Alaskan separatism hits the mainstream

Joe Raedle/Getty Images Obscure independence movements are something of an interest of mine, so naturally I’m fascinated to learn that vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. In addition to a fairly standard right-libertarian platform, the AKIP favors a referendum on whether Alaska should remain a part of the ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
592874_080902_palinflag5.jpg
592874_080902_palinflag5.jpg

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Obscure independence movements are something of an interest of mine, so naturally I'm fascinated to learn that vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. In addition to a fairly standard right-libertarian platform, the AKIP favors a referendum on whether Alaska should remain a part of the United States.

AKIP members apparently hold differing views on the statehood question and it's not clear if Palin was ever in favor of full Alaskan independence. But from her one-time membership and her friendly welcoming address to an AKIP conference this year, we can probably infer that she at least considers the party's message--"Alaska first. Alaska always"--within the mainstream of political discourse. This could be a problem for voters in the lower 48, where separatist movements are considered fringe curios. (Somehow I doubt a politician with ties to the Second Vermont Republic would have gotten this far.)

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Obscure independence movements are something of an interest of mine, so naturally I’m fascinated to learn that vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was once a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. In addition to a fairly standard right-libertarian platform, the AKIP favors a referendum on whether Alaska should remain a part of the United States.

AKIP members apparently hold differing views on the statehood question and it’s not clear if Palin was ever in favor of full Alaskan independence. But from her one-time membership and her friendly welcoming address to an AKIP conference this year, we can probably infer that she at least considers the party’s message–“Alaska first. Alaska always”–within the mainstream of political discourse. This could be a problem for voters in the lower 48, where separatist movements are considered fringe curios. (Somehow I doubt a politician with ties to the Second Vermont Republic would have gotten this far.)

It might also rub people the wrong way to have someone with alleged secessionist sympathies as the second-in-command of the federal government. In world politics this is hardly unheard of. Italy’s far-right Northern League, nominally a Northern Italian separatist party, controls a number of key positions in Silvio Berlusconi’s cabinet and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is a member of the nationalist Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Somehow I don’t think the McCain campaign will be bringing up those examples though.

Update: Robert Farley speculates: “This is hardly the first time this summer that a political leader in a former Russian territory has staked out a fringe secessionist position; could the new-found prominence of the Alaska Independence Party portend a South Ossetia style invasion and annexation?”

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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