For about six weeks, I'm stationed up in Anchorage Alaska. How could I not visit Wasilla? For a brief moment there, it seemed like the town's fate could've been all of ours.

A Salon piece—from the 2008 election—sums it up nicely:

"Sarah's legacy as mayor was big-box stores and runaway growth," said Patty Stoll, a retired Wasilla schoolteacher who once worked in the same school with Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath. "The truth is, Wasilla is just plain ugly, it's not a pleasant place to live. It's not thought out. And that's a shame.....

Wasilla, where Palin grew up and still resides, sprawls between two lakes — Lucille and Wasilla Lake. Cottonwood Creek, which flows in and out of Wasilla Lake, has also been labeled "impaired" by state environmental officials, after foam was detected on the water surface and subsequent testing found excessive concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria.

The two lakes are the town jewels, the only eye relief along a harrowing corridor of strip malls, big-box stores and fast-food drive-throughs that is Wasilla. "Lord, help me get through Wasilla," reads one Alaska bumper sticker.

People loved (and to an extent still love) Sarah Palin up here. I've been struggling to figure out why. The overwhelming impression one gets, when visiting the developed parts of Alaska, is one of massive sea of subsidy covered by a veneer of bitter (and somewhat hostile) independence and self-reliance. Every scrap of food I've eaten has been shipped in. The dollars for the roads I've driven upon has been shipped in. Even the gasoline has been shipped in. Simply put, most everyone living here is on the governmental dole—directly or indirectly.


In such a situation, it makes sense for people here to be deeply distrustful of the Federal government—because of, not despite of, the Federal largess. Having your life this reliant upon Federal funding is a bit like being a long-standing vaguely unwanted houseguest. After a few weeks of sleeping on the couch, you'd start to feel uncomfortable. All of the absurdities of government—the dense layers of bureaucracy required for any operation of such magnitude, the paranoid paperwork intended to prevent fraud, the impersonal and often arbitrary decisionmaking and so on—are laid bare to many Alaskans on a regular basis. The Federal government seems to be the dominant power here in the Anchorage area—vastly outweighing the power of even the oil companies or other outposts of global capitalism.

When I've heard bitching about "Obamacare", it's almost exclusively been from this perspective. Who wants these Federal assholes involved in any more aspects of our lives? What the fuck do they know? Exxon-Mobile builds us nice buildings with fewer strings attached. Why can't private insurance companies be left alone—to do the same for us on healthcare?

Fairview Loop road
  • Fairview Loop road

And in a very clear and accurate way, this point of view is (partially) correct. Unchecked governmental power and influence is pretty awful to live under. The aspect that's being missed is unchecked corporate power is even worse. I absolutely abhor every private insurance company I've suffered under. The dense layers of bureaucracy, the paranoid paperwork, the impersonal and imperious decisionmaking are all there—with a thick ladling of sociopathic profiteering added in. (Whatever else you can say about democratic governments, they're generally at least trying to do right by the people.) Living in places not completely dependent upon Federal aid, the winds of corporate power are vastly stronger. In the places in the US that have adjusted relatively well to globalization (i.e. American cities, the deepest blue parts of the country) the government feels more like an allied army arriving to liberate us from corporate tyranny.

As individuals, we're screwed under either governmental or corporate dominance. Owning a shitload of guns won't resolve this. The goal of a lot of liberal policymaking is the balance corporate power with governmental power—allowing both to be trimmed and molded into something more functional and humane in the process. The point isn't a Federal takeover of our lives. The point is to balance these forces to the point where most of us will be left the fuck alone.