Tuesday, May 30, 2006

David Rose (1937-2006)

On Friday, May 26th, David Rose passed away. He will be remembered as a great man, and a founding father of Anchorage, Alaska. Rest in peace, Dave.

Here’s a story about the history of our country, and the role a Jewish guy from Queens, New York played while here, on the Last Frontier.

On September 15, 1975, the City and Borough of Anchorage, Alaska joined to form a unified government, which included several surrounding communities. David Rose served as the first chairman of the Anchorage Assembly.

The Anchorage Daily News recalls it this way:
Meshing the two governments and their laws was a tedious job, one made tougher for Rose after he supported an equal rights ordinance on sexual preference.

The ordinance touched off an intense public debate, and Rose was soundly defeated in the 1978 race for mayor against incumbent George Sullivan.
I once spoke to Dave about it, and he told me that in the course of a political career, a politician has to do a lot of going along to get along. Then, there comes a time when he has to call in all those chits, and cash in all the good will he has earned by years of working with others. This was just such a moment for David Rose.

It may be hard to recall the political atmosphere 30 years ago. An evangelical Southern Baptist, Jimmy Carter was elected president and suddenly, the Old South was a hot property. A TV sit-com situated in rural Georgia was named “Carter Country.”

Carter’s election victory was a rejection of the Republican Southern Strategy, a crass appeal to the baser instincts of the Republican base. More importantly, Carter, whose sister was an evangelist, awakened the dormant power of Southern Baptists, whose religion had, at least until then, espoused the idea that adherents should not get involved in “worldly” matters, such as politics. They were fed up with Tricky Dick and the man who pardoned him.

Meanwhile, here in Alaska, an unprecedented economic boom was in full swing. The largest private construction project in history – The Trans Alaska Pipeline – was winding up, and oil was beginning to flow. The people who built the pipeline were mostly from Texas and Oklahoma. The culture of these folks clashed with the laissez-faire social atmosphere that had prevailed in Alaska before pipeline days. Two popular bumper stickers of the time summed up the feelings of old-time sourdoughs. One used the old-timer’s term for the lower 48: “We don’t give a damn how they do it Outside.” The other said, “Happiness is 1,000 Texans headed south with an Okie under each arm.”

Returning to the election of 1978, Rose was a candidate for mayor and he found himself in a runoff with George Sullivan. A group of fundamentalist religious leaders, most notably Rev. Jerry Prevo, of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, were still angry at Dave for supporting fair treatment of gays. They formed a group to oppose Dave Rose’s candidacy. That group, named Concerned Citizens Against Dave Rose, spent $5,000 advertising in opposition to mayoral candidate Rose. (Some recall the group being named, “Christians Against Dave Rose.” Either way, the name of the group invited suspicion that it was anti-Semitic.)

George Sullivan easily won the mayoral election, and it was one of the first, if not the first electoral victory for a candidate that could be attributed to the organized effort of Christian evangelicals. But it was not to be the last.

Jerry Prevo had a seminary friend, Jerry Falwell. I can only speculate what the two of them talk about when they are alone together. I imagine that sometime between 1976 and 1980, Jerry of Alaska told Jerry of Virginia about the success he had enjoyed in influencing Anchorage Municipal elections. Somewhere along the line, I expect that Rev. Falwell mentioned that the name of Rev. Prevo’s group was not very euphonious.

Nixon had spoken of the Silent Majority, oblivious to the fact that, at least since the time of Homer, the term referred to dead people. Only two people on earth know which, if either, of the two Jerrys thought up the name, “Moral Majority.”

Be that as it may, by 1980 the principals of Concerned Citizens Against David Rose had reformed as Moral Majority of Alaska. Together, they packed the Republican caucus in Alaska and won all nineteen delegates to the national convention for Ronald Reagan. If you look at the tapes of the 1980 and 1984 Republican National Convention, you can see the two Jerrys sitting in the front row. It is more than a little ironic that these two pastors would lead the fight against a true Christian evangelical President, in favor of a divorced, Hollywood actor who rarely attended church.

The right-wing theocratic stranglehold on Republican politics begins with gay bashing. Two days after Dave Rose shuffled off this mortal coil, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appeared on Fox News Sunday, and argued that banning flag-burning and same-sex marriage are two of the nation’s most pressing priorities, which is why he put them on the Senate agenda for June.

Good-bye, Dave.


BigMitch said...

George Sullivan is remembered as a beloved mayor of Anchorage, who has gone to his reward. His son, Dan, is now Mayor. His first act as mayor was to veto an ordinance passed by the Assembly which prohibited discrimination against gays in housing. The beat goes on.

BigMitch said...

And so it goes. Last night, Ethan Berkowitz a run-off election against a congenital liar named Amy Demboski. One of the biggest issues turned out to be equal rights for gays. Demboski was against it, but what is worse is that she spread the lie that Berkowitz supported mariage between a father and son. In this effort, she received support from Rev. Prevo. Did this lie cost her the election? Of course, it is impossible to know. But it is equally impossible to deny the fact that gay-bashing is no longer a winning strategy in Anchorage.