Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Begich and the Native vote

Now, I'm an eye-roller when it comes to arguing about which group "really won it" for that candidate or another. But this article in the Alaska Report in November made me puff out my chest just a bit. A "look what we did..." kind of a moment.

The Begich Treaty - the Villages signed on with their votes

It's basically about how the Native vote in Alaska "gave him his narrow victory."

I disagree with the premise of it - I mean, would Begich have won without a pretty large section of the 84% of Alaskan voters who are not Native? Not to mention the incredible effort by the Obama campaign, working with the Begich campaign, to make this happen.

But it is still a proud moment for me, looking at the Native people who, in the end, came through for Begich. Native people have long backed "Uncle Ted" because, in the much-too-long-now past, he was a great supporter of Native issues (and I might add, not just a supporter of Native corporations.) He hasn't been that Ted in awhile, and I'm hopeful for the outcome of our new Sen. Begich, working with Sen. Murkowski who has been (surprisingly) pro-active on rural issues, with a president who had a general plan for Alaska Native involvement months and months ago, and a plan for Native American involvement well over a year ago.

Alaska Natives throughout Alaska listened to Begich, trusted him and gave him their votes. Despite Senator Ted Stevens' past record of accomplishment for rural Alaska , a record described in detail by Senator Lisa Murkowski, as she and other Senators bade Stevens a final farewell, every rural election precinct came through for Begich.

(Emphasis by yours truly.) And he pulled in the urban Native vote as well. I love that the article also shows just why Begich could be so important for the Native people of Alaska. As a mayor, he did as much as a mayor could for Native people - mostly regarding racism and the "in-migration" from the villages (resources, transition.) But as a senator he will have much greater opportunity to fight for us in Washington.

In short, there are some pretty good reasons for Native people to be both proud of their vote, and optimistic about the political future.

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