The word itself means so much. In addition to its obvious psychological overtones – as a reaction closely related to remorse – it can be attributed to a person, and legally, by society.
So is Ted Stevens’ guilt a personal experience or a societal judgment? Is Ted Stevens guilty?
According to a federal jury, he is – on seven felony counts with a five-year prison sentence for each, practically handing him a life sentence to the octogenarian. To look at it a different way, Stevens would have to serve his next five senate terms from a jail cell.
But we Alaskans are a finicky bunch. I say “we” to collectively refer to all residents of my state, regardless of political affiliation. We pride ourselves on remaining untainted by the opinion of the rest of the nation, sometimes haughtily so.
Take for example, Sarah Palin. Deep down, we all love her, but a few of us are simply unsure of her ability to govern the entire nation, or already had their heart set on the other candidate – too much so to be swayed by state pride.
What this state pride does mean is that quite a few Alaskans look to Stevens to tell them what to believe. I would estimate the number to be fairly close to the number of people in the state’s republican majority.
To those people, Stevens says “I am innocent.” I’m even tempted to believe Stevens too. After all, he knows the difference between the Internet and a truck – guilt and innocence are just as easily discerned. Either you did wrong, or you didn’t.
Perhaps you’ve heard the radio advertisement, or read the senator’s press release, attributing the “unjust verdict” to false evidence, hidden evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ethical violations. The gist is that Stevens is being picked on, and the timing certainly supports that.
Perhaps what Stevens is really questioning is less the factuality of the verdict than the relativity of it. I mean, quite honestly, he’s done so much for this state, isn’t he entitled to a little special treatment? Alaska is like a little orphan that “Uncle Ted” adopted and ensured a proper upbringing.
As far as legality – it can’t be Stevens’ fault if Bill Allen just left all that stuff at his house, right?
It’s not the gifts themselves that Stevens is in trouble for though- it’s for not reporting them. What Stevens did wrong was nothing to feel guilty about – he just continued to behave as he always had, as politicians all used to, while society slowly changed around him. By the time ethics became such a highly scrutinized issue in politics, Stevens was so old and set in his ways that he simply honestly didn’t know any better.
I want to vote for Stevens so badly – unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
A few of them are actually the right reasons – like the fact that seniority truly counts for something in the Senate. Also, most unions support Stevens, and I’m usually a big fan of anyone endorsed by Alaska’s working class. I may be a scab, but my wife is a dues-paying member of the Local 341.
These reasons aren’t nearly as motivating as the multitude of guilty pleasures I would take in seeing Stevens re-elected to his U.S. Senate seat. I’m literally ashamed of how close I am to voting for Stevens, and why? Because most of it boils down to pure entertainment.
How hilarious would it be to throw that guilty verdict back in the face of the federal jury who convicted Stevens – to raise a fist and shout a rebellious “take that, America!” I could watch the pundits shake their heads about it for months and never grow tired.
Then would come the excitement and mystery of what happens next. If Stevens retains his office, his appeal takes on a whole new level of importance.
Then, regardless of the outcome, it would be up to Stevens to make the next move. Would he step down, appoint a successor, or take it all the way to the Senate itself, where it would take a two-thirds majority of his peers to remove him? How will Sarah Palin factor into all of this, especially if her ticket loses the election? Might she vie for Stevens’ seat?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, would be the sweet look of disappointment on the face of Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich if Alaska chooses a convicted felon over him.
I think regardless of the outcomes, we have had some very close and very entertaining races this past cycle. If I have any regrets as I write this column one week prior to elections, to be published on Election Day, it’s that I couldn’t afford all the races equal scrutiny. Even if you opposed me ideologically on every stance I took, if laughing at me or my youthful idealism afforded you even a moment of pleasure, then I feel as if I’ve done my job.
I hope you voted your conscience this Tuesday, and may the best candidates win. By that, of course, I mean all of my candidates.