Why is Hawaii Democratic and Alaska Republican

Alaska, of all places

You had to fight for it for a long time. For several decades, the residents of Alaska urged the US Congress to recognize their country as a state. But Washington refused again and again. It wasn't until January 3, 1959 that the time had come. President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act. At that time, Peter von Zahn reported from the USA.

"After decades of delay, Congress has given in to the ongoing whining of the people of Alaska. The people of Alaska will elect their own governor, they will be eligible to vote for the presidential election. They will be given 200 million acres of federal land to date . "

This ended the colonial days in Alaska. It began in the 18th century when Russian sailors discovered the country. The tsar was particularly interested in the abundance of fur in Alaska. But the distant, almost deserted area was difficult to manage from Saint Petersburg and could hardly be defended in the event of an attack. When Russia was in dire need of money in 1867, Tsar Alexander the Second sold Alaska to the United States for $ 7.2 million. It was the cheapest land sale ever. US Secretary of State William Seward had arranged the deal. He was a shrewd diplomat, says Orienne First Denslow, director of the Alaska Museum in Sitka:

"Seward must have been an incredible visionary. Although he was never here, he could foresee the vital importance this country would one day have for the United States. But it was very difficult for him to convince the members of Congress of his vision."

The Congress approved the purchase with a majority of only one vote. Many MPs could not imagine what Alaska could be used for. The press scoffed at "Seward's Ice Box" and dubbed the country "The President's Polar Bear Enclosure".

But the critics fell silent when gold was found in Alaska in 1897. The territory turned out to be a treasure trove. Even after the gold rush, natural resources such as silver, coal and oil brought the USA billions in profits. The wealth also interested Japan, which occupied three islands off Alaska during World War II. The US Army then massively expanded its presence in the colony. Even then, many citizens demanded recognition of Alaska as a state. But resistance came from several quarters, reported Peter von Zahn.

"It was the military who originally opposed Alaska becoming a state. They feared that they would no longer be able to build and plan as undisturbed by local objections as the territorial constitution made it possible for them. Furthermore, for a long time, the senators of the southern states were as hard as a diamond against a state of Alaska There was and is no racial segregation in the territory. Indians, Eskimos, immigrant Philippines and negroes send their children to the same schools. "

In addition, many Republicans feared that Alaska would elect the Democratic Party as the new state. The majorities in Congress have shifted. The first application for admission to Alaska was therefore rejected in 1950. But the citizens did not give up and found prominent supporters. They also included the US President-appointed Governor of Alaska, Ernest Gruening. In a dramatic speech, he called on the government to stop treating Alaska as a colony.

"Our nation was born in a revolt against colonialism. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution embody America's rejection of colonialism and its inevitable abuse. Therefore, the American government must show its face against discrimination and oppression."

Together with the politician Bob Bartlett, Gruening managed to get a majority in Congress. This was made possible, among other things, because at the time the admission of Hawaii as a state was also discussed. Hawaii - so the parties suspected at the time - would vote Republican. If both territories were admitted as states, the balance of power in Congress would remain unchanged.

"" Second-class citizens become first-class ","

Peter von Zahn was able to say about Alaska on January 3, 1959. And soon after, Hawaii became a state. The irony of history: politically, the residents behaved the other way around than predicted. Alaska today traditionally elects Republican and Hawaii democratically.