If Rep. Mary Peltola holds onto the congressional seat she won in August, I expect Sarah Palin to accept the outcome. But publicly she’ll blame everybody but herself for being unelectable. Indeed, she’s already doing that.
Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive. And it’s a good bet she wouldn’t have run without having first secured Donald Trump’s endorsement. He officially gave it to her the day after she announced her candidacy.
But a few weeks later, and just days before their state convention, the Alaska Republican Party threw a curve by endorsing Nick Begich. Palin said the “backroom deal” was “a slap in the face of convention delegates.”
But in 2014 it was Palin who failed to respect the will of convention delegates. They endorsed Gov. Sean Parnell, who had been the lieutenant governor under her. She chose to endorse Bill Walker who was running as an independent.
Of course, Parnell was the incumbent because Palin was the only governor of Alaska who quit before her term ended.
Judging from the first line of her statement in the state’s official election pamphlet, she’s hoping Alaskans forgot about that. “I’ve spent my whole career fighting against the self-serving political establishment and fighting for the interests of the hard-working men and women of Alaska” she wrote.
Now, Kelly Tshibaka thinks she may have quit again. While explaining that Begich recently passed her in statewide polling, the U.S. Senate candidate said Palin has “really, really, really pulled back on her campaign,” and “has been primarily out of state since August 16th,” the day of the special election.
Not so, Palin told Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast last Saturday. “If I go down, I’m going to go down swinging” she said.
Apparently, that will be without much help from her campaign staff. She explained to Bannon that she’s not sure they’re “really in it for the right reasons, because sometimes they give really crappy advice and effort. So, I’m doing a lot of this myself.”
Palin also told him Alaska’s two political families and establishment Republicans in D.C. are conspiring against her.
“On the right side are the Murkowskis,” she said. In this tall tale, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has “taken GOP donations” and “given them to Lisa Murkowski so she can defeat Republicans up here.”
That, of course, is a reference to Murkowski’s endorsement of Peltola.
“On the left side are the Begichs.” Nick Begich, she claims, is in the race “as a plant, and he’s siphoning off enough votes from me so that the Democrat is allowed to serve in Congress representing this deep, deep red state.”
That logic makes the state party that endorsed Begich part of conspiracy to lose Alaska’s lone House seat in Congress to Democrats.
And the “deep, deep red state” is a flawed description of our political demographics. Unlike Wyoming and half a dozen other states, the majority of registered voters here are independent. Which is one of the reasons why the open primary and ranked choice initiative passed two years ago.
In Palin’s view though, ranked choice “is bizarre, it’s convoluted, it’s complicated, and it results in voter suppression.” And she’s convinced it’s all part of Murkowski’s plot to hang onto power and disenfranchise real Republicans.
Once upon a time Palin was popular across the political spectrum. During most of her first two years as governor, she enjoyed very high approval ratings and worked well with Democrats in the Legislature.
Then Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, selected her to be his running mate. During a campaign rally in a North Carolina, she referred to small towns as “the real America” and the “pro-America areas of this great nation.” Afterward, she clarified that by telling reporters “not any one area of America is more pro-America patriotically than others.”
Palin’s attempt to rectify that mistake shows she understood the consequences of pitting Americans against each other. But as evidenced by her appearance on Bannon’s show, she’s since come to think that a very divisive appeal to the party’s hardcore base is the ticket to winning elections.
And that reality will soon put her on the losing side for the second time in three months.
• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.