My Political Odyssey

My own first political statement I can recall was on November 22, 1963, as I was beginning to eat my lunch at my south Seattle high school’s cafeteria. We had begun to digest that JFK had just died. I turned to a friend and said, "Jeez! Lyndon Johnson is president!"

From high school to Oberlin Conservatory to the U.S. Army saw very little political development. I was too conservative for Oberlin, not racist enough for the Army. By the time I was honorably discharged, I detested racists and abhorred our Vietnam adventure.

Back in college, some of my friends became politically active. I volunteered for the American Friends Service Committee, helping get draft dodgers into Canada, was inspired by RFK, and helped deprogram a few people from the Moonies and a Seattle cult called the Love Family.

After college, I worked for three years in Seattle radio at a well-known FM alternative station, KRAB. Hired to run their weekday early morning music program, I eventually worked in news and public affairs too. I remember three stories I either produced or helped on being rejected by the new NPR, for being too progressive. During that time (1970-73) I also began writing classically-based "protest music," some of it using sophisticated electronic means.

I moved to Alaska in 1973, to work outdoors and experience the place. I moved to Cordova, initially to work in radio. I interviewed Ted Stevens, Mike Gravel and Don Young early in their careers about fishery issues. In Cordova, our fishers’ union was suing to keep the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from being built. We were also starting what became the largest fisher-controlled hatchery system in the world. I continued to interview Alaska politicians for KLAM, whenever they passed through town.

In 1976, I moved to Whittier, on the opposite side of Prince William Sound from Cordova. There, I ran the boat harbor for over five years, and my girlfriend, soon to be my wife, was on the City Council. Many of Alaska’s important politicians, lobbyists and oil industry figures had boats in the Whittier harbor. I was present at some of their dealmaking sessions.

In 1983 we moved to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, to start a family. After a brief return to college, I worked for almost seven years in community corrections. Eventually I ran the biggest halfway house in Alaska, and ended my stint with Allvest, as that extinct company’s now imprisoned CEO Bill Weimer’s executive assistant. I attended many more dealmaking sessions, sometimes being delegated by Weimer to be his brown bag guy at GOP events, as he didn’t want it known how much money he was giving to Republicans.

Halfway through my stint at Allvest, the Exxon Valdez oil spill got me to realize that the political dealmaking I had seen over the years, usually benefiting the big oil companies, helped contribute to the lax regulatory environment that made the spill inevitable. Within a year, I joined the Green Party of Alaska.

In 1993, the state awarded me a fellowship to write music, so I left work in the corrections industry. At that time I was deeply committed to providing support to two politically aware Washington state sculptors, James L. Acord, and Peter Bevis. Acord was then the only artist to have ever been granted access to nuclear facilities to create his work. Bevis was known as "the world’s greatest road kill sculptor." For the next eight years, I supported their radical work in a number of musical compositions, and through writings and lectures. Bevis and I toured with his images and my music on the Exxon Valdez spill’s effects on wildlife. He and I also toured our multimedia presentation called "Artists as Environmentalists."

During the period 1995 through 2008 I’ve been very active in the Wasilla-Palmer area, directing the community band, coaching little league and soccer, and serving on groups that seek to bridge the divide between conservatives and liberals.

George W. Bush’s stolen victory in 2000 got me to re-think involvement with the Alaska Greens. But I stayed with the party for six more years. I became active in anti-war politics in Alaska, and wrote more anti-war music.

The invasion of Iraq spurred me to more direct anti-war activity. In 2006, when Diane Benson declared her candidacy to run against Don Young for Alaska’s US House seat, I joined her campaign, and eventually joined the Democratic Party. I volunteered for her 2006 and 2008 campaigns. To support Alaska Democrats and Benson, I started a political blog in 2007.

Beginning in the spring of 2007, I’ve been volunteering for the Alaska Democrats. Since February 2008, I’ve been a party officer. I’m far more liberal than most officers, but am tolerated, except when it comes to those inevitable deals which involve the oil companies, the mining companies and corporate interests having to do with banking and the medical industrial complex. Nobody wants me anywhere near those kinds of fundraising activities. With good reason!

What our local Mat-Su Democrats organization has to do in 2009 is create a model that attracts more young people, more independents, and more candidates with long-term commitments to winning office at the state level. That’s what we’re working on right now.

Philip Munger

Philip Munger

musician, composer, educator, environmental and community planning activist