(This essay is a response to issues that have come up over the past three days in discussions with members of Sen. Begich's staff, Alaska Democratic Party officials, and fellow Alaska progressive bloggers, about my recent writings about Mark Begich)
Progressive Alaska has been hard on Alaska Sen. Mark Begich.
It didn't begin with the ongoing health care debate.
It began when Mark filed to run against Ray Metcalfe in the 2008 Alaska Democratic Party primary. Between Mark's campaign filing for that race and today, I've been involved with both of these important Alaska figures. I've donated to and volunteered for causes both support, and my wife and I donated three times to Mark's 2008 campaign.
Back in the spring and summer of 2008, I asked Mark questions about his dealings with Anchorage developer Jon Rubini that Mark satisfactorily answered. Other queries, though, Mark skated around or bullshitted himself through. Much to Ray's chagrin, I've lived with that. I told both of them then that they should go on Ray's Anchorage real estate tour together, and not come back until they'd hashed it out.
That isn't why Progressive Alaska is hard on Sen. Mark Begich, though. Here's why:
1) I'm secretary of the Alaska District 13 and Mat-Su Area Democrats. At meeting after meeting, Egan Dinner after dinner, the people who elected me to that little office strongly support health care reform. The majority of them want a single payer system similar to that in place in Canada. Almost all view the "public option" as a sad compromise. Almost all view this issue as one of the most important facing the American people. When I write here or make public statements about health care reform, I'm aware that, among other things, I represent the Mat-Su Democrats.
2) I've watched Alaska Democrats, when elected to public office in the past, turn out to be doormats for special interests. Ex-Governor Bill Sheffield, now hosts pigroasts for goddam Don Young. Ex-Governor Steve Cowper is now a Houston-based big oil shill. Ex-Governor Tony Knowles has a long history of enabling the growth of out-of-state corporate interests in the Alaska bush, at the expense of local residents.
Those three governors ruled before we had this rapid-fire interactive tool known as the Alaska progressive blogging community. Begich is the first high-profile Democrat to make the scene since this paradigm shift. I feel Progressive Alaska has a duty to be PROGRESSIVE as PA covers the senator, even though Mark has to represent all Alaskans.
I'm trying to help keep Mark from ending up as compromised and soiled as Bill, Steve and Tony.
3) This is hard to explain, and is a large part of why I'm diverging from some of the other Alaska progressive bloggers from time to time, and have gotten incredibly strident at times:
Climate change is starting to cascade. Rapidly. Why more people don't see this as obvious beats the hell out of me.
Environmental degradation, whether by warfare (depleted uranium debris, war-caused oil spills, land mines, cluster bombs), agricultural industrial structures (large-scale farming practices of herbicide, pesticide, GMO crops, artificial fertilizers, feedlot pollution and disease promotion, overfishing) or dying urban raison de etre (as Max Blumenthal observed to me today "LA is burning up from the outside, working inward"), is far more serious than most realize. Action needs to be, in my opinion, much more severe than we seem to be prepared to undertake.
There is no time to let Mark Begich settle into his job.
4) Somebody has to criticize Mark from the left. I don't think anyone else here is doing that consistently.
I've been writing nationally about Alaska political developments since 2005. Other Alaska blogs offer representation of bigger, more vital communities than does PA, or more incisive, witty commentary, or far better in-depth research, or other important distinctions. But PA tries to represent both the national aspirations of the new progressive movement in Democratic Party politics, and find ways to continuously link that to ongoing and emerging trends in Alaska issues.
To blindly defend Sen. Mark Begich at this time is just too much of a stretch.
image - Mat-Su Democrats begging Mark Begich to stand up for doing the right thing on health care