Trump shocks world, wins presidency
Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States after a shocking election night Nov. 8 that sealed not only his own White House bid but locked up U.S. Congress for the GOP.
For Alaska, the conversation now veers towards how Trump can help minimize federal hurdles to the natural resources from which the state derives most of its economic base.
Many media outlets and political analysts were flabbergasted at the election result, having predicted a victory for Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. Alaskans both in and out of the political theater were no less surprised.
“Count me among the millions who were surprised by what’s happening,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won her reelection bid and will retain her powerful chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a GOP-controlled U.S. Senate thanks to Trump. “My sense is they (Democrats) are probably pretty stunned.”
Against predictions, Washington, D.C., is now monochrome red. Not only did Trump upset the predicted Clinton victory, but Republicans also retained control of the U.S. Senate as well after the Trump wave in blue states led to victories for GOP incumbents thought to be in danger. In the end, only Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois lost.
Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania each made late returns that clinched holding the chamber for the GOP.
Murkowski wasn’t wrong about the results blindsiding election handicappers.
Analysts had predicted a Clinton victory up to hours before the election results came rolling in. Democrats at Williwaw restaurant in Anchorage, where the state Democratic Party sponsored a viewing party, were deflated from an electric mood the moment Trump won North Carolina.
Watching Trump’s victory speech, the club was silent. Nobody moved except to hug the person next to them, lift a drink, or to shake or hang their heads.
“Well the national was a little disappointing,” said Anchorage Democrat Les Gara, who ran unopposed in his House reelection bid, after Trump’s victory speech. “But there’s still work to be done at the local and state level.”
Culture, not policy, dominated the reactions.
“I don’t know how you can support a person supported by the KKK,” said Victoria Manning, a University of Alaska Anchorage student.
Trump’s core voting block of white working class males turned out in force.
A base ingredient of the 2016 presidential race was race. Think pieces and policy wonks characterized Trump supporters as uneducated or bigoted whites from traditionally working class areas who felt left behind by the demise of U.S. manufacturing, abandonment by formerly labor-friendly Democrats, and vilification by cultural progressives.
The cultural component of Trump’s run frightened or repelled Democrats, while Republicans had a more sympathetic view.
Manning chalked up Trump’s victory to misogynistic white men afraid of losing status.
“I think they’re voting out of fear, fear of losing control,” she said. “White men have been in power in this country ever since it started. They already lost it for eight years to a black man. They don’t want to lose it again to a woman.”
A pair of indigenous Alaskans expressed fear that the culture could shift to allow more open racism.
“I feel motivated. I feel like it’s a fight,” said Aiko Brandon. “There’s more of an urgency for it. I’m scared of how it might empower racist people. As an Alaska Native I’ve experienced a lot of racism.”
Republicans leaders, even those like Murkowski who withdrew her support of Trump after a 2005 tape surfaced of him making crude comments about women, understood where his voters were coming from.
Murkowski spoke to Trump’s draw as an anti-institutional figure that strikes a chord with a working class full of “anger and distrust of the establishment.”
“What we’re seeing are people who really felt the need to express where they are with the lack of jobs in manufacturing states,” she said. “When Trump says he’s going to make that change, it resonated.”
Focus on resources
Alaska Republicans, many of whom had not endorsed Trump or openly opposed his candidacy, had higher hopes for what the president-elect can do for Alaska’s resource development.
Trump is obviously a much better outlook for resource development in the state, according to Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, who is the outgoing speaker of the house.
“Let us as a state develop our resources and we’ll be less of a burden on the rest of the country,” referring to Alaska having the highest per capita federal spending in the nation.
Eagle River area Rep. Dan Saddler, who didn’t face opposition in the general election and only a minor challenge in the primary, saw Trump’s election as great news for Alaska, where the federal government owns two-thirds of the land and industry, state and federal goals clash constantly.
“Tremendously excited to have a federal machinery that is even and fair in evaluating our resource development projects,” he said. “It’s a huge win. Just having a fair shot is all we can ask for.”
Murkowski, who won her reelection bid with 44 percent of Alaska votes in a four-way race, had openly expressed disgust with Trump’s behavior and statements in October. Despite her objection to the now president-elect’s personality, she agreed with Saddler’s take.
“This is an opportunity on the energy front to move ahead,” she said. “We don’t know what he’ll do about energy but what he’s said is encouraging.”
The senator noted that a Trump presidency could “clear a path” for the King Cove road connection to Cold Bay, a project that’s been continually stymied by the federal government.
Murkowski believes cooperation with Democrats will still be a key issue. With control of Congress and the White House, Republicans will have to govern with a mind for solutions. Murkowski noted that the GOP has held the Senate, House and White House before while she’s been in office (from 2004-06) and did not deliver.
“This isn’t Christmas,” she said. “We still have to govern. We have to work with those on the other side of the aisle. It doesn’t mean we run them over.”
Gov. Bill Walker’s oil and gas advisor John Hendrix agreed that the GOP needs to collaborate and listen to Democratic partners to eliminate federal overreach, rather than use their position to bully change.
“It’s a good time to educate people about resource development in Alaska,” he said. “If we run people over, given that everything’s red (Republican) now, it’ll be a short term victory. We need to use facts and not emotion in describing the need for the state to access its resources.”
DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]. Journal staff Elwood Brehmer and Andrew Jensen contributed to this report.