A Frontier Divided

By Patrick Ottenhoff

From the days of Russian control to Lisa Murkowski's 2010 primary, it's never been easy to defend Alaska. 


Map of the Day

On this day in 1867, the Russians likely gazed across their backyard and  breathed a sigh of relief that the United States was taking over the great land mass across the Bering Straight.  Alaska had become a liability to the Russians, who feared they could eventually lose it to a rival such as Great Britain, but on October 23, it officially passed to the United States. 

Nearly a century and a half later, the acquisition once-known as "Seward's Folly" has proven to be a wise investment. The $7 million purchase (which equals two pennies an acre) seems like nothing when you consider that the Alaska Permanent Fund alone is worth $33.3 billion. 

But if the strategic value to the United States is clear, the economics and politics have always been much murkier. It's a state that loves to hate Washington, and yet receives more assistance from the federal government per capita than any other. It's a ruby red state that senators expected would be thoroughly Democratic when they approved its admittance to the union in 1959. 

Alaska is definitely its own unique place with its own quirky characters, but even there we've seen some familiar rifts in the electoral map. A week ago I highlighted the O'Donnell-Castle divide. It turns out Alaska had a similar dynamic in the Republican Senate primary. 

This great map from the Anchorage Daily News shows that Anchorage, the coastal areas, the Eskimo areas, and the North Slope voted for Lisa Murkowski while the inland areas, including Wasilla, supported Tea Partier Joe Miller. The map suggests to me that Murkowski has more work cut out for her if she wants to win that write-in campaign, as she'll have to traverse the interior while Miller works the coastal towns. 

Judging by Miller's rhetoric on the trail, he'll likely be quoting Ty Webb: "This isn't Russia. Is this Russia? This isn't Russia." Since today in 1867, the answer is no.

  Alaska Republican Primary Senate

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/10/a-frontier-divided/64755/