Elections 2012: Short Takes: Republicans, Again? And Free Markets in Indian Country

The online publication Politico says that Republicans are at it again and “in danger of blowing its shot at a majority for the second cycle in a row.”

Turn back the clock two years.

“Republicans fell short of power in 2010 largely because three out-of-the-mainstream candidates — in Nevada, Delaware and Colorado — lost states that clearly were winnable if more electable politicians had been on the ballot,” Politico said. A combination of underperforming candidates, stronger Democrats, and unexpected surprises (such as Arizona’s Richard Carmona) have narrowed what should have been an easy election into a toss-up.

Of course one of the races that changed the perception about the Senate was Missouri. Early polls showed that Sen. Claire McCaskill had little chance of retaining her seat against any Republican. But that changed when party nominee Todd Akin dismissed abortions for rape victims. “If it’s a legitimate rape,” he said, “the female body has ways of try to shut that whole thing down.”

Republicans asked Aiken to resign from the race, hoping to replace him with another candidate more acceptable to voters. But he refused.

This week a pro-Democratic group is mailing a “talking pamphlet” to voters with a clip of Aikin’s words. The two candidates will debate tonight in Clayton.

ANOTHER PUBLICATION, Colorlines, says that Apache County in Arizona is threatening the Navajo vote. “The County, which has previously violated the Voting Rights Act, has inaccurately placed more than 500 people who attempted to register on a list that could permanently purge these would-be voters from the rolls. And most, if not all, of those affected are Navajo,” the article by Aura Bogado said.

One of the problems is that the county says it cannot physically place Navajo addresses, so it moves potential voters to an inactive list. Geneva Honea told Colorlines that some 500 people were in this situation in Apache County.

Bogado said another problem is the distances on the reservation, sometimes requiring an hour-and-a-half drive to the polling location.

ONE of the key policy differences in this election is about the role of government. This is where tribal governments are not part of the conversation and should be. Unlike a city, a county, or even a state, tribes engage in economic activity that directly employs people. Tribal enterprises range from profitable casinos to gas stations and stores that serve a community where nothing else exists.

A free market policy institute in Montana says more property rights are needed on reservations. “At a time when there’s a spotlight on America’s richest 1 percent, a look at the country’s 310 Indian reservations—where many of America’s poorest 1 percent live—can be more enlightening,” says the Fall 2012 PERC Reports. “To explain the poverty of the reservations, people usually point to alcoholism, corruption or school-dropout rates, not to mention the long distances to jobs and the dusty undeveloped land that doesn’t seem good for growing much. But those are just symptoms. Prosperity is built on property rights, and reservations often have neither. They’re a demonstration of what happens when property rights are weak or non-existent.”

Terry Anderson, president of the Property & Environment Research Center in Bozeman, said private land is 30 to 90 percent more productive agriculturally than the adjacent trust land. “And this isn’t because the land is better: A study of 13 reservations in the West put 49 percent of the land in the top four quality classes, while only 38% of the land in the surrounding counties was rated that highly.”

PERC Reports quotes a Canadian band leader, Manny Jules, from Kamloops, supporting an idea that would allow bands to opt out of the government ownership of their land. “Markets haven’t been allowed to operate in reserve lands,” Jules said. “We’ve been legislated out of the economy. When you don’t have individual property rights, you can’t build, you can’t be bonded, you can’t pass on wealth. A lot of small businesses never get started because people can’t leverage property [to raise funds]. This act would free our entrepreneurial spirit, but it’s going to take a freeing of our imagination. We have to become part of the national and global economies.”

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is:


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Elections 2012: Short Takes: Republicans, Again? And Free Markets in Indian Country