While the world contemplates the meltdown of the financial sector over the last few of weeks, things have not stood still on the campaign trail. The "smearbunds" on both sides, in fact, have been working overtime in a desperate grab for reader and viewer attention. Of course, this is not really about "attention" at all — it’s about engendering a knee-jerk emotional distraction from the real issues. The latest theme is: Guilt-by-Association.
Over the previous week, the McPalin camp fired a couple of broadsides: the first accusing Barack Obama of associating with Bill Ayres, someone who, nearly 40 years ago, was a member of the Weather Underground. The second attacked Obama for his ties to ACORN, a voter registration organization that is currently under investigation in eight states for fraud.
While the Weather Underground did engage in bombings on public property (including the Pentagon), their main goal was to disrupt the Vietnam war machine; Ayres insists today they were not a "terrorist" organization. You can take that at face value, or not. Both organizations, nevertheless, have documented, public record paper trails suggesting Barack Obama has at least a tangential link. Whether that should be sufficient to sandbag his Presidential bid, however, is open to debate (it hasn’t yet).
Given Obama’s lead in the polls, however, one would think liberal pundits, bloggers, and campaign staff would be encouraged to stay on the high road, and not sink to a retaliatory, ad hominem level of campaigning.
One would be wrong. In fact, the liberal punditocracy over a week ago set an even lower bar than the McPalin camp, namely, savaging the integrity of a political opposition group, and then, in the same breath, associating that group with Sarah Palin and her husband. The group in question is the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), a legitimate, third-party political organization with ballot access in that state, whose avowed goal is simply a new plebiscite on Alaska statehood.
For an entire week, liberals pundits and bloggers, including such luminaries as Keith Olberman and RFK Jr., are spewing unimaginable vitriol at this group, tarring them as "extremist," "un-American," and "traitors," for asking for a second public vote concerning Alaska’s political status. Apparently, "secession" is still a very sensitive topic for a lot of people. Given the laughingly hysterical arm-waving on opinion/social network sites like DailyKos, Digg and Huffington Post on this claim, I thought it was time to investigate further. Ironically, I’d never heard of the AIP until all this virtual hysteria metastasized out of proportion, but as a direct result of that, now I’m interested…go figure.
So let’s take a look at the political movement with which the Palins have been associated:
The AIP was founded in the 70’s by Joseph Vogler (1913—1993), a man who was, to put it mildly, a "colorful" character, the kind one would often expect to see in the rough and rugged Alaskan countryside, of that or any era. He loved his chosen home, and wanted to see it free and prosperous. He was also known for a sharp tongue and temper. But all his life, he firmly believed that in the 1956 plebiscite for Alaska statehood, somebody pulled a fast one:
"The basic argument of the Alaskan Independence Party has always been the number one plank in our platform — the question of our vote to become a state. So…the most blaring disparity in that  vote was the definition of an eligible voter. Among those qualified to cast a ballot were 41,000 American soldiers and 36,000 dependants. Now, to the native population of Alaska, to me, these were occupation troops! And they were made eligible and, in fact encouraged to vote. There were educational meetings held on the military bases. I can’t imagine them telling anyone anything but that statehood would be very good for the military — in fact they still have 6, 7 big bases and numerous smaller holdings in the state. Statehood would be good for the military. Now can you imagine the international uproar if American troops had all went and got their purple fingers in Iraq?"
~ Dexter Clark, AIP Vice-Chair
The "smoking gun" video, the one the bloggers are using to nail Sarah Palin as a confirmed member of the AIP, contains much of this information. They claim that originally, in the 1956 plebiscite, all Alaskan territorial residents would be able to vote, and be given a choice on one of four outcomes: (1) Alaska remains a territory, (2) Statehood, (3) an Alaskan "Commonwealth," or (4) a free and independent Alaskan nation. According to Clark in the video, that’s not the way it actually went down — the ballot only offered a "yes-no" checkbox for statehood with no other options listed, and all Native Alaskans were disenfranchised. If that’s true, some could certainly argue that the fix was in.
