Top 5 reasons Alaska should enjoy next weekend with Bernie

Could Bernie Sanders win Alaska’s caucus Saturday March 26th? Absolutely, and here’s why.

Iditarod musher Monica Zappa was feeling the Bern in this year’s Iditarod.

1. Alaskans are independent thinkers and independent voters.

If there’s one thing that unites Alaskans, it’s that gut feeling that we’ll do things our own way thank you very much and you’re not the boss of me. In an election defined by anti-establishment angst, Alaskans fit right in. No political party is going to decide how we think, and it’s an odd mashup of values and lifestyle that define our political preferences more often than not. Enviro hard-rock miner? Check. Gun-toting liberal? Double check.

So we think for ourselves and spend too much time hunting dinner outside to keep up with the Joneses of the American mainstream. Good on us! But what does that mean for how we vote? Well, if our support of a cross-party “unity ticket” for Governor is any indication, it means enough of us vote common sense over party affiliations to decide major elections. This bodes well for anti-establishment independents like Bernie Sanders. Alaskans can respect Sanders for being the longest-running independent in Congress, someone who has put principles over party time and again, and enjoys wide support from Democrats and Republicans in his home state of Vermont.

And make no mistake, this year independent voters are crucial deciders in both the primary and the general. Take the March 22nd primaries. Arizona refused to allow independents to vote Democrat on election day, and Sanders lost. Utah and Idaho welcomed independents to their caucuses resulting in Bernie taking a whopping 80% of the vote. This was enough to outweigh Hillary’s win in Arizona, and an important harbinger of how independents will vote in November, when their support will make or break the candidates. What’s more, Alaska’s Democratic Party allows people to change their affiliation the day of the caucus, like Utah and Idaho.

2. Alaska is too diverse to let a racist become our president and Sanders polls the strongest against Trump.

With hundreds of Alaska Native tribes and a major city possessing the top two most diverse neighborhoods in the United States, Alaska is brimming with cultural diversity and proud of it. Our Native dialects are now recognized as official languages and our Native Lieutenant Governor brings Native issues to the forefront of state politics. I bring all this up to remind you that hate is not an Alaskan family value, Alaska doesn’t tolerate prejudice based on skin color, and a majority of us will not support an unapologetic bigot for president.

I know, I know, you keep hearing that voting for Hillary Clinton is the best way to defeat the proto-Hitler insulting his way to the Republican nomination. But au contraire say the data. Bernie is handing Trump his butt by up to 20 points in national polls, while Hillary can’t get a lead wider than the margin of error. Of course none of us really swallow polls whole anymore (uh, remember Michigan?), but this national matchup dynamic has remained consistent throughout the primary, regardless of polling company, methods, or demographic. Unlike Trump and Clinton, Bernie is also the only candidate running for president who people actually like. Both Clinton and Trump enjoy the historic and depressing status of being the only two primary frontrunners the nation hated more than it loved (i.e. they both have net negative favorability ratings), whereas Bernie Sanders is consistently seen as good more than bad (i.e. net positive favorability ratings). If for no other reason than to help destroy Donald Trump (net favorability -23%) in November, Alaskans should vote this weekend to make sure Bernie Sanders (net favorability +11%) is on the Democratic ticket.

But Alaskans shouldn’t settle for voting against values they don’t like, they should vote for someone who champions diversity and working together across boundaries. Sanders, a consistent advocate for the rights of poor and working class people his entire political career, is also the first modern presidential candidate to run a hugely successful campaign without corporate sponsorship and largely reliant on small donations from actual people. Alaskans may also like that Bernie is the only candidate to include Native issues in his stump speeches. As he told crowds this week:

“Anyone who has read five minutes of American history understands how shamefully and dishonorably we have treated the first Americans. We owe the first Americans so much. For enriching our culture and teaching us about the environment that we live with nature not against nature. What has gone on for years in terms of lies and cheating and breaking of treaties with the Native American people is not acceptable. Together we are going to change that and treat Native Americans with respect that has long been their due.”

For this and his other political work, Bernie is also the only candidate to have been given a Native name. Last week, Coast Salish representatives anointed him dxʷshudičup, or the one lighting fires for change and unity.

3. Alaskans understand the need for federal investment in infrastructure and support of private enterprise and small business.

Yes, I know you’ve been told that Sanders supporters just want free stuff and that the Republican party is the pro-business choice. But the documented reality, intrepid Alaskans, is that trickle-down Reagonomics has proven to be a disaster for the middle-class and the small businesses that drive our community economies. If we strip away the party dogma (remember, Alaskans are good at that), we see that Bernie’s proposed investment in national infrastructure and commitment to re-building our dwindling middle-class could help Alaskan businesses thrive. Whether we admit it or not, Alaskans understand all too well the role federal dollars play in our economy. Sanders’ New Dealesque investment in federal infrastructure would inject a much needed boost into a state economy that cannot exactly afford to look a gift horse in the mouth. (And if you’re worried about paying more in taxes under Bernie you can stop that, unless you’re killing over $250K a year. For more on that, read Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and economist Gerald Freidman explain how Bernie’s platform would save Americans money while growing the economy.)

Meanwhile, expanding Medicare to all Americans and providing free public college (as many other developed nations have already done) means a middle-class family’s disposable income can be re-invested into family business, instead of being absorbed by private health insurance corporations and skyrocketing tuition bills. I say this from experience. My own family could be developing our direct-market commercial fishing business faster if we weren’t throwing would-be capital into astronomical health insurance premiums, hospital bills, and student debt.

Think Medicare for all is unlikely to gain support in Alaska? I remind you that our popular independent Governor fought to bring Obamacare to Alaska with wide and vocal support from his constituents. Sure it was controversial, but unlike some conservative states, Alaskans supported our leaders and dug their heels in for expanding healthcare because it was the right thing to do economically and socially.

4. Alaskans value military service and we respect our veterans.

U.S. military veterans got on the Bernie bandwagon before most other people, because they noticed he’s one of the few people who has their back in Congress. The Vets for Bernie lay it out:

Last year, as Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Bernie Sanders successfully led a bi-partisan effort to pass the most far-reaching veterans legislation in decades; to expand veterans’ health care, establish dozens of new VA clinics, hire more doctors and nurses, and increase transparency and accountability at the VA. The bill also guarantees that recently separated veterans get in-state tuition at public colleges and universities, and extends educational benefits to surviving spouses of veterans who died in the line of duty.
These are real achievements, rather than the empty promises and hollow platitudes we so often hear from Washington. It is no wonder that the VFW honored Bernie Sanders with its prestigious Congressional Award this past March, noting, “Veterans everywhere should be proud and comforted to know that this United States Senator has their back in Congress.”

Bernie has also picked up support from Iraq war combat veterans like Hawaii’s Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who left her official post as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee to join Bernie on the campaign trail last month. Unlike Clinton, well-known for her support of the Iraq War, and Trump, an indiscriminate reactionary with an ignorant vendetta against an entire religion, Sanders gets wide support for Commander in Chief because of his reluctance to sacrifice American lives on foreign wars. For many veterans, he has proven he understands both the toll such “interventions” exact from our troops, and the intractable and violent chaos our regime changes often leave behind.

5. Sanders was the only presidential candidate to receive public support from an official Iditarod dogsled racer.

Two words: Monica Zappa. You can bet this musher for Bernie will be bright and early at her local Alaskan caucus location, 10 am on Saturday March 26th.