Columns 2007

Sarah’s still riding high with public approval

Alaska has been blessed with a lot of one-name women who have made, and are making, this great state even greater.  Lisa.  Arliss. Ramona.  Sarah.  Ah, Sarah.  Our governor, almost one year into her term, is sitting on the kind of approval ratings you usually only see in a place like Cuba or North Korea after the government conducts a poll on whether you approve of the job the head of state is doing. What’s equally amazing is she continues to garner very small negative numbers.

Sarah is someone who has every right to be extending a certain digit on her hand to the Republican Establishment that scorned her, denigrated her, could barely hold their noses while supporting her election bid and now stare in bewilderment at the numbers she scores. I can’t help but think that, nice as she is, there has to be a part of her that is secretly smiling and thinking, “Heh. Heh. Heh.  Showed you. Thought you could freeze me out? Well, look who’s frozen now.”

And frozen is the only word for the state’s Republican Party establishment at this point. They are frozen in horror at the political mess in Alaska, and the fact that at the end of the name of almost every public official mentioned in federal corruption investigations, you find the letter R.  That simply does not bode well for their future.  Not the future of the Republican Party. Alaska isn’t likely to change its stripes that easily. It does not bode well for the future of the people currently in charge of the party.

Were they to invite Sarah in, they might learn a thing or two – assuming she’d even be willing to step across that threshold. For starts, they’d learn that she is the future and they are the past.  She thumbed her nose at the mightiest of them and now rides high with the public, defying all conventional wisdom that she couldn’t make it without their wholehearted support and, if she somehow managed to, her numbers couldn’t hold. But the numbers have held. That they have lasted this long is a record in itself. It will be fascinating to see how long she can ride the streak.

There is not even a whiff of scandal around Sarah. Attempts to nail her husband for returning to work with BP fell as flat as a pancake. No matter how hard some people tried, the issue simply had no traction. The electorate trusts her and her ethics in a way you rarely see in today’s American politics.

Sarah has effectively sidelined Republican Party officials from the political dialog in this state. When was the last time you saw Rudy Ruedrich’s name next to a quote of current relevance?  Not gonna happen.  Thank goodness. It’s one of the reasons Sarah carries that approval rating. Without making a big to-do of it, without a lot of fuss and bother and press and name calling, she effectively sidelined people who had wielded power in this state for decades.  Those of us who thought some of those power wielders smelled like people who stayed too long at the fair are grateful she did it so swiftly, cleanly and with such grace.

Arliss Sturgelewski turned 80 recently. For many of those years, she stood as a beacon to women all over this state. She was tough but fair and worked a man’s game better than most men.  And she did it with uncommon grace, common sense, humor and a firm moral compass. There are, thank god, still many people serving this state who believe as she does that, at a minimum, you owe the people you serve a fair and honest representation.

I hope Arliss will be with us for hundreds of years to come. And if the good lord knows what’s in his best interest, he’d better consult her on any timing issues he might be considering to the contrary. I’m glad she stayed around long enough to see a woman finally achieve the highest office in the state. Some of us still think that honor should have gone to her first. But if she couldn’t have it, then Sarah is certainly someone who carries the honor proudly and well.

Sarah and Arliss may disagree on a lot of things. Not being privy to all their positions, I honestly don’t have a clue about that. But I do know that in the end, they have more in common than not. They are both beautiful, tough ladies who took on the male establishment and showed them how it’s done. And they did it with their morals and ethics intact. What a concept. How refreshing.  If the Republican Party establishment takes the time to really look at these ladies, they might learn some very interesting lessons that would actually bode well for their future. I’m just not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.