are registered Democrats, by 30,000. Fewer Alaskans voted Republican than there are registered Republicans, by 26,000. I find that encouraging.
When Alaskans are asked to vote their values, and they’re given a clean, non-partisan choice, they seem to prefer the more progressive path: higher minimum wage, environmental protection, fair treatment of public employees, a rational position on drugs.
It’s when they’re asked to choose between politicians, some with an R by their names, some with a D, that they fall back on cartoonish stereotypes to fill out their ballots. (Congratulations on your 22nd term, Rep. Young.) Maybe one of these days we’ll be able to ask Joe and Jane Alaskan if billionaires should be taxed at lower rates than their secretaries. How do you think that would turn out?
So Alaskans supported higher wages for our poorest workers, de-criminalization of pot, environmental standards to protect salmon and collective bargaining . . . AND at the same time for a legislature that would do away with every single one of those things if given half a chance. What a disconnect.
I think the lesson in this election is that most Alaskans want a less partisan, less ideological approach to our politics. One that solves real problems. We’re taking baby steps. You gotta start somewhere.