Thursday, March 27, 2008
Anchorage Press Overreacts To Alleged Workplace Incident Involving Downtown Assembly Candidate Chris Blankenship
Anchorage Press reporter Brendan Joel Kelly tipped me off to a report that will appear in the March 27th print edition of the Anchorage Press about Downtown Assembly candidate Chris Blankenship. For Outsiders unfamiliar with the Press, it is Anchorage's weekly alternative newspaper, focusing primarily on arts and entertainment, but also carrying at least one feature story per week. Editorially, it tends to tack from the left, in contrast to the Anchorage Daily News, which is more left-of-center. You can read the complete Anchorage Press article in question HERE. In addition, Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins has picked up on this story and posted it on the Alaska Politics blog.
According to the Press, Blankenship was reportedly disciplined at work by his employer, Alaska Airlines, over remarks made on the job interpreted to be "anti-Mexican" in nature. Supposedly, Blankenship was even accused of saying "line them up and shoot them". But the Press seems to be assuming that the remarks were directed against all people of Mexican descent rather than illegal immigrants. Because of Mexico's proximity to the United States, the majority of illegal immigrants are either Mexican or of Central American nationality. Attempts to characterize mainstream proponents of immigration reform as being "anti-Mexican" or "racist" merely serve to chill debate and, by implication, aid and abet illegal immigration.
Update: Chris Blankenship just called into the Dan Fagan Show on KFQD 750AM at 2:35 P.M. on March 27th and vociferously denied ever saying "line up and shoot them". He states that he said "send them back to their home countries and have them fill out the paperwork". Blankenship is absolutely against illegal immigration. Blankenship also claims he's been targeted with discrimination and hate at work from non-white co-workers. Someone allegedly posted a copy of his brochure at work under the heading "Nazi". However, in response to Fagan's question, Blankenship refused to disclose whether or not he's still employed by Alaska Airlines; maybe he's been told by the company not to discuss that part of this issue. Kudos to Blankenship for responding so quickly and forthrightly to this issue.
Furthermore, because the Downtown District is the most ethnically-diverse district in Anchorage, it is absolutely illogical for the Press to characterize Blankenship as a "racist". If he was a "racist", he would have no hope of getting elected and thus have no incentive to run for elective office from the District in the first place. Furthermore, if you review Blankenship's official campaign blog, you will see in his posts and in his "About Me" statement that he has been actively reaching out to the various ethnic and racial communities in the District throughout his campaign. That speaks MUCH LOUDER than a momentary expression of frustration on the job.
To his credit, Blankenship's opponent, Patrick Flynn, upon learning of this information, absolutely refused to employ it in any way. Perhaps Flynn believes that he's such a solid favorite to win the election that he sees no need to unnecessarily complicate the campaign picture. Or perhaps Flynn recognizes it for what it really might be - nothing more than a momentary expression of frustration. It seems like everywhere you go in Anchorage, particularly to fast food restaurants, you increasingly hear English spoken as a second language - and a DISTANT second at times. And as the population grow younger, the trend grows darker - only 50% of the Anchorage School District is white. So one can easily understand why the native-born American population and even some legal immigrants would begin to acquire a siege mentality and wonder what's happening to our country.
This syndrome is what I would call "immigrant fatigue". Like "compassion fatigue" and "Holocaust fatigue", it takes place when people literally become overloaded within a short period of time. And if "immigrant fatigue" can take place up here in Alaska, where the number of illegals is comparatively few, one can just imagine what it's like down in our border states. And perhaps this "immigrant fatigue" is what East Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Bauer was addressing when he crafted his original immigration ordinance - he wanted to send a message to the greater community that at least one person in charge recognized that a problem existed and was willing to solve it, even if the specific methodology would impose too great a burden on the Anchorage Police Department at this time. It would have been much more useful for the Anchorage Press to have explored this angle further rather obsess with four inflammatory words spoken by Blankenship in a moment of transitory frustration.
The Anchorage Press also reports that Blankenship has squared matters with his employer and his co-workers. “All I want to say is it was taken care of, I’ve apologized, and the matter’s been taken care of,” Blankenship told the Press in a phone interview on Wednesday, March 26th. So with that revelation, this should put an end to this issue. As a resident of the Downtown District, I am gratified to learn that Blankenship is obviously concerned about illegal immigration and the city's changing demographics, although I anticipate that, as a member of the Anchorage Assembly, he will express those concerns in a more parliamentary fashion. Or, to use one of lame duck Assemblyman Allan Tesche's catchphrases, "elevate the discourse".
And the latter concern is justified, because the Anchorage Press also reported that, during that same phone interview where he apologized for the matter, the dialogue subsequently became rather robust, to the point to where Blankenship allegedly went into Don Young mode and dropped a series of "f-bombs". If this is true, this is of much greater concern than the workplace incident because, as an Assemblyman, Blankenship would be dealing with the media on a regular basis. It doesn't matter whether the media is right or wrong - you do NOT dump on the media and you do NOT run against the media. The media is always best viewed as the interface between the candidate and the public - they should always be treated professionally even if they misrepresent you.
I don't believe this incident will decide the election. However, Chris Blankenship may find it useful to publish an appropriate response to the Anchorage Press article on his official campaign blog. The response should avoid dumping all over the Anchorage Press; instead, it should simply focus on the fact that the Press has blown a simple one-time incident out of proportion, the same way the Coffey-Starr phone conversation was also blown out of proportion, and identify the progressive community in general rather than focus exclusively on the Anchorage Press as the source of the hysteria. He should also consider apologizing to the Anchorage Press for going off on them if their account is indeed true.
Based on the candidate debates on KAKM Channel 7 on Wednesday March 26th, I, as a resident of the Downtown District, had about made up my mind to vote for Patrick Flynn, since I think Flynn is an all-around better choice. However, this development puts those plans on hold. If Chris Blankenship is going to be targeted with a hatchet job by the progressive community just because he speaks out against illegal immigration, then I just might deliver a protest vote for him to show resistance to the forces of political correctness. I will not remain silent while the establishment tries to transform Chris Blankenship into the Chris Buttars of Alaska. I would suggest all voters in the Downtown District await Blankenship's response before making a decision.