...Alaska, and by extension the United States, is doomed.
Ted Stevens conceded his bid for a seventh term, and Alaskans will now have a democrat for a Senator.
Oh, God. We're screwed. It's the talk of the town, literally. People at the Palmer Starbucks this morning looked like somebody, probably gay atheist illegal aliens, turned their favorite puppy into puppy enchiladas. We'll lose our share of the congressional pork roast! They'll take away our guns! Family values are in the crapper. Gay marriage! Free abortions! Atheists! Dogs and cats living together, it'll be anarchy. Only Ted Stevens could save us! We're doooooooomed!
Look, there's no denying that Uncle Teddy has done a hell of a lot for Alaska in four decades as her Senator. And Alaskans have gotten used to Ted Stevens, used to the money he pulled into our state, used the power he wielded as the Senate's longest serving member, used to making excuses for his crotchety and cantankerous nature, and used to ignoring some of the more unsavory things he managed to ram through the Senate. The truth of the matter is that for a long time we were better off with him, than without him.
There's little doubt in my mind that Ted Stevens would have won a seventh term if he hadn't been convicted of lying and corruption - and he very nearly did win anyway. But, see, that's the whole point here. Both corruption and Ted Stevens are fixtures of Alaskan politics, and Alaskans are having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that Ted won't be there any more. The corruption, well, that's unlikely to go anywhere, anytime soon. The faces change, but some things remain exactly the same in Alaska.
They say you can get used to hanging, if you hang long enough. And that's how it is with us and Ted. We're used to him. So much so that it blinds us to some very obvious truths.
Stevens is a crook. That's not just me spouting hyperbole, it's the literal truth. He was convicted. He may win on appeal, I think that's unlikely but I wouldn't put any money on it. However, until and unless he wins that appeal - he's a convicted criminal. Oh hell no, say my neighbors - Ted was railroaded. The judge had a liberal agenda. The witnesses were tampered with. The evidence was tainted. The jury was biased. The sun was in my eyes! A dog ate my homework! I was kidnapped by aliens!
There's a word for this type of rationalization, it's called denial.
Ask yourself a simple question: Who do you hire when you need work done on your house? Did you answer, "An oil industry support company that has a vested interest in how I vote on issues in the state?" No? Me neither. If I need renovations done around Stonekettle Station that I can't do myself, I hire a contractor who specializes in such things, not Exxon.
Now, ask yourself another question: Who are you going to listen to, the company who is upgrading your house as a favor? Or some bearded scruffy guy in a bush cabin halfway across the state who didn't have the foresight to send you a decent gift? Exactly.
One last question, If everything Ted Stevens did was aboveboard, why didn't he declare the gifts and the money on his congressional disclosure forms? Uh huh.
Everything else in the Ted Stevens case depends from those three questions. And Ted's answers to those questions can be boiled down to "Step off, I'm Ted Stevens." It wasn't the judge, or the jury, or the venue, or anything else. It was Ted Stevens himself and those entities he chose to represent. Ted did this to himself.
Now, I'm not so idealistically stupid as to think that what's good for the oil industry in Alaska isn't often good for Alaskans. The truth of the matter is that Alaska is by and large about oil at the moment. And if Exxon-Mobile, Conoco-Phillips, British Petroleum, and their various supporting businesses and hanger-ons flourish, well, so very often do we. And like it or not, that's how America works - our representatives listen to powerful industry lobbyists and the common citizen goes along for the ride. Jobs, money, and pork follow.
But, what's good for industry in Alaska, isn't always good for Alaskans - just ask those Alaskans who used to fish for a living in Prince William sound prior to Exxon's little spill, or the natives who used to fish and hunt for their very existence downstream from some of the big mines and oil fields, or those Alaskans in the Bush who's villages are going bankrupt trying to keep the heat and electricity on while Big Oil rakes in record profits, or those of us Alaskans paying three times the national average for gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil. And it's this group of Alaskans that ended Stevens' tenure on Capital Hill. Turns out that there are more folks in Alaska who didn't see themselves benefiting from Uncle Ted's cozy relationship with the Oil Industry than did. Not a lot, but enough.
And let that be a lesson to politicians. It may be those lobbyists and your friends with money who give you gifts, and power, and whisper flattery in your ear - but ultimately it is the people who decide whether or not you stay in power. Disregard them at your peril.
And let that be a lesson to the citizens. Your vote counts. It does. Stevens lost this race by a very narrow margin. Your vote counts. And it's the single most powerful tool any citizen has. Your vote counts. It's the one thing that a politician can't ignore.
Alaskans, take a deep breath. Alaska will be just fine without Ted Stevens. He's done good things for us, but Ted Stevens isn't the only Alaskan who can successfully represent this state - and represent you. Senator Elect Begich is a lifetime member of the NRA, a strong supporter of gun rights, wants to open restricted reservations to gas and oil exploration, and believes less government the better. Frankly, he sounds a hell of a lot more like a Republican than a Democrat.
And one last thing for those conservatives down there in the lower 48 whining about Ted Steven's loss and what it means to the balance of power in Washington. Tough. Republicans have no one to blame for their loss of majority except themselves. No one. Nobody stole this election - they voted. That's democracy. You win some, you lose some - and if you want to win you'd better start thinking about why you lost.
Good bye, Ted. Thanks for your service and for what you did for Alaska.
Welcome aboard, Mark.
Now, get to work and remember who you work for.