It’s now become conventional wisdom that Sarah Palin had nothing to do with the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party and is therefore clear of any associations with them. As usual, the CW is crap.

FactCheck.org is the source for most of this line of refutation:

She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She’s been registered as a Republican since May 1982.

So of course it made its way elsewhere, including a Washington Post story by Jonathan Weisman which repeated that the AIP connection story as one of the “unfounded charges” against Palin – even though, as we’ll see, the question was perfectly well founded.

Moreover, the issue isn’t merely whether Palin has been a member of the AIP – the question is to what degree she has associated with them and supports them.

Remember, folks – Trent Lott was never a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens or the League of the South. Lott got into trouble because he openly associated with them – speaking before them, running his column in their newsletters, telling them what great work they did, lending the authority and weight of his office to their bids at credibility.

And when it comes to Sarah Palin and the AIP, the same is very much true – in no small part because the AIP is cut from the same right-wing populist cloth as the League of the South. The two organizations, in fact, have operational alliances.

And yes, Sarah Palin has lent the authority of her office to the AIP’s effort to gain mainstream credibility – despite the fact that it is largely an extremist organization.

As you can see in the video above, Palin addressed the AIP by video earlier this year, applauding its work with lines like: “Your party plays an important role in our state’s politics” and “Keep up the good work.”  She also acknowledges having campaigned at the AIP convention in 2006.

Her husband was enrolled as an AIP member from 1995 to 2000, though the party indicates he was not particularly active. It’s also in dispute whether both Palins attended the 1994 AIP convention.

As for the connection being an “ungrounded” charge: There were perfectly good reasons to believe that Palin was a member of the AIP at one time – most notably, AIP officials had stated publicly that she had been a member before running for Wasilla City Council as a Republican. It was only after questions arose that AIP officials examined their rolls and could not find Palin’s name on it, and then issued a correction and an apology.

You can see in the video at right that Dexter Clark, vice chairman of the Alaska Independence party, told party officials in 2006 that:

She was an AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town — that was a non-partisan job. But you get along to go along — she eventually joined the Republican Party, where she had all kinds of problems with their ethics, and well, I won’t go into that. She also had about an 80% approval rating, and is pretty well sympathetic to her former membership."

What is the AIP, really? Well, its own website declares as the cornerstone of its platform:

To seek the complete repatriation of the public lands, held by the federal government, to the state and people of Alaska in conformance with Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, of the federal constitution.

The AIP is clearly a secessionist movement. It had delegates both at the First North American Secession Convention in 2006, but also at the Second North American Secession Convention in 2007 – alongside fellow members the League of the South (the most prominent neo-Confederate organization and an SPLC-designated “hate group”); the Republic of Texas (a militia/Patriot group whose members at one time engaged in an armed standoff with Texas law enforcement); and Christian Exodus (which advocates creating an all-white homeland, either in South Carolina or in Idaho, depending on who’s in charge). You can also find links to these groups at AIP’s links page.

In other words, this is a group that works alongside acknowledged racists and far-right radicals in pursuit of an agenda that is by definition extremist – that is, secession. Not everyone involved in such groups is necessarily an extremist – and in fact there are some fairly benign organizations involved in the secession movement — but they are all operating in pursuit of a toxic agenda.

The far-right orientation, in fact, runs quite deep in the AIP — and it has a decidedly religious component. Chip Berlet’s early assessment remains accurate:

Given Sarah Palin’s rather doctrinaire approach to conservative libertarian Christian evangelicalism, her political flirtation with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party (AIP) is hardly surprising, but the AIP’s ties to the U.S. Constitution Party raise some creepy issues. It is not fair to suggest that Palin agrees with all of the political positions of the AIP or Constitution Party. It is fair to ask with what policies she does or does not agree. It is already clear that on the issue of the "Sanctity of Life," Palin and the theocratic Consititution Party are on the same Dominionist page.

The AIP has placed the candidate of the U.S. Constitution Party on the Presidential ballot in Alaska in the 2008 race. Let’s be clear, the U.S. Constitution Party would impose a form of theocratic neofascism in the United States. And I am not a person who tosses the term fascism around lightly.

I’ve written about the Constitution Party at length previously. This is the party that, in its 1990s guise at the American Taxpayers Party, was on the front lines in promoting the “militia” movement, and a large portion of its membership comprises former and current militia members. It remains, in its current guise at the Constitution Party, the main active party for “Patriot” movement followers who still find the GOP to be too “soft.” In more recent years, it has been the party of Roy Moore, the “Ten Commandments” zealot. Jim Gilchrist, the Minuteman Project’s co-founder, ran under the umbrella of the Constitution Party’s California wing.

Besides being oriented toward far-right conspiracy theories and belief systems, it also is clearly aligned with the Christian Dominionist wing of the conservative movement. According to the Constitution Party’s own platform:

"The mission of the Constitution Party is to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity through the election, at all levels of government, of Constitution Party candidates who will uphold the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It is our goal to limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional functions and to restore American jurisprudence to its original Biblical common-law foundations."

… The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

As Berlet says:

The Constitution Party has adopted the ideas of a militant form of Christian Dominionism known as Dominion Theology.

And how does it intend to achieve its ends? You get the flavor of the idea by watching the video of Dexter Clark all the way through – especially the part where he advises on tactics:

You should infiltrate – I know the Christian Exodus(?) is in favor of it, the Free State movement is in favor of it – I don’t think they even care which party it is.  Whichever party in that area you can get something done, get into that political party, even though it does have its problems.  Right now that is one of the only avenues.

Given what we know already about her religious beliefs, it all makes you wonder what Sarah Palin is hiding behind that refusal to be interviewed without proper “deference” from the media.