By AlaskaWatchman.com

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a talk given for the Valley Republican Women of Alaska’s Jan. 19 meeting in Wasilla.

I want to address a few major trends and developments in Alaska as they relate to our population, education and political life, but first we need to look at the fundamental, bedrock issues that are indispensable to our cultural way of life together.

Those who follow the Watchman know, we focus our news almost exclusively on Alaska, because we believe cultural change is most possible and effective at the local level – in our families, churches, cities and then out to the rest of state and beyond.

If we neglect our roots, we cannot expect the larger cultural tree to ever bear much fruit. It’s the soul, not the suit that make the man.

With this in mind, I’d like to start by briefly recalling some insights by renowned French political scientist Alexis Tocqueville who traveled to America in 1831 to report back to Europe about this new experiment in representative democracy that was unfolding in the New World. His famous report is called “Democracy in America.”

With the Declaration of Independence just 45 years old, Tocqueville crisscrossed the new nation – interviewing and observing lawmakers, business owners, housewives, farmers, prisoners, educators, pastors and others to better understand the American mindset.

He noted the unrivalled system of voluntary associations that shape American life – citizens gathering regularly in small groups across the country to debate and identify new ways of shaping and improving their common life. The sheer quantity of these coalitions shocked him.

One of the key traits of American life that stood out to him was the fact that the people – as a whole – were guided by a Christian worldview. Not everyone professed Christianity, but most did. Those who did not, were still expected to shape public life in accord with a Christian ethic.

This common faith was a bulwark against what Tocqueville called “the tyranny of the majority” – a phrase still tossed about today on both the left and the right.

If, as Christianity claims, all men are created equal in the sight of God, then every person possesses an inherent dignity that must never be trampled or discarded. Similarly, if God made us free, then we must be given liberty to act in accord with our conscience, Tocqueville observed.

But liberty, alone, is not enough. Tocqueville said a Christian understanding of liberty checks the ever-present danger of unbridled license. A Christian sense of liberty is the freedom to pursue self-government and self-mastery in the service of a higher and deeper reality.

When a nation embraces this way of thinking it reinforces a unified sense of morality which is binding on everyone. Morality, in this sense, “makes no compromise with any mortal,” but applies “the same standard to every human being,” Tocqueville noted.

So long as Americans held to this, Tocqueville believed the majority would not easily break or sidestep laws in order to execute their designs.

He wrote: “Up till now no one in the United States has dared to profess the maxim that everything is allowed in the interests of society,” for to do so would “legitimatize every future tyrant.”

Faith also reinforces the idea that humans are not mere beasts, seeking only pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

It is easy to see that many of Tocqueville’s warnings have gone unheeded. We live in an age that promotes unbridled self-interest.

This is critical, for Tocqueville warned that “Democracy favors the taste for physical pleasures.” If this taste becomes excessive, he said it “disposes men to believe that nothing but matter exists. Materialism, in its turn, spurs them on to such delights with mad impetuosity. Such is the vicious circle into which democratic nations are driven.”

Finally, belief in a higher and fixed moral authority brings stability to the first institution of any society – the marriage bond – which is the foundation of the family. Here children learn faith and morals, witness fidelity and great sacrifice, and learn of their nation’s customs, heroes, and traditions.

It is easy to see that many of Tocqueville’s warnings have gone unheeded. We live in an age that promotes unbridled self-interest. Boys are told they can become girls and vice versa. Our public libraries host drag queen story hours for toddlers. Planned Parenthood encourages women to “shout out” their abortions without apology, divorce is easy and unquestioned, and assisted suicide continues to gain adherents. In short, liberty is now unhinged from any notion of fixed moral realities. Nothing is given.

This ideology is most evident in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Kennedy wrote: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

The most recent data from Gallup shows that Alaska remains one of the least religious states in the nation

This absurd notion makes every person a law unto themselves and destroys the ability to appeal to a common sense of meaning, let alone morality. If you have might, then you have the right to do as you please. This is the very definition of the “tyranny of the majority.”

The revival of our social life, must begin on our knees, with a deep commitment to Christian faith, and a determination to bring our beliefs to bear on our marriage, families and the wider public square.

“The renewal of culture,” as writer Anthony Esolen said, “will never work if it is pursued as the highest good.” Faith must be its own good, pursued for it own sake. The rest will follow.

While election integrity, voter turnout, judicial reform, pro-life legislation, lower taxes and protection of personal liberties and religious freedom are worthy and necessary goals, they are the fruit of a tree that has been watered at its roots.

