Thursday, October 9, 2008

Governor Palin: Hardworking Pioneer

Someone told me that Palin has had an easy time as Alaska’s governor allegedly because Alaska’s main business is energy and energy prices have dramatically increased. Palin's job has not been easy.

Energy does produce most of Alaska’s revenue. However Palin has worked very hard to accomplish what she has as governor. First, it’s hard to be a woman politician in a macho state. Alaska’s culture has a strong focus on what is considered manly such as hard drinking, hunting and the state sport is dog sled racing. The climate is tough often requiring rugged living associated with machismo. Much of Alaska has extreme temperatures and during winter night lasts approximately 20 hours while during summer days last approximately 20 hours. The economy is focused on male-dominated industries like fishing, forestry and mineral extraction. The federal government is the largest single employer in the state, but most of the jobs are for military installations and defense projects which are also male-dominated. Politics is mostly Republican which has a larger percentage of male supporters than its counterpart the Democratic Party. Thus, culturally, politically and economically Alaska is extremely macho. Yet in this masculinized environment Sarah Palin slowly worked her way to the top through hard work and bravery. It was not easy.

Second, the hallmark of Palin’s politics is reform and reforming government is a very difficult job. She could have chosen the easier path of colluding with the oil monopoly which had a power-hold on Alaska’s government, but instead she fought the monopoly and won.

When she chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the production of petroleum in Alaska, Palin reported conflicts of interest and other ethical violations by another commissioner. She was ignored by Gov. Murkowski’s chief of staff and so she resigned rather than be part of the corruption giving up an $118,000 salary. The commissioner who she found was harming the people, Randy Ruedrich, was also state chairman for the Republican Party. Later that year, Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine for breaking state ethics laws. In 2005, Palin joined a Democrat to launch an ethics complaint against then state attorney general Gregg Renkes. The governor reprimanded Renkes who soon resigned. Describing her tenure on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Palin said, “when I found corruption there, I fought it hard and I held the offenders to account.”

When Palin became governor Alaskan oil companies tried to stop her from constructing a gas pipeline. They joined together to boycott the project bid, so Gov. Palin negotiated with Canadian officials and businesses to build the pipeline, got it approved by the House and Senate, and sealed the deal for the largest infrastructure project in the history of North America. Furthermore, the oil companies had been able to keep their taxes unusually low, but Gov. Palin put a stop to that by signing an oil tax increase and gave much of the revenue from the oil tax back to the people to help them pay gas bills by sending each citizen a $1,200 check. Before Palin became governor, the oil company lobbyists were extremely powerful. She decreased their power by enacting legislation requiring politicians to disclose to the public which lobbyists are giving them money. In conclusion, Palin faced fierce opposition from oil companies and broke their monopoly on power and resources in order to help citizens; and in order to do that she had to stand up to the leadership of her own party. It wasn’t easy. Palin said, "Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That's why true reform is so hard to achieve" (GOP Convention, September 3, 2008).

From reading biographical accounts I conclude that Palin was always a hard worker. As a child she played hard. During her childhood the family activities were running, hiking, hunting, fishing and skiing. Sarah’s father says…

I look back on Sarah's perseverance, and whatever she wanted to do, she put her nose to the grindstone, especially in sports, …If she didn't have a certain ability, she worked and worked and worked until she obtained that ability or skill.

While coaching running Sarah’s father observed…

…she was just mediocre in practice…And the first meet, she smoked everyone, and that opened my eyes, and the competitiveness in her really came out that day.

Palin’s parents couldn’t afford to pay for their kids’ college tuition so Sarah worked her way through college. She’s been mocked for being in a beauty pageant, but she entered the pageant to get a college scholarship which she did get. She told her brother “It’s going to help pay my way through college” (Sarah, page 21).

Sarah even decided to not have a wedding ceremony because she didn’t want to be a financial burden on her parents who made a moderate living as a high school teacher (father) and school secretary (mother). So she eloped foregoing the celebration that so many women enjoy as a high point of their lives.

Around that time Palin worked for an Alaskan fishery with friend Shirley Eberle who said, "We'd pick the sticks from the kelp, and then we'd sort. Sarah and I sorted. She was a real hard worker."

So throughout her life Governor Palin has worked hard. She worked hard at sports as a child and teen. She worked hard with her hands at blue-collar jobs. She underwent five pregnancies (always physically grueling) and did the very hard work of childrearing. She worked her way up in politics from grassroots PTA, to 6 years on the city council, then six years of executive office as mayor, then withstood intense pressure against powerful energy giants while Chair of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, then as Governor of Alaska she continued her fight against deeply entrenched corruption and overhauled the ethics legislation and broke the oil company monopoly. It was not easy.

I sense that sexism is a reason why Palin's enormous political bravery and successes are overlooked. She’s a great politician. Gov. Palin deserves credit for that. When Gov. Palin gets credit for her political achievements, ability and bravery it will help all women politicians be taken seriously.