Boots on the Ground in Fairbanks – Sarah Palin’s Quitspeech
I was very pleased to have some great “boots on the ground” in Fairbanks for Sarah Palin’s big Quitspeech at Quitfest on Quittyday. Thank you to Mudflatter Alaska Don who did a fabulous job reporting! There are also more pictures coming to entertain you later from other Mudflats “photobloggers.” Truly this was a day and a speech that will live in infamy.
July 26th, 2009. Abdication Day.
The sun rose north by northeast of Fairbanks today at 4:30 AM, having set in the north by northwest last night shortly after 11:30 PM. It was mostly clear, with billowing dark clouds of smoke from forest fires burning a quarter-million acres 45 miles to the west. The wind could shift and bring it here. So far, so good. We spend a lot of time noticing the physical world up here. It’s often said we’re a Land of Extremes, and it’s true. Light and Dark: 22+ hours of sun at Summer Solstice; 3 hours and 42 minutes of official daylight on December 21. Hot and Cold: -60°F, sometimes for two or three weeks running; +93°F last week. The political geography tends to the extreme as well.
Today is Abdication Day and Sarah is stepping out at 3 PM this afternoon. 5000 of us will line up for the annual Governors Picnic because we are hardy individualists opposed to Socialism and Communism, like our Governor, but love free food and money. Last year Palin added an extra $1200 on top of the $1900 Permanent Fund Dividend. $3100 plus in cash, to every eligible man, woman and child. She knows us well, and is more than willing to spread it around, even when it becomes rather circular. She put out a half-billion dollar bonus incentive to build the gas line. which the largest gas field leasee, Exxon Mobil, recognized as free money and got in line to share as largess with TransCanada. We all talk a good game of capitalism around here until the free hot dogs are distributed.
Driving over to The Event I noticed a lot of traffic headed north on the Steese Highway, out of town toward the river and wilderness. Maybe locals were passing on the Transfer of Power? No such luck. Getting closer on the Peger Road approach where the park and the river meet, cars were lining the shoulders, LOTS of cars.
1:07 pm Walking under the bridge from the Riverview neighborhood, remnants of the Red Green duct-tape flotilla, held this morning, were hauling their ships ashore at a point 150 yards/meters from where they usually serve the public picnics–but not today. A harbinger?
Out near the front of Pioneer Park, a.k.a. Alaskaland, there were long lines for the free food, especially for the one where Governor Palin and Lt. Governor Parnell were all smiles, passing out hot dogs and tiny sacks of chips. Lots of tourists snapping photos.
Whoops! Suddenly the Guv left and the line shrank instantly. People in that line jumped to other, shorter ones. Bun on a plate, a cooked wiener, a bag of chips and a plastic cup for water, (but the water tanks were empty). Move on. I asked a fellow in line at Big Daddy’s Barbeque wagon for a $7 pulled pork sandwich why he wasn’t in the free hot dog queue adjacent and he said the food was better and the wait shorter. You get what you pay for.
2:20 PM Sections have filled in with Pro’s and Anti’s. Crowds are now thick in front of the prow of the Riverboat Nenana and splayed forward and to the left. At 2:30 PM Governor-in-Waiting Parnell and entourage walk a pathway sliced and guarded from disrupters to a ramp up into the decks of the riverboat. A twitter of anticipation ripples through the crowd. Behind me a woman grasps my shoulders and asks to look past. She says she used to live in Fairbanks but has moved to Palmer. “Fairbanks has too many of those, you know, who, who…” “Like those over there?”, I point to the group on the hill waving signs like, “Proud to be Palin-free” and “Sick of $arah”. “Yes”, she snaps. “You know she visited the flooded villages this spring and they LOVE her. She’s so nice.”
2:50 PM Ralph Seekins, local car dealer and Chairman of the Fairbanks Republican Club, takes close-up photos of his friends with a camera with a 14″ lens. It must pick up all the moles and warts? A former State Senator who was defeated by an ex-labor leader, he waits to leap into the throng of governor wannabees come next year, (or maybe sooner?). The Army band plays patriotic melodies from the top deck of the landlocked riverboat. Representative John Coghill, son of a former Lt. Governor and another possible candidate, walks up and back with his wife on the magic pathway, finally locating a pair of seats in the chosen ground away from unfriendly fire. Lots of tourists and out-of-towners in the crowd. An attractive woman in a stunning yellow and green silk dress rises from her seat in the roped off middle sector, walks around to visit and returns to her chair. “Another Democrat on welfare, NOT”, quips a bystander.
