Palin Once Supported Alaskan Independence Movement (and What’s Wrong With That?)

by Peter Spiro

Turns out (along with who knows what else) that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, active enough to have attended its statewide convention in 1994. The party argues that Alaska’s accession by referendum in 1958 violated international law, insofar as voters were not given the choice of independence in addition to the ballot options of statehood or continued status as a territory. 

Let’s not waste too much effort on the legal arguments.  Although pre-statehood Alaska was in fact categorized as a non-self-governing territory, subject to trusteeship requirements of the U.N. Charter, the U.N. General Assembly seems to have been satisfied with the outcome of U.S. administration, and I think there’s just a little too much ice under the bridge to turn things back on that. 

But if Alaskans want independence today, why not let them have it?  It would save the rest of us some money –the federal government spends $1.83 in Alaska for every dollar it takes in from taxes on the state’s residents.  Think about, for instance, the fact that Alaskan’s pay the same as the rest of us to send their mail, even though theirs costs a whole lot more to deliver.  If they want their own flag and ambassadors and Olympic representation, why wouldn’t we be happy to part ways with Alaska’s 670,000 residents (none of whom I know), if we could save a few bucks along the way.  

What would the rest of us lose in the process?  I suppose energy security would be a concern, especially on the cusp of a new Artic gold rush, but it’s hard to imagine that Alaskan control of natural resources would pose any greater threat than, say, Canadian control of such resources.  I doubt we have to worry much about the Russians projecting their military designs across the Bering Straits.  We would lose the benefit of future Ted Stevenses, Mike Gravels, and, yes, Sarah Palins.  (Of course the heavy subsidies explain why Alaska itself is unlikely to press too hard for independence.  Ditto for Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where sovereignty movements have been comparatively vigorous.)

Palin’s fellow Republicans probably don’t see things that way (see for example this somewhat bizarre screed against the Law of the Sea Treaty from Accuracy in Media entitled “Should UN Broker Return of Alaska to Russia“).  Republicans are all for property rights and the like, which feature prominently in the Alaska Independence Party platform.  But secession is just a little too far on the Idaho militia/Waco side of the spectrum for their comfort, or most anyone else’s.  I suppose she could claim ignorance of her participation (on second thought, better not).  This probably isn’t a big deal by itself, but it might add to the cumulative impact of revelations (drip, drip, drip) that may start to weigh pretty heavily.

4 Responses

  1. Regardless of the the merits of the case for Alaskan independence, it seems to me that that little bit of unpleasantness in the early 1860s put paid to any notion of secession as a viable option. And even if it didn’t, the fact of the Union now having nuclear warheads at its disposal surely has.

  2. It might be OK as long as they paid us for the land. I’d want a lot more than $7 million though, even in the current real estate market.

  3. Might makes right?  What ever happened to the principle of self-determination?

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