Alaska, with its short history as a state and its independent spirit, continues to earn its nickname as America’s “last frontier.” But it’s the state’s oil revenues, corruption, and very local politics that enabled Sarah Palin to thrive, the New York Times reports. And as governor it's left her with unique challenges. For instance, high energy prices fueled a $5 billion budget surplus while the rest of the country faced shortfalls.
Palin upended Alaska’s political machine, whose members were around for the state's founding, but benefited from pre-existing ill-will toward the establishment. Noted one professor: “She had the morals and intellectual acumen to do that, but the situation was just waiting for someone to take advantage.” Others say Palin strong-armed opponents to enact reform. “People were afraid to vote ‘no’ against her,” a state official recalled.