Sarah Palin, with whom John McCain rocked the political world yesterday, has a story that is quintessentially Alaskan: from hockey mom to VP nominee. (Note to Karl Rove: Hockey moms don't play hockey; their kids do.)
McCain hopes you'll think Sarah's just like Obama. She's living the dream in a country where anything can happen.
But that's not the whole story. Sarah's where she is today in large part because she's an Alaskan.
Obama had to prove himself in the national arena, beginning with his powerful speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention and culminating in a hard-fought battle with Hillary Clinton. Obama has a law degree from Harvard. Sarah has a degree in Communications from the University of Idaho.
Yes, Sarah took on party politics and won in a state that was thankfully growing weary of corruption and big oil. A state that has a smaller population than Brooklyn. A state where it's easy to rise to the top because we have lots to do and not so many people to get it done. Could she have been elected governor in any state other than ours? Doubtful, and definitely not in such a short time.
I'm not trying to diminish Sarah's accomplishments. I'm stating a simple fact that applies not just to Sarah but to countless other Alaskans, myself included.
I came to Alaska as a dewy-eyed, fresh out-of-the box teacher in 1979. The next year I was promoted to principal. No questions asked. The district was desperate for leaders. I started successful businesses and a New York publisher picked up my first book. Would all that have happened had I not been in Alaska? Maybe eventually, but not as easily.
Though it's not the popular stance in Alaska at the moment, I agree with Mike Doogan's editorial in today's Anchorage Daily News. Doogan, a state legislator and novelist, has in no doubt benefited as the rest of us have from being a capable person in state that's desperate for capable people. Like Mike, I like Sarah. But does she have what it takes to run our country? No.
It's the Peter Principle run amok. We see it all the time up here. Thankfully the damage from someone placed beyond their capabilities is usually minimal, though you have to look no farther than Don Young to see that it can be huge. With national and international consquences at stake, it's a risk this Alaskan's not willing to take.