ALASKA: Predictions, trends, proscriptions

With this background, let’s look at a few trends here in Alaska and specifically the Mat-Su. I’ll also offer some solutions, and a several predictions about what may unfold in 2023.

RELIGIOUS FAITH

The most recent data from Gallup shows that Alaska remains one of the least religious states in the nation as measured by religious identity, affiliation and church attendance. According to a 2018 poll, 33% of Alaskans say they have “no religious identity.” Among Americans in general, that number is 21%.

Church pic

If Tocqueville’s claim regarding the necessity of faith in America is accurate, we must resolve to put more time and energy into our local faith communities. This is the fount of renewal.

We must encourage our pastors to resist the cultural whims that now erode faith and morality, and to urge them to boldly proclaim the timeless truths. They need to know we have their back.

Not only that, but we must also put as much time and energy into the church as we do other, far lesser pursuits.

One interesting twist on this is the School of Government meetings that are hosted by Mat-Su Mayor Edna DeVries at Real Life Church in Palmer. This is an unapologetic mixture of faith and politics. Gathered in a church, attendees are challenged to bring their beliefs to bear in the public square. They meet every Monday night at 7 p.m.

ALASKAN BABIES

Since families and children are a key indicator of a society’s health of a society, I want to look at the state of babies in Alaska.

recent report from the Alaska Dept. of Health reveals that Alaska births are continuing their downward spiral. The 9,410 new babies born in 2021 was  the lowest number since at least 1992, when there were 11,725 newborns among far fewer women of reproductive age.

Anchorage, the largest population center in Alaska, saw a sharp decline, going from 4,129 births in 2017 to just 3,578 in 2021.

One area of Alaska that did not experience a significant drop in new births is the Mat-Su, which had 1,345 newborns in 2021.

OVERALL POPULATION

No surprisingly, the state’s overall population is expected to begin a decades-long decline in nearly every region. However, thanks almost entirely to growth in the Mat-Su, Alaska’s population is predicted to increase ever-so slightly by 24,800 people through 2050, for a total population of 759,111, according to the state’s report. Compare that to the growth of 147,000 residents over the previous 29 years.

Empty swings pic

Unlike earlier reports, the latest findings by the state focused much more on Alaska’s low birth rates. “Overall, Alaska’s total fertility rate – the number of children a woman would have in her lifetime — was 2.2 in 2015. It’s now 1.9. That’s below the replacement rate required to maintain a steady population over time.

Anchorage alone is expected to lose more than 9,800 residents, while Southeast, which includes Juneau, Ketchikan and surrounding areas is predicted to lose roughly 9,400 residents.

Alaska’s population loss will be most apparent among school-age children. Those 19 and younger will decline gradually until 2025 and then will begin to drop by 6% per year for at least the next 15 years. In fact, the decline may be even more pronounced if fertility rates continue to decrease.

The Mat-Su Valley, however, which is known for larger families and more conservative political and social beliefs, is one of the few places expected to grow over the next three decades. This area is predicted to increase by nearly 39,000 people. All other areas of the state combined will drop by 14,000 residents.

Viewed another way, the Mat-Su is one of the only places in Alaska that will have more children by 2050 than it does today.

EDUCATION

I predict that homeschooling will continue its decades-long growth.

Homeschooling mom

In 2001-2002, there were just 9,510 Alaska children enrolled in 27 state-funded homeschool programs. Over the next 18 years, that number slowly increased to 14,511 students, a rate of about 277 children a year.

Then Covid hit in 2020-2021, and Alaska’s homeschool numbers nearly doubled to a total of 27,555 students – an increase of 13,044 students in a single year.

Last year, homeschooling dipped to 21,430 students, as standard schools reopened, and people were less concerned about Covid. But the fact remains that there are now more than 7,000 additional homeschool kids compared to 2020.

Private school will also likely see continued growth.

The Watchman has surveyed individual private schools and found that they, too, are experiencing significant growth, despite the economic struggles facing Alaskans.

National tracking by educational watchdog organizations has shown similar trends.

Some of the top reasons for this are frustration with Covid mandates and concern about morality or social issues in public schools.

Given the Mat-Su’s penchant for larger families and its more conservative bent, this area may be the ideal place to expand private schooling. Plus, state homeschool funds can be used at private or religious schools to offset costs.

As homeschooling and private education grows, I predict that public schools will continue to shrink and shutter.

Three of the four largest Alaska school districts – Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau – are hemorrhaging students and closing schools.