2:59 PM A file of principle players and honored guests emerges, striding down the ramp to the raised speakers area. The platform is flanked by banks of loudspeakers which also block the view of the recessed podium for many. North Pole Senator Gene Therriault, who lives in a safely gerrymandered election district and is NOT likely to run for governor next year, serves as emcee. The reverend Eleanor Rule (sp? they handed out programs only to the select few in the roped off seats in the sector where I stood so I don’t know how names were spelled), gave a bilingual invocation in Inupiaq (northern Eskimo) and English; it did not sound like local Athabaskan. Then Sarah came to the podium to give her valedictory. She warmed up with a remark about sunny Fairbanks and how some of the most patriotic people and some of the strongest supporters of our military live here. That sparked the crowd, ready for Pure Palin. She spoke about Denali, the mountain, and our famous cold and how it splits up the Cheechakos (newcomers) from the Sourdoughs (old timers), then launched into one of those roaring run-on sentence speeches about “merciless rivers rushing and carving and reminding us here Mother Nature wins and the rest of America sees in the Last Frontier hope and opportunity and country pride and it is our men and women in uniform securing it and we are facing tough challenges in America with some being just hellbent on tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism, and suggesting American apologetics, suggesting that our best days were yesterdays, but as other people have asked, how can that pessimism be when proof of our greatness and our pride today is that we produce the great proud volunteers who sacrifice everything for country”. Applause from the crowd. Her entire speech is on YouTube HERE.
I paraphrase her continuing remarks to include references to “what you get to see everyday and North to the Future and our brave military and by God’s Grace and I promised to be fiscally restrained and hold schools accountable and elevate vo-tech training and manage our fish and wildlife and defend the Constitution and those Outside special interest groups still just don’t get it and you see I know that it is your money and you know best how to spend it.” It is difficult to comprehend how her unique combination of hot button words and phrases that blend across issues and categories make any sense but her followers believe they know what she is saying even when speaking in tongues. What she says may transcend English but no matter, they are certain they know what she means.
In the battle of signs, her supporters outnumbered her opponents. “Quit Baby Quit”, “Happy to Be Palin-Free” and “Quitter–You Betcha’” are
overshadowed by “We Love You Sarah” and “Great Job Sarah” and “Thank You Sarah”. The adulation that she seeks continues. Her supporters feel a bond and heartfelt emotion toward her. “O Beautiful for amber waves of grain” wafts over all as the new Governor-appointed and the temporary substitute Lt. Governor sign their oaths of office as the now ex-Governor disappears from view. Exit stage right.
So how many showed up? The Governor’s office claims 5000. We’ll leave it to experts in crowd estimation. It was several thousand. 50%, perhaps 70%, were supporters–not all by any means. Many were undoubtedly curiosity seekers, wondering if this was really a noteworthy moment in history. Temporary substitute Lt. Governor Campbell gave a lively but mostly forgettable speech aimed toward Governor-appointed Parnell that seemed a shot across the bow for the next governor’s race, (“I worked with your father when he was on the Anchorage Assembly”, with “little boy” seemingly implied and silent inside his remark). Parnell’s speech was bland by comparison, very sincere and predictable and basically boring. How well will they work together? Next year’s Republican primary for governor will have a cast of a dozen or more.
And Sarah? Whither Sister Sarah and why?
She shouted out to a heckler who questioned why she resigned. She said “he didn’t get it”, that not serving as a lame duck and not doing politics as usual and saving us millions of dollars and we are proud of our patriotic troops explains it. Talking in tongues again. He didn’t get it but her followers seem to or at least won’t admit to doubt. Like, do YOU get it? It must be the $11 million book offer, the TV talking heads show possibilities, the cashing in of those once valuable chips before they become worthless. Did sparing her family from the bloodsport of politics and media really have anything to do with resigning with a year and a half remaining in her term of office as Governor of the State of Alaska?
What it comes down to is in the eyes of the beholder: Either Sister Sarah the Divine is saving all by leaving it behind, or Sarah Palin is a Quitter. You Betcha’.
~~~Jason Jones of The Daily Show interviews Fairbanksan Lisa Peger, who hasn’t a clue how he is leading her on by seeming to agree.
Boots-on-the-Ground-Fairbanks, Alaska Don.
26 July 2009