It was only slightly over a month ago that America was swept up in the carefully orchestrated GOP storm known as Sarah Palin. On August 29, 2008, John McCain told Americans that Palin is tenacious, tough, and could handle the job of Vice President just fine. He praised her "grit", "integrity", and "good sense". He said that:
"She is exactly who this country needs to help us fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second,"
Indeed, "Country First" has become the official McCain campaign slogan. "USA! USA! USA!" is shouted by the frenzied, hate-filled, nationalistic crowds that gather to hear McCain and Palin speak.
What they don't know about Palin is that her political career in Alaska was shaped by the ideology and support of fringe, anti-government, militia-organizing secessionists.
Here at dailyKos, we have but scratched the surface of Palin's connection to the Alaska Independence Party (AIP). The big story that we suspected was there has finally been uncovered by Dave Neiwert and Max Blumenthal, who recently traveled to Wasilla, Alaska.
Neiwert laid the background for their AIP story in a September 22, 2008 article. Of note:
This morning I interviewed John Stein, the former Wasilla mayor who was defeated by Palin in 1996 by using "a quiet campaign by some Palin supporters raising emotional issues like abortion and gun control, which had no apparent tie to municipal politics" -- and as Phil Munger notes, a whisper campaign that Stein was secretly Jewish (Stein is a Lutheran).
The connection revolves mostly around three men known to have far-right leanings in the community: a builder named Steven Stoll, a computer repairman named Mark Chryson, and a third man named Mike Christ. All three subscribed to a bellicose, "Patriot" movement brand of politics -- far-right libertarianism with a John Birch streak.
According to Stein, Steven Stoll -- whose local nickname, according to Phil Munger, is "Black Helicopter Steve" -- was involved in militia organizing in Wasilla the 1990s, and subscribed to most of the movement's paranoid conspiracy theories: "The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plastic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over."
The "black helicopter" concept "became popular in the United States militia movement, and in associated political circles, in the 1990s as an alleged symbol and warning sign of a conspiratorial totalitarian military takeover of part or all of the United States". Timothy McVeigh, among others, was a firm believer.
Neiwert and Blumenthal followed up with a fantastic article published yesterday in Salon. If you weren't already convinced that John McCain's team had no idea what they were doing when they chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, you will be after reading this story.
Meet Sarah Palin's best Alaska pals:
Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.
Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as "Black Helicopter Steve," to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. "Every time I showed up her door was open," said Chryson. "And that policy continued when she became governor."
So let's get this straight. John McCain's team chose someone whose political career was tightly interwoven with - and supported by - extremists. Not just average wingnuts. Extremists. Radicals. A secessionist and a paranoid militia organizer.
There is much, much more in the article, including a brief history of the AIP:
"The Alaskan Independence Party has got links to almost every independence-minded movement in the world," Chryson exclaimed. "And Alaska is not the only place that's about separation. There's at least 30 different states that are talking about some type of separation from the United States."
This has meant rubbing shoulders and forging alliances with outright white supremacists and far-right theocrats, particularly those who dominate the proceedings at such gatherings as the North American Secessionist conventions, which AIP delegates have attended in recent years.
The AIP has also had a long association with the Constitution Party, which has had a prominent role in a number of racist "patriot" (i.e. militia) movements.
Neiwert summarizes the article at his blog:
Essentially here’s what we found:
- That Gov. Palin, when a Wasilla city council member, formed an alliance with some of the more radical far-right citizens in Wasilla and vicinity, particularly members of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party who were allied with local John Birch Society activists. These activists played an important role in her election as Wasilla mayor in 1996.
- Once mayor, one of Mrs. Palin’s first acts was to attempt to appoint one of these extremists (a man named Steve Stoll) to her own seat on the city council. This was a man with a history of disrupting city council meetings with intimidating behavior. She was blocked by a single city council member.
- Afterward, Mrs. Palin fired the city’s museum director at the behest of this faction.
- She fomented an ultimately successful effort to derail a piece of local gun-control legislation which would simply have prohibited the open carry of firearms into schools, liquor stores, libraries, courthouses and the like. The people recruited to shout this ordinance down included these same figures, notably the local AIP representative (who became the AIP’s chairman that same year).
- She remained associated politically with the local AIP/Birch faction throughout her tenure as mayor on other issues, particularly a successful effort to amend the Alaska Constitution to prohibit local governments from issuing any local gun-control ordinances.
In general, we found that not only did Mrs. Palin have numerous associations with these extremists, she actively sought to empower them locally and to enact their agendas both locally and on a state level.
We sent an e-mail to the McCain/Palin campaign asking for their reaction to these findings, and have so far received no response. If and when we do, we'll update.
So, McCain's cute lil' sidekick, that all-American hockey mom, the "pitbull with lipstick" that the cable news networks just couldn't get enough of for weeks, is actually so far removed from mainstream American politics and ideals that it's impossible to imagine her ever handling the job for which she has been recruited.
She may inspire the fringe, and may be able to tell voters the best way to store their gold and guns when the black helicopters come, but she's clearly the worst possible choice McCain could have made for his potential successor.