Nice white people trying too hard

Years ago in northern California a white couple hired a black cleaning woman, and asked her how she she would like to be addressed. She said ” bah ma ‘nitials”, or “by my initials”. They didn’t understand her, but rather than ask what she was saying they called her “Bamanishuls”, and did so for 20 years.

I can just imagine this black lady telling the story to her friends, and getting a big laugh. Crazy white folks and their curious ways.

River Rage, back when men were men

On December 26, 1827, Andrew Jackson boarded The Pocahontas in Nashville, along with his wife, his closest political advisers, and his crop of cotton. At the invitation of the Louisiana Legislature, he was heading down the Mississippi to New Orleans to commemorate his great victory there thirteen years earlier.

The “Corrupt Bargain” between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, which made Adams President and Clay Secretary of State, had robbed him of the Presidency in 1824, and he was in the midst of a campaign for the White House. His opponents were waging the most vicious campaign of personal destruction in the history of American politics. He was accused of seducing, abducting, cohabiting, and then marrying another man’s wife. He was a street brawler, constantly shooting and being shot in duels.. He was a gambler and a drunkard, who frequented cock fights and swore.

Since he had entered national politics in1822 Jackson had been a model of restraint. He knew his violent past was a political problem, and he had not allowed himself to be provoked. But on the ride down the river a smaller, quicker steamboat surged ahead of The Pocahontas, and then swerved back and forth across the river in front of it. Jackson ordered a rifle brought to him, then hailed the pilot of the other steamer, and told him if he zigzagged one more time he’d shoot him. One of his aides fetched Rachel, his wife, and she was able to calm him down.

CNN Thinks Murkowski Still Has a Chance

Reporting on Alaska GOP Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka’s strong showing in recent polls, and President Trump’s recent endorsement, CNN’s Chris Cillizza admits incumbent Lisa Murkowski is in trouble, but thinks she’s still got a shot at winning.  “She’s not a lost cause just yet,” he claims.  He bases his tepid optimism on three factors:

“She has a very well known name.”  It’s true that the Murkowski political dynasty has held a seat in the U.S. Senate for 40 consecutive years.  But it’s not true that there is something politically positive about the name.  The founder of the dynasty, Frank Murkowski, was humiliated when he ran for reelection as Governor in 2006.  In the Republican primary that year, he came in third, with 19% of the vote.  I don’t believe a sitting Governor has been more roundly repudiated in American political history.  He lost, essentially, because of his arrogance.  His daughter has the same problem.  Ominously, the most recent poll shows Lisa Murkowski’s support is at  —-  19%!  Spooky.

“Alaska has an open primary”  While it’s true that Prop 2, and the jungle primary it introduced to Alaska, means that Murkowski can avoid a certain loss in a Republican primary, this may not redound entirely to her advantage.  If, as expected, the Alaska GOP adopts a rule which calls for a party endorsement at the state convention, Tshibaka will win an overwhelming majority of delegates, and emerge as the unquestioned choice of the Republican Party.  Murkowski would be wise not to place her name before the convention.  Her support would probably be in single digits.

“Alaska has ranked choice voting”  But if the past is any guide, and it usually is, ranked choice voting will result in more electoral victories for conservative candidates in Alaska.  Over the past 40 years, when conservatives have split their votes, Democrats get elected.  Now, under the instant runoff system, voters who supported the second place conservative can switch to the leader in the second round.

Democrat Governors Sheffield (1982), Cowper (1986) and Knowles (1994) were all elected with a minority of votes.  In each case, Libertarian or Alaska Independence Party (AIP) candidates pulled votes from the Republican, and the Democrat won.  In 2008 Mark Begich only beat Senator Ted Stevens 48%-47%.  Without the AIP candidate in the race, Stevens could have pulled it off.  And there have been countless legislative races where Alaska conservatives have split their vote, allowing the Democrat to win.

In the past 46 years, Alaska has had around 50 statewide elections, for Governor, U. S. Senator, and U. S. Representative.  A Democrat got a majority of the vote once  —  Tony Knowles was reelected in 1998 with 51% of the vote.  But that was a special year.  The Alaska GOP repudiated its own nominee, John Lindauer, and endorsed the write in campaign of Robin Taylor.  In a normal election, without the corrupt and fraudulent Lindauer, Taylor would have won.

The liberal dark money groups behind Prop 2 weren’t trying to help conservatives with ranked choice voting, of course.  This initiative was designed for one, express purpose: to help Lisa Murkowski get reelected.  But there are certain dubious assumptions built into this scheme.  First and foremost, Murkowski has to finish ahead of the Democrat in the first round.  Second, Democrat voters must overwhelmingly prefer Murkowski to Tshibaka.  Third, Tshibaka cannot reach 50% plus one without Democrat or Murkowski votes.

