I was born in Alaska. Though my parents divorced and my mother brought me and my brother with her to California (her home state), her love affair with Alaska continued. Mom had a whole kit of Alaska materials (walrus tusks, Eskimo crafts, postcards) that she would take with her on teaching jobs. By the time I was paying attention to politics Alaska seemed to be deeply Republican. I assumed it had always been so. Sure, my family is liberal – even the ones still up there – but isn’t that stereotype about rural people being Republican true enough? Most of Alaska is decidedly rural.
Chuck Thompson was born in Juneau (he has quite an attitude about my native Anchorage), and in his book Smile When You’re Lying: confessions of a rogue travel writer Thompson pinpoints the Republicanizing of Alaska:
“1982, with Alaska dripping in crude, the first Permanent Fund Dividend checks were issued by the state government to all Alaskans -- $1,000 given away to each of the state’s 550,043 lucky residents, every penny based on investments made with oil revenues. A pittance for corporate oil even then, but a $6,000 payout for families with four kids, like mine, was big money. Some call the Permanent Fund Dividends pseudosocialism, but the truth is less complex: they’re a bribe. Alaska’s once-liberal voters haven’t sent a non-Republican to Washington since the day that first check was issued. Alaska today isn’t so much a GOP stronghold as it is an oil fiefdom.”
The Republicanized Alaska proudly ties on his ideological mask – “self-sufficiency and rugged individualism” – but behind the mask those squishy individuals glue their lips to the tit of the state. Thompson, wryly, concludes, “The importance of independence myths is inversely proportional to the degree to which any society has surrendered its sovereignty.”