Monday, September 06, 2010

Big Clouds? Blue Skies? Time to Reflect and Get Grounded

This big cloud appeared over the Chugach range Wednesday night last week, but there was also lots of blue sky. Our primary election has changed the political climate in Alaska and  garnered national attention. What do we do now? 

Alaskan voters are faced with two candidates for the US Senate most know nothing about. (If Lisa Murkowski does find a way to get back in this race, it really doesn't change the gist of what I'm writing here.) I suspect that's true about most elections - but usually voters  have  candidates who'd been in the public eye for a while and the voters think they know who they are voting for.

But with 'unknowns' we end up grabbing labels - 'attorney,' 'mayor,' 'ivy league,' 'Alaskan,' 'hunter,' 'fisherman' - and we take them out of context and to create caricatures that have more to do with our projections than with the candidates.

We have less than two months to start collecting facts and filling in the holes so that our images of each candidate are reasonably close to who they really are. 

Joe Miller

From his website we're told he was born to a working class family and raised in Kansas. He went to West Point, was in the First Gulf war, got a law degree from Yale,  and came to Alaska. He's practiced law, been a magistrate. His wife's a teacher and serves on the Judicial Council which helps select judges.

He's been branded an extremist for calling for an end to 1) Social Security, 2) Obama's new health care program,  and 3) the Department of Education, for starters. But he's also qualified the social security claim in a letter to seniors in which he wrote, "I will not vote to cut your Social Security or Medicare benefits!" He just wouldn't allow new people in.  Is he saying one thing to one audience and something else to another?  Or is he being taken out of context?  We have to do our homework to find out. 

I've never met the man and I'm only just starting to look through his positions.  Do the Republicans who oppose him (people from Andrew Halcro to Paul Jenkins) know him well and have good reason for their fears?  Are they concerned that the Republican Party power structure, as they know it, is threatened?  It could be one, the other, both, and something else altogether.

But let's take the time to get to know the man.  Let's, of course, listen to those who already know him (Democrat David Guttenberg who defeated him in his race for the state house in 2004 was pretty strong in his opinions.)  But let's not fly off like one blogger did and make up Miller's record without doing our homework.

The unusual agreement  among people from both the Democratic and Republican parties suggests that Mr. Miller's positions really are extreme.


Let's also get to know Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka who was seen as a Democratic placeholder so that Sen. Murkowski wouldn't be running unopposed.  With her losing the election, he's suddenly become as a serious contender.   I did get to talk to McAdams in Juneau last January and again just after he won the nomination.  I felt that he was genuine, bright, and knows quite a bit about how government works.   McAdams' website says he spent his elementary years in Petersburg, has commercial fished, graduated from Sheldon Jackson College, and has been chair of the Sitka School Board which got him involved in national school associations.

I haven't seen or heard the kind of strong negative talk about McAdams that Miller has generated.

Let's treat this like hiring our personal financial and legal adviser

It's time Alaska voters treat these elections for what they are:  job selections.  If this were a personal decision, it would be like hiring someone to handle our personal legal, financial, and family affairs.  Would you choose such a person based on 30 second ads made by a public relations firm?  Or would you study his resume carefully and consult people who know him and can tell you about his past performance? 

(Let's also hope that the public television/radio show "Running" will have a lot more depth for the general election than it did for the primary.  There was so little time for candidates that even Charles Manson could have come through the effort looking good.) 

This is probably the election that offers Alaskan voters the greatest degree of difference between the two candidates that we've ever had.  Let's not settle for facile slogans and solutions.  Let's carefully examine what both candidates say.  Let's look at the feasibility of their proposals, let's look at the likely direct consequences of their proposals, and the likely long term consequences.


Go to the Miller website and the McAdams website.
1.   What are the issues that each highlight as important?
2.   What are the values they say are important?
3.   What do you see in their records that supports their claims?  Are their lives consistent with their values and stands on the issues?
4.   What more do you need, what evidence, to assure you that their claims are true?

This is step one.  You can learn a lot in an hour.  And doing it yourself, taking notes, will make it yours.  You'll understand and be ready for the next steps.

Next we're going to have to find:
  • real - not quick and dirty - analyses of what they claim.  (This Mudflats piece digs past the superficial rhetoric, for example, though the title let's us know this is a partisan piece and an author's name would be helpful.)
  • people who have seen these people working, people who can tell us whether they are what they say. 
The future of your state depends on you doing your homework, getting other voters to do theirs, and then everyone sharing what they've found out.

1 comment:

  1. I have read the info from this blog page about Joe Miller:

    and it looks like he does over-inflate his record a bit on his bio.


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