In Congressional elections, Alaska is a bright red state. With the recent endorsement of President Trump, Tshibaka has united the entire Republican Party behind her.  The 2022 off year Congressional election looks to be a wave for Republican conservatives nationally, and Kelly Tshibaka can ride that wave right into the United States Senate.


Let’s do it right this time

What do Mike Dunleavy, Muhammad bin Salman, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have in common?  They all want $100 oil, and they’re doing all they can to get it.  Alaska, Saudi Arabia and Russia want high oil prices for the income they derive from it.  Biden has thrown in with the environmental extremists in pursuit of a green energy future.  High oil prices discourage consumption, and reduce pollution.  They also incentivize the transition to alternative fuels.  The American consumer, especially the middle class which drives to work, is going to suffer, but as far as Joe Biden is concerned, they can lump it.  They’re sacrificing for the environment, and should be proud to do it.

As a result, the Alaska Department of Revenue sharply increased the projected revenues to the state from oil production.  This takes some of the pressure off the budget, and should reduce the amount needed from Permanent Fund earnings to balance the books.  The Governor and the legislature have some breathing space.

I believe revenues will continue to increase, as oil slowly continues its climb into triple digits. 

Not quite a year ago, oil sold for $19.33 a barrel.  President Trump managed to do something that had never been done before.  He got the Russians and the Saudis (OPEC +) to cooperate on curtailing production.  It worked, and a year later we’re at $60 oil.  The Russians and the Saudis, two of the top three oil producers in the world, will continue to constrain production, trying to balance it with consumption, and increase the price.  They’ve done it before, in cooperation with the other of the top three, the United States, and they can do it again, without active American participation.  Biden isn’t working with financial incentives.  He’s on a moral crusade.

For the State of Alaska, the pressure for new revenue   —   tax increases  — will decline, but it will not abate.  Alaska is on an unsustainable path, and it needs to be corrected.  Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to get it right.

But statutory fixes aren’t enough.  No legislature can bind future legislatures, so statutes restraining spending or setting the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend have no application in the future.  Only constitutional amendments can do that.

The legislature is considering amendments on all of these subjects, but none of them will easily reach the 2/3 vote required.  It’s doubtful they’ll pass.

In which case the people of Alaska have the once-in-a-decade opportunity to vote for a constitutional convention.  In November of 2022 that question will be on the ballot.  If a majority of Alaskans believe that they are capable of electing delegates to that Convention who are capable of crafting thoughtful and effective amendments, they will vote yes. 

And then we’d really have a chance to get it right.

James K. Polk and Donald Trump, Compared

James K. Polk was one of the most successful Presidents in our history, exceeded in his accomplishments only by Washington, Lincoln and Jackson. He had four goals when he took office in 1845, and he achieved all of them in his one term. He wanted to complete the process of Texas annexation, take California and its ports of San Diego and San Francisco from Mexico, settle the boundary dispute with Britain over the Oregon Territory, and reform the finances of the federal government. If you include Texas, the amount of territory he added to the United States exceeded that of the Louisiana Purchase.

He was the proud protege of Andrew Jackson, and completed what Jackson had begun. But he was not a good politician, and only obtained the Democratic nomination by promising to serve only one term. During his Presidency he was roundly disliked by foes and allies alike. Due to a horrifically painful operation when he was very young, he was probably impotent. He died shortly after he left office at the age of 53, an embittered and unloved man.

Donald Trump is not a politician, and never pretended to be one. Throughout his short career in politics, he has completely alienated half of the country. But in one term his accomplishments rank only behind James K. Polk, and ,of course, Washington, Lincoln and Jackson. He succeeded in doing what he said he would do, even to a greater extent than Ronald Reagan, who was a great President for winning the Cold War and revitalizing the economy.

Trump doesn’t need a second term to embellish his record. He has permanently reshaped the Republican Party, and the 2024 Republican nominee will only ratify this transformation. The Trump agenda, minus the personal Trump drama, will easily prevail without him.

He’s no James K. Polk, and he has a quite pleasant post-Presidency to look forward to. I hope he has a great time with his family, and avoids the labor of another campaign, and the virtual certainty that a second term would be something of a disappointment. It could never equal the first.

If you’re ever in Nashville, go by the State Capitol, and pay your respects at the grave of “Young Hickory”, the 11th President of the United States, and a great American.