Jesus Gets Punked by Exxon
Election day may be over here in Alaska, but now is when the fun begins. The results of a couple close races are hinging on absentee and questioned ballots yet to be examined, and shiny new lawmakers are angling for committee assignments and chairmanships. Pundits, meanwhile, examine and expound upon the results of the Citizens United meets Big Oil meets Jesus campaign machine.
Let me be one of them.
During this time, it’s good to remember the lessons of the past. The genius of Ronald Reagan was his ability to unite two completely different groups of people—with completely different policy goals—in one big tent.
After the realization that there simply aren’t enough investment bankers to win national elections, the architects of the Reagan Revolution used cultural wedge issues to recruit themselves some eager, new foot soldiers in the Bible Belt.
The latter, of course, are more likely to carry signs reading “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” than to actually benefit from the policies favored by the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce. Conversely, the guy running the trading desk at a Wall Street brokerage isn’t a raging homophobe – who do you think does his Upper East Side apartment, and his hair?
And yet, there they all were – crammed in that big unlikely tent, all pulling the R lever in the voting booth.
After the election, it’s always fun to keep score and note who actually benefits from such alliances of convenience in the real world of outcomes.
The last Republican President, also installed by an alliance of culture warriors and large financial interests, is very instructive here. Despite Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and a Republican in the Oval Office, you’ll notice that abortion still isn’t outlawed, nor has it been kicked back down to the states, and The “Homosexual Agenda” marches on from coast to coast.
But while America during the GOP years furthered its decline from moral rectitude into depravity, the GOP’s corporate clientele got paid.
The ideological flavor of the party was largely irrelevant on the national level. But corporations and the wealthy raked in the cash via the Bush tax cuts. Halliburton, Blackwater, and other no-bid contractors got paid through neoconservative policy like the Iraq War. Big pharma got paid through liberal policy like Medicare Part D.
You notice the common theme. They all got paid. All the while, evangelical types were looking in through the frosty windows at their fellow Republicans in leather armchairs, drinking cognac by the fire – and wondering when Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned.
Meanwhile on the local front…
The exploitation of the credulous is now underway here in Alaska.
Jim Minnery, who supports himself via political donations from bigots, has basically set himself up as Alaska’s one-stop shop for ballot initiatives, candidacies, and any action whatsoever that takes the mallet to the wedge of social issues like abortion and LGBT equality. His two-pronged approach includes utilizing the Alaska Family Council, and its political arm Alaska Family Action to send mailers, upkeep the Values Voter Guide webpage, and issue robocalls from the likes of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to turn out the conservative vote.
Teaming up with Governor Parnell, Minnery held a fundraiser to promote the candidacies of several senate races, by recognizing that the pro-oil lobby, and social conservatives had more power when they teamed up, and worked together to promote candidates who either a) had an oil agenda, but were willing to say what they had to say to appease social conservatives, or b) the true believers who were more than happy to kow-tow to big oil to get themselves in office.
And so it was in this year’s victorious Republican campaign to dismantle the Bipartisan Working Group in the state senate.
The recently announced committee chair assignments should give Minnery’s minions serious pause about their share of the electoral spoils. Alaska’s religious right has two big items on its wish list: restricting abortion rights, and privatizing schools.
The two committees on point for these issues—Health and Social Services, and Education—are going to be chaired by… wait for it… moderate Republicans Bert Stedman and Gary Stevens. Both were leaders of the vanquished Bipartisan Coalition, adversaries of Gov. Parnell’s oil tax plan, and neither has a reputation as a divisive culture warrior.
Now, if Cathy Giessel were to chair HSS, she’d likely put her back into battling abortion access. But Stedman? He’s a numbers guy, and a fiscal hard-ass, which is why the new GOP majority doesn’t want him anywhere near oil tax policy.
If Giessel were to chair Education, vouchers and the means to get them would be on the agenda. But Gary Stevens? He’s the former president of the bipartisan Senate, another adversary of Parnell’s oil tax plan, and a former History professor.
Who then, to chair the Resources Committee that deals with oil and gas? Why, Nurse Cathy of course! Endorsed by Minnery’s groups, and Alaska Right to Life, her professional expertise is in nursing and not in the oil industry, energy, finance or any sort of business. Giessel meets the one and only requirement Team Parnell has of the new Resources Chair—a servile, spaniel-like submission to any lobbyist or executive from the Big Three. She is a sock puppet in their bloodless coup.
It’s inconceivable her Q&A with Jim Mulva will get any more contentious than “where should we send the check?” And I’m sure the Big 3 will be real super impressed with her “pro-life, pro-family” stance. Or not.
Whether Alaska’s commitment to public education will be replaced with vouchers, and whether the reproductive choices of Alaskan women will be weakened after the next legislative session remain open questions. But rest assured people of Alaska, Exxon is definitely getting paid.
Jim Minnery lacks, shall we say, the intellectual gifts necessary to assess the eating of his lunch that is now underway. He’s still dancing in the end zone, and blasting emails to followers gushing that the election is “a success that should be celebrated, and you were a part of it as a supporter of Alaska Family Action!” The cynic in us all should also note that despite the apparent lack of teeth given to committees relevant to social conservatives, Minnery himself is also still getting paid. But his donors are, by definition, not.