Advocates of expanded school choice options, however, should encourage legislators, Governor Dunleavy and local school boards to boldly promote greater educational freedoms for Alaska families

In response to more parents choosing homeschooling, Fairbanks closed two public schools and transformed a third into a homeschool facility this year.

Anchorage is suffering from below-replacement birthrates and a dwindling school-age population, but that does not entirely explain why the district lost more than 4,200 students in five years – going from 47,624 in FY17 to just 43,390 in FY22.

There’s something else afoot, which district leadership cannot or will not admit.

Parents have proactively removed children due to a litany of festering problems – poor math and reading scores, radical LGBTQ policies, parental rights concerns, and the insistence on weaving critical race theory philosophy into the overall educational system.

One of the few Anchorage schools to grow over the past five years was the district’s homeschool program – Family Partnership – where parents still have significant control. While the rest of the district lost students, this school nearly doubled in size, going from 672 in 2018 to 1,235 in 2022.

Likewise, enrollment in statewide homeschool programs such as Raven, IDEA and others have ballooned with tens of thousands of new students now engaged in homeschooling – many of them are undoubtedly still living in Anchorage.

How will struggling school districts respond? In the short-term, they will pressure lawmakers for more state money, but they will likely have to close more schools and lay off teachers.

Advocates of expanded school choice options, however, should encourage legislators, Governor Dunleavy and local school boards to boldly promote greater educational freedoms for Alaska families. This could include educational vouchers, more homeschool allotments going directly to families, and greater freedoms to create and run charter schools as parents see fit.

POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

I predict that Democrats will move increasingly to the hard left, and that Republicans will have a day of reckoning – both nationally and here in Alaska.

As a whole, U.S. Democrats have moved further and further to the radical left on hot-button issues surrounding LGBTQ politics, abortion and the embrace of Critical Race Theory ideology.

A recent Gallup poll found that, after hovering near 50% in recent years, the percentage of Democrats who identify as politically liberal rose to an all-time high of 54% in 2022. In 1994, only 25% of Democrats said they were “liberal.”

Republicans on the other hand, have grown more conservative since the 1990s. At that time 60% described themselves as “conservative.” Today, 72% claim a conservative leaning. Most other Republicans continue to identify as politically moderate (22%), while few consider themselves liberal (5%).

I have not seen this type of breakdown for Alaska, but it does appear that there is growing tension in Alaska’s Republican Party, and increasing dissatisfaction among conservative voters.

They are exasperated that numerical Republican majorities don’t translate to ruling caucuses in Juneau, and that more conservative lawmakers like State Senators Shelly Hughes, Mike Shower and Rob Meyer and Rep. David Eastman are increasingly marginalized.

There is also frustration with the GOP’s inability or unwillingness to address issues like election reform, pro-life legislation, judicial activism, a full PFD, school choice expansion and transgender controversies in schools.

In terms of federal elections, I predict that Kelly Tshibaka will soon announce that she is challenging Congresswoman Mary Peltola in 2024.

Additionally, many Republicans are infuriated that the State Party sunset censures of left leaning Republicans like U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and State Sen. Kelly Merrick, while banning any other censures until after the Party’s 2024 State Convention.

While it’s easier said than done, areas of the state that are known for being more conservative – the Mat-Su and parts of Eagle River, Fairbanks and Kenai – need to identify solid candidates who are willing to actively push the Republican Party to not only stand by its official platform, but to actually enter the fray and doggedly fight for some of the most important and contentious issues.

In the short term, the State Senate will most certainly bury any legislation dealing with election integrity, judicial reform, abortion, a full PFD or RCV. Since Democrats currently control the Education, Judiciary, State Affairs and Joint Armed Services committees, there is little chance of conservative legislation ever seeing the light of day on the Senate side.

In terms of federal elections, I predict that Kelly Tshibaka will soon announce that she is challenging Congresswoman Mary Peltola in 2024.

Tshibaka is now regularly mentioning Peltola’s votes on social media, and just recently highlighted an article predicting she will challenge Peltola in 2024.

Tshibaka should be able to run a strong campaign after Peltola spends two years in the minority, while displaying how far to the left she really is. Most recently, she voted against a GOP bill aimed at requiring doctors to care for babies born alive during failed abortions.

In the Mat-Su, I predict that the borough’s hand-count-only election will come off without a hitch this fall, and provide fodder for lawmakers to pressure Alaska to do the same.

