A trip to Palin country

WASILLA, Alaska — The Great Bear Brewery is famous for its “good beer, good chow, good company.”

At least that is what Chris, a taxi driver who came here from South Carolina in the ’80s, said.

In Wasilla, many citizens attribute the town’s progress and growth to Sarah Palin’s work as mayor. The majority of the town’s population supports Palin, and many believe that the Republican ticket will emerge victorious.
Nicolas Niarchos
In Wasilla, many citizens attribute the town’s progress and growth to Sarah Palin’s work as mayor. The majority of the town’s population supports Palin, and many believe that the Republican ticket will emerge victorious.

Inside the bar, big families and bearded men enjoyed hearty, fist-sized burgers served on sack cloth tables covered in plastic. On the surface, there is little to distinguish Great Bear from other local stops in Wasilla — the hometown of Gov. Sarah Palin (now the Republican vice presidential nominee) and the geographic focal point of her supporters.

That is, until you listen to what the people are saying.

At a nearby table on a quiet Saturday night, this reporter overheard a young, blond boy put forth his opinion: “Obama murders people.”

“No,” corrected his mother. “Babies.”

Glancing at her husband, she added, “He’s turning into a little Republican. It’s his school teacher.”

“Look, Obama says it’s okay to murder children,” the husband answered back.

The table fell silent. Until, that is, the couple’s daughter asked for a Sarah Palin birthday cake. Her birthday is on Tuesday — Election Day.

“Or maybe McCain and Palin?” the child asked.

Wasilla has seen marked progress over the past 10 years — progress that residents here ascribe to their former mayor, Palin. Most of the town’s population, said they would be voting for Palin come Tuesday. Brittany, a high-school-aged employee of the Moose Mocha Company and a keen supporter of Palin, summed up the sentiment in the town.

“I don’t think here in Wasilla there’s any fear of [Obama winning the presidency],” she said. “I know in Anchorage there’s a lot of Democrats … but here, there’s a lot of people that support her — people have known her for years.”

At the Mug-Shot Saloon, which is a block away from the Great Bear Brewery, signs facing the freeway to Anchorage congratulate the Palins for their work in the election. Almost everyone interviewed here speaks of her in superlatives.

Ted Anderson, a friend of Palin’s and the owner of the tavern, was counting quarters Saturday afternoon. Much of Wasilla’s new wealth, he said, was due to Palin.

“She got the new sports complex built … and now Wasilla’s growing — the roads and everything — there’s a lot of improvement,” he explained.

He said Palin was also a reformer during her time as mayor.

“She broke up the good old boy network … she got rid of a chief of police that I also thought was overbearing,” he added.

Other patrons of the bar were equally enthusiastic.

Jim “Klondike” Flatley, a club owner who ran a few fundraisers for Palin while she was mayor, said her appeal lies in the fact that she is “an everyday middle-class person that you can talk to,” as he put it.

“She has nothing to do with any uppity stuff,” he said, citing her strong stance against the oil companies, which many Alaskans see as draining the state’s wealth.

Others interviewed said they were worried that an Obama presidency might heavily tax small businesses. Wasilla, after all, is only just starting to see big businesses like Wal-Mart come to town. Most of the shops here — which sell jewelry, military stickers and yarn, for example — are small places, hybrids between frontier general stores and new-age curio shops.

Despite the overwhelming support for Palin in Wasilla, three local employees said while they were not supporters of Palin. (The three individuals insisted on anonymity for fear of isolation from the community.)

“I’d rather Joe Biden was president, he’s the one that’ll be running the show,” said a young woman. “Sarah Palin is conniving and sneaky.”

Another man in his 20s, who had recently moved to Wasilla from Alaska’s biggest city, Anchorage, expressed his distaste for the political system.

“I wish Ron Paul was still on the ticket,” he said. “I ain’t voting for no one-party system.”

Late Halloween night, 45 miles away in Anchorage, in the city’s only gay bar, Mad Myrna’s, some confirmed this sentiment. Among the twirling dancers dressed up as cops, vampires and even the Governor herself, an openly gay hairdresser — who only identified himself as Miguel — made a lewd, dismissive gesture when asked about Palin.

Comments

  • alum

    Is the YDN seriously sending reporters to Alaska to write this stuff?!

  • Recent Alum

    Thanks to the YDN for running a much more objective article on Palin than the NYT did. It is nice to know that, while YDN reporters are probably as liberal as reporters in the mainstream media, they have far more journalistic integrity. The NYT ran an article on the same topic a few weeks ago where they basically only quoted the small minority of Alaskans who hate Palin, nevermind the fact that she has an 80%+ approval rating in Alaska (and even higher in her hometown).

  • Y09

    This piece is unnecessarily snarky. I'm a Democrat and will be voting for Senator Obama, but I have no problem with a daughter of hard-working Americans who asks for a birthday cake inspired by their small-town hero.

  • Anonymous

    I do have a problem with a child being programmed with the mantra "Obama murders people". Clearly what got into that child's brain was the invective, not the details of a nuanced issue.

    Get them young.

  • Josh

    The supposed "liberal bias" of the media is a myth. Not supported by evidence.

  • Y12

    This piece certainly tries to be objective, but the reporter's cynicism clearly shines through…

    I cannot believe the YDN sends reporters to Alaska to write small pieces like this.

  • Anonymous

    #4: infanticide=murder. The child is more perceptive than you in seems.

  • Bent Alaska

    Mad Myrna's is not the only gay bar in Anchorage, and gay men in Anchorage are not the only Alaskans who oppose Sarah Palin. That 80% approval rating is WAY DOWN.

  • Recent Alum

    #4: Not people, just babies. As the child's mother correctly pointed out.

  • c

    "#4: infanticide=murder. The child is more perceptive than you in seems."

    ya, and a fetus does not equal an infant

  • Anonymous

    Um, yes. Infanticide is murder. What a great point. That's probably why the definition includes the word murder.

  • Alum in NYC

    "Among the twirling dancers dressed up as cops, vampires and even the Governor herself, an openly gay hairdresser — who only identified himself as Miguel — made a lewd, dismissive gesture when asked about Palin."

    Nice to see that homosexual Obama supporters in Alaska are just as "tolerant" of people with different political views as their counterparts here in New York. I guess some things don't change no matter where you are.

  • Anonymous

    #10: Obama voted for a bill that would prohibit babies born alive during a botched abortion from being treated, fed and clothed.

  • please just learn to think for yourself!

    #13: Such babies already are treated, fed and clothed. Hospitals don't just throw out living babies just because they were born as the result of a partial-birth abortion. The bill in question basically wanted fetuses to qualify for SCHIP. In other words, it was a round-about way of defining an unborn fetus as a person. Obama did not vote against giving treatment to babies who were born live from partial-birth abortions--he didn't need to vote for it, as it is already universal practice. His "no" vote was an ideological one against calling fetuses living people who can qualify for government funded health insurance. If you have a problem with that, that's fine. But get your facts straight rather than just swallowing the garbage that gets thrown around.

  • Natural Law Espouser

    The National Black Pro-Life Union would concur w/these disconcerting assertions

  • Anonymous

    As an Alaskan, I can tell you that while a lot of us loved her before, we don't all feel that way now. She always had presented herself as a very moderate and realistic leader. Her true far right beliefs have been brought to light by this campaign, and she will not be as welcomed as she once was. Even if it was just campaigning tactics that didn't represent her true stances on issues, that only makes her a typical politican - something we always thought she was not.