Columns 2006

Another political season ends

Because of deadlines, this column is being written well before votes are cast in the November 7 election.  Therefore, this is strictly a subjective analysis of the recent campaign season and not based on any hopes I may have for a high paying, low energy job with anyone who may have actually won. Though, lord knows, I am always open to anyone who wants to make an offer.

Actually, this overview is pretty much based on late night conversations I have with my birds and dogs who are as astute at political commentary as just about any talking head in the media today – and, may I add, more astute than many.

Despite the cynics who say I never met a campaign that didn’t annoy me and my animals beyond anything one should have to endure, even for democracy’s sake, I did find some good things is our recently ended political season.

First of all, as always, I must congratulate the people of this country for carrying on the tradition of democracy once again without resorting to guns and tanks in the street to make their point.  We are so blas´┐Ż about our democracy that we sometimes fail to pat ourselves on the back enough for the long string of elections we can point to, stretching over three centuries, in which the winners took office and the losers regrouped for the next go round and no one overthrew anyone else’s government.

Even granting the small number of people who actually go to the polls, the bottom line is that everyone accepts the outcome and goes on with life.  We need to stop more often and appreciate just how special that is.

I liked the fact that two credible candidates for high office, one for governor and one for the House of Representatives, were women. I think the inclusion of viable female candidates in the mix of state and national politics bring a different flavor to the races and the debates.  Opposing male candidates have to be very careful to not appear to be bullying or brutish while still engaging in spirited debate with their female opponents. Walking this fine line has cause a lot of rethinking of traditionally accepted campaign strategies and that’s a good thing.

I think Diane Benson deserves a lot of credit for running herself ragged trying to mount a viable campaign against Don Young despite his reluctance to engage with her very often.  As a candidate who started out with little name recognition and single digit numbers, she fought hard and that is to her credit. 

Unfortunately, the media conceded the race to Young before it even began so she was virtually unable to get the coverage she needed to make her case to a wider Alaskan audience. As anyone who has run a statewide campaign here knows, this state is just too big and remote to be able to cover it one town meeting at a time.  Without statewide coverage, you end up with a stealth campaign and they are usually not very viable.

The major negative of this election season has been the incessant ads against Proposition Two.  I felt like I was a little person at the bottom of a hill and a big giant at the top was throwing snowballs down at me so fast that I didn’t have time to take a breath or ask why.

The ads caused me to want to vote for Prop Two just because I was so angry at the feeling that I was being bullied. I longed for info from the camp that first got the proposition on the ballot but that didn’t come till literally the eleventh hour. Where were they all those other months? Why did they put that proposition on our ballot and then go underground as though ashamed of their actions till forced to surface a week before Election Day?

All in all, though, I must say that any campaign in which that is my chief complaint is not a bad campaign season at all. The candidates stayed relatively civil till almost the very end.  The amount of sound and fury signifying nothing was kept to more of a minimum than usual and Alaskans had some real choices in the people they could vote for.

I’m glad it’s over.  Like dental work, it is something to be endured for a better life in the future.  But this time around, it was like dental work on nitrous – almost enjoyable.