Alaska leans Republican while Hawaii leans Democratic, and the GOP long ago intimidated the media into believing that only Republican strongholds represent the "real America." These Republican strongholds are usually sparsely populated, and I suppose the media's been sold on the idea that because the United States started out as an agrarian nation, rural areas are somehow more authentic than urban ones.There’s a certain truth to that, and Hawaii is more urban than Alaska, as Mr. Noah shows. But Texas and Utah were only 17.5% and 11.7% rural respectively, as this table based on the 2000 U.S. Census shows, and what two states could be redder than this pair? Mr. Noah is too discreet to point to the causation and not the correlation. But he doesn’t have to. For the reason is obvious. And it’s the one thing, together with the unforeseen mega-event—a massive terrorist attack or an Osama bin Laden takedown—that could turn the tide in John McCain’s favor in this election.
Having said that, let’s look at what other things that the contrast between the two states reveals. With its forbidding winters and the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, Alaska is a fitting coda to the founding myth of America, How the West Was Won (bought it from Russia?), the often violent, always white, saga played out against the vast expanses of “no-man’s” land*. The facts of the Palins and their friends have the feel of a Western movie.
Hawaii is a chapter in the imperial phase of America’s expansion, a series of political and military maneuvers like many imperialist endeavors that culminated in the formal annexation of the territory—the aborigines and their culture largely intact, but gradually reduced to a small minority by subsequent waves of immigration, Japanese and Filipinos taking the place of the Indians of the British colonies, to serve the colonial masters alongside the ubiquitous Chinese. The Asian-Pacific aborigines and immigrants—like the Hispanics in the other parts of the empire—remained mere extras in the greater narrative.
Alaska delivers the White Man’s valedictory while Hawaii tells the immigrants’ tale. One is Republican while the other is Democrat.
There! It’s always more fun to write other peoples’ histories, isn’t it? Maybe I should do it more often.
* Coming as it did at the end of the 20th Century, Alaska’s conquest was relatively free of the genocide and ethnic cleansing that marked the takeover in the contiguous United States and territories.