With regard to Ranked Choice Voting, I predict the ballot initiative to overturn Alaska’s confused voting system will be approved next week by Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, and the needed 30,000 signatures will be gathered by the end of the summer, which will ensure that voters have a chance to ditch RCV in 2024.

If you haven’t checked out the group behind the repeal effort, visit “Alaskans for Honest Elections” and sign up for their emails.

MEDICAL FREEDOM

I predict that Dr. Anne Zink will remain as Dunleavy’s chief medical officer, and continue to hound Alaskans to get Covid shots and boosters, while expanding recommendations for emerging mRNA shots, and advocating for more CDC workers in Alaska and across the nation.

Given this reality, we need to support medical freedom for doctors who are persecuted or marginalized for treating patients in accord with their professional training and experience – even when that runs counter to what the CDC is attempting to impose. These doctors need to know they will not be canceled by the public for practicing medicine in accord with their professional expertise and ethical beliefs. Good work has already been done on this front through several conferences. This should continue.

ECONOMY/ FOOD SECURITY

I predict that family farms and gardens will expand throughout Alaska this summer.

The Foundation for Government Accountability released a new report showing that Alaska’s inflation is now at 12.8%. That translates to additional costs of $811 per month for Alaska families, or $9,729 annually. The cost for groceries, alone, is up $125 a month – that’s $1,500 a year.

Moose hunters and dip-netters will likely turn out in droves this year.

PARTING THOUGHTS

We are in a battle for the heart and soul of Alaska and the nation. That battle begins with us, our families and our churches, and ripples outward.

As we engage this struggle, let us enter the arena as happy warriors. We fight, not for the sake of conflict, but to preserve what is good, and true and beautiful.

Along the way, take time to enjoy the profound blessings of family, friendship and comradery – they deepen and strengthen our humanity.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

Alaska in 2023: Trends, predictions and prescriptions

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


8 Comments

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    Great article, keep up your good work. Only thing in your wrap up I’d change is, I wish Governor Dunleavy would really take a good look at Dr. Ann Zink and the destruction she has done following Fauci and his Murdering ideas. Both these individuals need to be held accountable in my opinion.

  • Karen Murray says:

    E+xcellent Article and spot on! Refreshing and encouraging! It’s time to return to self–govenance as the key foundation stone of American Liberty. From long-time national and Washington state leader of the Constitution Party, now Alaska State Constitution Party coordinator.

  • Karen Murray says:

    E+xcellent Article and spot on! Refreshing and encouraging! It’s time to return to self–govenance as the key foundation stone of American Liberty. From long-time national and Washington state leader of the Constitution Party, now Alaska State Constitution Party coordinator, based in Matsu.

  • Lobo says:

    I am beginning to think, more, and more.. That Dunleavy needs a real conservative, republican challenger.. He also needs to update the state’s website making it easier to contact “HIM”, and then respond to his contact messages.. As for the birth rate decline, it would be nice to point out that the COVID vacs (add Zink in there) have had an impact on fertility, and conception. The vacs have wreaked all kinds of bodily hazards, plus makes the vaccinated more likely to become infected multiple times … until they suddenly drop dead, and they “”haven’t determined the cause of death YET “” That will be announced later .. quietly on a separate update.

    One thing that has affected our political/liberal/educational indoctrination issues has been influenced by liberals fleeing liberal states.. getting away from that nightmare, and bringint the same liberal ideolgies that they fled from with them up here.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    I agree with Neil, Karen M., and Lobo’s comments. This article was refreshing Joel. I agree with Joel’s predictions. I hope that we get more people to wake up and get involved because it is going to take a state of People to take back our state! The minions working for the globalists are slowly coming out of the woodwork and we are able to identify them publicly. We absolutely need to identify these people and businesses trying to take down our state and let them know that we are not going to stand for this. One thing that I wish Joel would cover is what is happening in the banking world. What does the future look like with Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) being implemented and how is this going to be used as a control mechanism for the (China) Social Credit Scoring System and 15-Minute Cities.

  • Fallen Republic says:

    Here is my prediction for Alaska, Alaska will continue to have Rino republicans. until Dominion machines, Mail in voting and Rank Choice voting are gone. nothing else matters until this is fixed

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Biden signed the Declaration of North America on 1-10-2023, effectively dissolving United States as a sovereign nation by getting rid of the borders. Will Dunleavy declare Alaska as a sovereign state?
    https://rumble.com/v26m24y-the-traitor-in-chief-just-signed-it-todd-callender-and-dr.-lee-vliet.html

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