For a Progressive, Signs of Hope

When Alaska was admitted as a state to these United States, back in 1959, the entire Congressional delegation was Democratic: Senator E.L. “Bob” Bartlett, Senator Ernest Gruening1 and Representative Ralph J. Rivers. It’s true that Senators Bartlett and Gruening loathed each other – Senator Bartlett’s staff referred to the Judas Tree outside the Senate Office Building as “the Gruening Tree” – but, yes, all Democrats. That’s hard to imagine now.

Since Frank “The Bank” Murkowski2 defeated Senator Mike Gravel, the Alaska delegation has been purely Republican. You have to wonder what would have happened if Clark Gruening had beaten Frank Murkowski, or if Nick Begich and Hale Boggs hadn’t vanished over Prince William Sound.3 We probably wouldn’t have had to deal with a Governor Murkowski, who gave us, Bog help us all, Governor Sarah Palin, who gave us Governor Sean Parnell. We probably wouldn’t have had the Corrupt Old Bastards, or even the current fiscal crisis.

But there are signs that the Republican grip on Alaska is starting to weaken.

  • We have a Democratic – well, RINO – Governor and Lt. Governor of Alaska for the first time since Tony Knowles.
  • The Mayors of the Municipality of Anchorage, the City of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough are all progressives.
  • The political chameleon that is Senator Lisa Murkowski is coloring herself a faint shade of blue.
  • Even in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the voters pitched the sleazy Rep. Lynn Gattis out in her effort to move to the state senate.
  • WC has second- or third-hand reports of private polling by Senator Dan “the Carpetbagger” Sullivan suggesting he’s about as popular as a fart in a crowded elevator right now.
  • The dottering Rep. Don Young, not just in his dotage but past it, finds himself in a tight election for the first time in decades.

It’s even possible that Alaska will vote for a Democrat for President for the first time since Lyndon Johnson, at least if the Trumpster keeps up his foot-in-mouth disease. WC will bet you a big old bag of peanuts that even in the Republican-gerrymandered Alaska the state legislature isn’t going to be quite as Republican, quite as conservative or even quite as fiscally stupid as the last.

If you are a progressive, it’s been a long time in the wilderness. And you have become cautious about optimism; sort of like being a Cubs fan, disappointed year after year. But this time, WC suggests, there could really be political winds of change blowing through the Great Land.

About time.


  1. Senator Ernest Gruening has always had a special place in WC’s heart for being one of just two U.S. Senators to vote against the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the laughably flimsy excuse of deepening the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam. 
  2. Frank Murkowski was the president of the since-failed Alaska National Bank of the North. What killed Alaska National Bank was a judgment against it for $10 million obtained by Native Village corporation Sitnasuak. Alaska National Bank was found to have badly mis-managed Sitnasuak’s funds. WC has never been able to confirm the rumor that one of the “investments” Alaska National Bank made for Sitnasuak was the purchase of Frank Murkowski’s shares in Alaska National Bank, and that Murkowski then used those funds to finance his senate campaign. 
  3. Don Jonz, the pilot of the Cessna 310 carrying Begich, Boggs and Begich’s aide, Russell Brown, was an acquaintance of WC’s. When WC last saw Jonz, he was having a furious argument with fellow pilot James Magoffin about Jonz’ recent article in a flying magazine, where Jonz wrote, “If you are sneaky, smart and careful, you can fly 350 days a year and disregard 99% of the B.S. you hear about icing.”