Norman Markowitz: Does Sarah Palin Want to be an American Citizen?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Markowitz teaches history at Rutgers.]

Sarah Palin is attacking Barack Obama for "palling around with terrorists," twisting media accounts to falsely connect Obama with the Weather Underground figure Bill Ayers. Let me say that I have no sympathy, and never had, for the anarcho-syndicalist craziness and bona fide infantile leftism, that Ayers and his associates represented nearly 40 years ago, when Obama was in the 3rd grade.

By contrast, Sarah Palin has real and documented connections to the Alaska Independence Party, which is far more extremist than even the most far right of the Republican Party. The main platform of that party, as Alaska Independence Party leaders have stated, is a rejection of the United States and an effort to cause Alaska to leave the union. Given what this party represents today, Palin's ties to that party deserve to be an issue in the campaign.

Alaska Independence Party leaders have also claimed that Sarah Palin was a member before she was elected mayor of Wasilla, which the McCain campaign has denied. Officially, records show that Palin was a registered Republican since 1982, six years before she married her husband Todd, British Petroleum supervisory employee, self-employed fisherman, and snowmobile mobile racer.

The Director of the Alaska Division of Elections has stated that Todd Palin, however, was a registered member of the Alaska Independence Party from 1995 to 2002. Todd Palin, all sources agree, has played a significant role as a policy adviser to his wife's administration. There is significant disagreement about Sarah Palin's attendance at Alaska Independence Party conventions before she became mayor of Wasilla. She did visit their convention after she became mayor, however, which the McCain workers try to downplay as a mere courtesy call. As governor, she sent a video tape to the most recent 2008 convention telling the delegates to "keep up the good work" and calling their convention "inspiring."

Keep up the good work of campaigning for a secession referendum from the US? While mainstream media has portrayed this party as "fringe" and extremist, it is the third leading party in Alaska (albeit a small one in a small state) and has the kind of history which has led to separatist wars in other places like Chechnya, where groups considered lunatic fringe, have taken advantage of economic and other crises to sow hatred and division and violence.

It is also an extreme right-wing party whose leaders in recent years have broken from the Republicans because they see the Bush-Cheney Republicans as "too liberal." Its present leaders have both praised Sarah Palin and denounced John McCain.

Here is a little history on the Alaska Independence Party. The Party was founded by an ultra-rightist gold miner, Joe Vogler in the 1970s with an "anti-American" platform. Palin has denounced those abroad in oil rich countries who "hate America." Joe Vogler hated America. He said in the 1970s, "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I have no use for America or her damned institutions."

Later Vogler said that "the fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred of the US government. And I won't be buried under their damn flag....when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." He said this in an oral history interview at the University of Alaska in 1991, at which time Bill Ayers had rejected his own past and had become respectable. Two years later Vogler disappeared. A criminal subsequently confessed to murdering him in a conflict over the sale of plastic explosives (which may suggest terrorism).

The Alaska Independence Party, which today favors a referendum on whether Alaska should become an independent country, a commonwealth like Puerto Rico, a state (they have never recognized the legitimacy of Alaskan statehood), or go back to its old territorial status, still pushes an agenda to the right of the present Republican Party.

In 1992, the party ran Howard Phillips for president. Phillips, a long-time ultra-right Republican from Massachusetts, had involved himself primarily in Cold War issues, particularly supporting terrorist guerrilla movements in Latin America and Africa. He was also a major organizational figure in bringing together secular and religious rightists in the 1970s, a founder of the ultra-right US Taxpayers Party (later the Constitution Party), and other extreme right-wing groups. He broke with the Republican Party in the 1970s from the far right.

In 2004, the Alaska Independence Party endorsed a Phillips protegee Michael Peroutka for president on a "Christian heritage platform," supporting an end to federal aid to education and opposition to most federal policies as a matter of principle.

The Alaska Independence Party is currently supporting Reverend Charles Baldwin, a right-wing minister and protege of the late Jerry Fallwell. Baldwin broke with Fallwell and the Republicans in 2000, however, because he considered the Bush-Cheney ticket too far to the left. Baldwin has regularly attacked Bush from the far right, was Peroutka's Vice Presidential running mate in 2004 and, according to press sources, believes in a wide variety of conspiracies (as do many Alaska Independence Party members) popular among militia groups concerning the "New World Order."

Right-wing militia groups at war with the US government spouting philosophies not unlike those of the Alaska Independence Party (which has so far not advocated an armed uprising against the US government) still exist. The Oklahoma City bombing is just one example of terrorism committed by far-right extremists similar in philosophy to the Alaska Independence Party.

Todd Palin continued an official membership in the Alaska Independence Party until 2002, more than 30 years after the Weather Underground went out of existence and Barack Obama was a child. When Todd Palin was a member the Alaska Independence Party, Sarah Palin was the mother of his children. Sarah Palin, as Alaska's governor, told the Alaska Independence Party to "keep up the good work" as they were about to nominate conspiracy buff Charles Baldwin for president.

The Alaska Independence Party has a history which it has not repudiated and a commitment to policies that would be considered "anti-American" across the political spectrum, policies that have produced separatist wars in many parts of the world. Americans deserve to know if Sarah Palin still agrees with that party's views, and even if she wants to be an American rather than an Alaskan citzen.

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More Comments:

John Olerud - 2/2/2009

I usually find the phrase "anti-American" when reading about the HUAC hearings or those run by Senator McCarthy.

Lorraine Paul - 10/13/2008

are very quiet regarding this article! Perhaps they don't want to draw attention to it.