Salvaging the Status Quo
By Gregory Vickrey
January 29, 2008
In the political arena, it has become commonplace to proclaim
victory and success after salvaging the status quo. The Reagan
Administration brought this tactic to the fore, and the apparatus
was further refined during the Clinton years.
Salvaging the status quo is a pretty simple and straightforward
tactic. In the face of challenge and change, one simply describes
(or manufactures) an attack on current reality (related to the
issue where change or progress is sought), thwarts the perceived
attack, and claims responsibility for saving society (or an element
The Reagan Administration, for example, faced a significant challenge
with minimum wage earnings. Instead of taking the congressional
bait and significantly raising the minimum wage, the Administration
instead manufactured a set of circumstances where the already
scheduled increases could not be met. As conversation around
the United States swelled and the working poor squirmed, the
Reagan Administration stepped in with a new plan, and saved the
day. Scheduled minimum wage increases were going to happen after
all. It was a great victory.
And the status quo was salvaged.
For the Clinton Administration, one can look at the machinations
of nuclear arms or his administration's economic sanctions on
Closer to home, salvaging the status quo plagues our progress
as well. Sometimes we catch it, and other times it zooms right
past us without notice. What is currently happening with the
Alaska Marine Highway System is one example. I will attempt to
highlight another in a later letter.
Things have been sputtering along for the Alaska Marine Highway
for a few years now, with no significant improvements, and no
major designs for a brighter future. Except for one thing: the
Southern Gateway Shuttle was quietly tucked away in the state's
transportation plan (STIP), complete with dollar signs, a designated
run to the expanding port at Prince Rupert, and real potential
for economic progress in Ketchikan.
Then, just as quietly, it disappeared just over a year ago. Gone
from the STIP, the Southern Gateway Shuttle never made it to
the lips of our local governments for advocacy, and those associated
dreams of economic progress for the First City seemed to vanish
Finally, beginning last year, we got uppity about it. Folks in
town, particularly Mike Round, some TCS supporters, and others
began to tell the Borough over and over how important the Southern
Gateway Shuttle could be to our local stagnant economy - and
ultimately, if reluctantly, the Borough took up the call. The
Chamber of Commerce did as well. All of a sudden, the Southern
Gateway Shuttle mattered to the community, and we wanted the
state to make it happen.
We still do.
But, instead, we find ourselves fighting to salvage the status
Instead of the Alaska Department of Transportation adapting for
the sake of progress, we find them manufacturing a retrogressive
change for our community, cutting runs and running cuts throughout
the system. Instead of getting creative in order to tie in to
the benefits of the expanding port at Prince Rupert, we find
ourselves having to argue vehemently just to maintain the second
run to Bellingham.
Fighting to salvage the status quo.
Will we lose sight of the Southern Gateway Shuttle during this
battle for mediocrity? Will our local government and the legislature
declare victory should the status quo and the second run be salvaged?
What will be the end game? Time will tell, of course, but my
hope is that as a community we can continue to push for progress
beyond the status quo.
About: "Gregory Vickrey
is the director of the Tongass Conservation Society, and believes
fervently in the Alaska Marine Highway System as well as the
community of Ketchikan."
Received January 28, 2008 -
Published January 29, 2008
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