Given the results of that decision 50 years later, with most Alaskan territory the "property" of the US government, homesteading virtually banned, and the cream of the state’s resources skimmed off for the benefit of the corporatocracy, is it any wonder the AIP is lobbying for a re-do, an honest vote, with all Alaskans participating? (And, by the way, they’re happy to live with the results of that vote, regardless.) How is this a form of "sedition"? After all my digging, I can’t find anything in the history of the AIP documenting them advocating anything but political change through peaceful, democratic means. In fact, many of their positions are very libertarian.
So, why not have a new vote? What’s everyone so terrified of? Quebec has had two votes on whether to leave Canada. The measure lost both times, the second one only barely. The Earth failed to break away from its orbit over this, and I’m certain had the vote gone the other way, the world would have managed to adjust to the new situation.
So why do liberal pundits and bloggers insist — wrongly — that the AIP is a subversive, America-hating "terrorist" organization? It has to do with the volatile personality — and mysterious death — of the founder himself. Joe Vogler disappeared in 1993, his remains were found in 1994. His confessed murderer led police to the site, and then later testified the death had resulted from "an explosives deal gone sour." Essentially, Vogler’s own murderer was accusing him of attempting to purchase military grade C4 plastic explosives on the black market, for what insidious purpose, no one could speculate. But this is the one and only data point by which HuffPo, Kos, et al., are insisting that the AIP is a terrorist organization.
Now, why would a man in the twilight of his years, a man who had devoted the previous three decades to peaceful and democratic change within the system he was compelled to work with, all of a sudden embrace more deadly means of sending his message, and ruining everything he and the AIP had been working for? Vogler’s own family, friends, and political allies never believed that official story, smelling a setup to discredit, in death, the man who was such a thorn in the sides of the US-corporate power elite in Alaska. The FBI has had plenty of time to investigate these allegations, and obviously nothing came of it, as the party still exists, fifteen years later.
There is a fundamental difference between secession and terrorism. If anything, a lot of the AIP’s goals are ones that many liberals would appreciate, like ending sovereign immunity for government agents, and libertarians would like their stance on jury nullification.
While the AIP takes credit for putting together the coalition that got Walter Hickel elected governor in 1990, they have never expressed a desire to expand their influence beyond Alaska. Everything they’ve done has been peaceful, honest, and under the letter of the law. But the liberal tar brush punditocracy continue to chant Vogler’s vague, mysterious death story to substantiate their claim that the AIP is a subversive, unpatriotic, un-American, terrorist group.
Nowhere, in the writings or public speeches of AIP members, is violence ever advocated. No actual violent acts, in all the years of AIP’s existence, have ever been recorded and pinned on AIP activists. I challenge anyone reading this to cite one verifiable example. Just one. (Yes, there have been reports that Vogler had a hot temper, but so does McCain, and he’s angling to have his finger on the nuclear trigger. That should give you far more pause.)
Ergo, to all intents and purposes, the AIP are who they say they are, and frankly, I don’t care if "Caribou Barbie" hangs out with them or not, nor should anyone else. So-called "progressives" betray themselves in their frantic efforts to swift-boat a legitimate political association, albeit one with whose aims they disagree, just to "get" an opposition candidate. If allowed to get away with it, Libertarians or Constitutionalists could be next, between election cycles, especially Libertarians, as we also insist on the fundamental right to secede.
Vogler once said: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions.” This was a statement used by the liberal pundits to tar AIP.
Now, let’s change that sentence to read, “I’m an American, not British. I’ve got no use for England or her damned institutions."
Watch out! If one wasn’t careful, one might attribute the latter to someone like Sam Adams or Thomas Paine! Our Founding Fathers — radical, seditious, secessionists, all. True patriotism means love of country, not necessarily love of that country’s government. The Founders, writing in the Declaration, were pretty adamant about that.
There are serious, vital issues to consider in this election, and none of us should be wasting our time with baseless distractions such as this. Put the issue to sleep, HuffPo, Kos. You’re supposed to be better than this. Move on.
Thomas Andrew Olson [send him mail] is a technology consultant, writer, and speaker in New York City.