Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Day 86: Out of step
Nowhere contained in this soul-searching is a clue that, perhaps, this particular policy platform centered on manufactured outrage and grievance might not be as popular as they've been told.
Good afternoon, Alaska! It’s Day 86.
In this edition: Last week’s election in Anchorage—where we saw the near-clean sweep of the Anchorage Assembly seats by candidates not aligned with extreme-right Mayor Dave Bronson—has spurred some soul-searching by Alaska’s conservatives, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that they’re missing the point. Also, the reading list.
Current mood: 😷
Programming note: About now, I was supposed to be on a flight to some time in the sun and a collegiate softball tournament. Instead, we woke up to some really bad colds that dashed those plans. I’m feeling so-so right now and plan on spending the next couple of days recuperating. Coverage will be limited. Take care y’all.
Out of step
Last week’s election in Anchorage—where we saw the near-clean sweep of the Anchorage Assembly seats by candidates not aligned with extreme-right Mayor Dave Bronson—has spurred some soul-searching by Alaska’s conservatives, and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that they’re missing the point.
Just like we saw with the losses of Sarah Palin and Kelly Tshibaka last year, the response, as was outlined in the Anchorage Daily News’ excellently reported “Anchorage election results leave conservatives discouraged,” has included blaming the Alaska Republican Party, blaming the Missouri-based firm that ran most of the campaigns, blaming conservative retirees for moving Outside, blaming the media, blaming liberals and blaming the decline of oil.
“I think that the left and the left media have been very effective at turning the city into a mess,” said Suzanne Downing on a radio appearance, as reported by the ADN. “It’s worn down the public, and the public is not paying attention most of the time.”
If they had had ranked-choice voting, I’m sure they would have blamed that, too.
The lessons, it seems, are to put more money into the races, seek greater direct involvement of the Alaska Republican Party in nonpartisan local races, find a better campaign firm and continue the blame game. The solution seems to double down on what they’re doing.
Nowhere contained in this soul-searching is a clue that, perhaps, this particular version of the conservative policy platform centered on manufactured outrage and grievance might not be as popular as their carefully curated echo chamber has been telling them. Especially when put up against, say, the competent administration of government and plowed roads.
Read through the candidate surveys, and you’ll find conservative candidates holding Mayor Bronson at arm’s length—at worst, giving him a “marginal” grade. He could be doing better. On the surface, it might seem like they get it but look to their assessment of the Anchorage Assembly as a way-out-of-touch runaway liberal monster to see it’s largely superficial. A vote for them is effectively a vote for Bronson.
And while the grievance and fearmongering may be effective at riling the base, it’s not exactly keeping pace with public opinion.
Take the latest ruling out of Texas that suspends (pending appeal and some other confusion) the FDA approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. What ought to have been a significant antiabortion ruling for celebration among the far-right, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Treg Taylor, who signed on to support the suit, has mainly been met with silence.
In political analysis by The Washington Post, author Aaron Blake examined the muted response against polling that shows support for abortion rights has trended upward since the repeal of Roe v. Wade and elections—like Alaska’s resounding defeat of a constitutional convention last year—where abortion rights won with voters:
It all reinforces something we’ve seen in other data: the fact that more absolutist, hard-line opposition to abortion rights is very low and has been on the decline.
And that’s a problem for the GOP when it comes to the Texas judge’s ruling. Not only does the ruling attempt to block access to the pill, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a judge suspend a medication long approved by the FDA — the pill was first approved in 2000 — over objections from the agency and the drug’s manufacturer. It’s a striking ruling that, if implemented, would eliminate the most prominent method used for legal abortion in this country.
On one level, it’s everything the GOP might have hoped for to go along with the Supreme Court overturning the long-held constitutional right to an abortion. “This victory in court brings us one step closer to protecting the sanctity of life and the safety of mothers,” Rep. August Pfluger (R-Tex.) said.
But on another level, the GOP knows that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has saddled it with a political liability. It can now make good on something that worked great to motivate its base as a theoretical possibility but that is considerably less of a benefit now that it can actually effectuate such unpopular changes.
While it all may look like a scene out of a Looney Tunes cartoon—Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner off a cliff only to realize the ledge has long run out and he is out in open space—there are still many tools outside the ballot box to continue to implement these kinds of generally unpopular opinions.
Alaskans will see their access to abortion limited thanks to Gov. Dunleavy and AG Taylor because they successfully threatened Walgreens out of carrying any abortion medication despite it being legal here.
And in a year where public schools are facing deep trouble over funding issues, Gov. Dunleavy (who loves to remind us that he was once a teacher) has turned not to meaningful solutions that could finally bring the end to all the uncertainty over school funding but to his “parents’ rights” legislation that largely mirrors Florida’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
In the Legislature, the House Education Committee was told on a 10:1 ratio the legislation is bad and a direct attack on LGBTQ+ children and their families.
The House Education Committee’s response has not been to can the legislation or even to roll out a significantly rewritten bill to address the concerns while salvaging the core purpose. No, they’re making another run at public testimony in hopes it’ll be different this Thursday.
“First-time testifiers ONLY,” reads a Facebook post by Rep. Jamie Allard, claiming that all the outrage is simply from people missing the point.
“The media has misled the public about the realities of HB105, provoking inflammatory responses and outrageous accusations that the bill somehow endangers and discriminates against gender non-conforming students,” she claimed.
For a refresher, the House Education Committee took roughly five hours of public testimony on the governor’s bill in late March, where more than 100 people testified against the legislation while about a dozen testified in support. During that hearing Allard routinely bickered with testifiers, complaining that anecdotes about harm and suicide among LGBTQ+ kids were not on topic.
Without changing anything, now they’re hoping for a different outcome.
How to testify
The House Education Committee is set to begin its public hearing on the legislation at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 13. You can testify in person at the Capitol or any legislative information office. You can also testify by calling the following numbers:
The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.