Mr. Alaska Goes To Washington
When I told the folks at the Northern Right I was heading to D.C. for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), they said I would be welcome to submit a piece reflecting on the conference.
However, while I was in D.C. as strange thing happened. I ran in to a few of our state representatives, lobbying in support of opening ANWR for oil exploration and development. Kind of a no-brainer there; recent polls indicate that more than 3/4 of Alaskans support opening ANWR. We pass resolutions every year reaffirming our desire that the feds live up to their obligations under ANILCA, and some of us celebrate when other groups take up the call.
Engineers warn us the increasingly exsiccate pipeline running from the Slope to the Sound can't maintain these losses long. Strategists in our fight to keep Alaska's economic engine running believe the upcoming vote to open a small part of ANWR represents a sort of Hezekiah's Tunnel - offering a source of relief for an industry (and really, a state) which is under siege.
So why, then, do we excoriate the vanguard?
I was catching up with an Anchorage Daily News article on the legislative ANWR visits and saw anonymous commentator after anonymous commentator scouring Representatives’ Millett and Johansen for taking money out of their office accounts to make this trip on behalf of you and me. (To be fair, some weren't pleased with Speaker Chenault and Representatives Fairclough, Joule, Pruitt and Saddler going either - but nearly every negative comment had to do with the first wave of visitors). A lot of these comments had to do with what leadership/caucus positions the representatives hold in Juneau.
When people talk about Washington D.C. being out of touch, it's true on many fronts. One of the places this rings most true is when it comes to the sandbox political games we see at the local level. On a good day, much of what stirs up Juneau might qualify as high-school drama back east, maybe. The result of this is that NO ONE in D.C. cares what goes on in Juneau. They couldn't care less who's in a majority or minority or what caucus they're in. What does matter is they are the representatives of our state, and the people of Alaska have given them the authority to work in the best interests of the state. The messages local representatives bring give additional support to our delegation when they tell colleagues Alaskans want ANWR developed.
Sitting at home hoping the congresswoman from Hawaii votes your way is an exercise in futility. What does she know about ANWR unless Alaskans and our representatives tell her about it? (By the way – she deserves a visit and a few strong words from Alaskans after going the wrong way on the ANWR vote in the Resources committee.)
Instead of throwing stones at Representatives Millett and Johansen for this trip, we ought to be applauding them. On an issue that is so important to our state, are we really willing to throw away their efforts because they're out of favor in Juneau and the pages of the Daily News? If Alaskans can't get together behind something as important as keeping our lights on then we will probably get what we deserve: more federal regulations, less access to resources, and more disregard for the deals made when we shaped (and reshaped, and reshaped) our state.
We should be proud every time our elected officials are willing to stare into the abyss Washington D.C. can be, and demand OUR rights to OUR resources. I hope we show a better appreciation for the next group to come home.