Contributed by Vic Kohring
Since the valley is largely republican, we're hearing the typical mantra of "I'm a conservative, so vote for me" filling the airwaves. It's "I'm for less government intrusion, lower taxes, choice in education and a stronger private sector" and so on, which sounds nice and appeals to most voters, but in reality is meaningless once the elections are over and the lofty promises fall flat.
I'm always willing to give candidates the benefit of the doubt and believe their rhetoric, but my hopes are usually dashed and tempered by a long string of failures on the part of our leaders as little or nothing ever changes. Worse is the fact that we're going in the opposite direction with a continual increase in the size and reach of government. Since I left office nearly a decade ago, the state bureaucracy has tripled in size, all on the republican's watch and those who claim to be "conservative". It's as if democrats have been in charge.
Why do we keep moving toward bigger and more expansive government despite Republicans in control? And why the lack of courage to make fundamental changes and the apparent big yellow stripe down the middle of most politician's back? I know the reason, having served in the Alaska Legislature for seven terms and observing this phenomenon first-hand. Most are well meaning and believe that the Reagan principle of less government is better for society, but don't wish to risk their careers by taking on the enormous bureaucracy. They quickly discover it's too much trouble and that the government will fight them every step of the way, not to mention the salivating, leftist press machine. Then there's the special interest groups, many who hire highly paid lobbyists that pressure pols into promising not to cut their pet program. Goring the ox of constituents does not translate into votes or campaign dollars, so it's far easier to say yes than no. In other words, it's safer politically to kick back and not be disruptive and draw attention. "Let things slide so I can remain a part of the Good ol' Boys Club and get reelected," they say. Besides, the legalized bribery and quid-pro-quo's are too tempting.
This attitude is so commonplace, that some high profile people have had enough. The Rev. Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham's son whom I admire and who prayed at the steps of our state capitol this summer, recently quit the Republican Party out of disgust. Hooray for him. When I was in the legislature, I nearly gave up on the same Republicans and switched to an independent. I'm currently a member of the Alaska Independence Party, having bailed on the Republicans in 2014 even though I remain a Republican at heart. When first elected 22 years ago, it only took me a month to realize I was in the midst of a bunch of self-serving pols more interested in their careers than in doing what they knew deep down was right and what they pledged on the campaign trail.
The Republican party platform, a good document that promotes less government, a strong private sector and a Christian, conservative philosophy, is largely ignored by these same politicians. I was so troubled by their spinelessness and lack of resolve that I eventually resigned from the House Majority Coalition (an ungodly alliance as it forces you into a covenant that often violates your principles) and formed my own caucus with three others. But I paid a steep price when I was "punished" by being stripped of my coveted Finance Committee assignment and having staff reduced which made it more difficult to serve my constituents. Punished for following my conscience. It also ultimately cost me my job as the government targeted me as part of the FBI's assault in 2006, forcing me to resign.
Carefully examine the background of candidates before casting your ballot. Not only should their political philosophy be scrutinized (Don't fall for a cute face, pretty road signs or clever campaign ads.), but try to identify one's values and peer into their heart. How honest and ethical are they? Do they have the courage and strength of conviction to stick to their promises? Are they God-fearing with Christian values? And don't blindly vote for someone simply because they have an "R" after their name or claim to be conservative.
Moreover, follow through to see how they perform once elected. Are they only filling space or are they taking a stand by genuinely attempting to limit the effect of government in our lives instead of worrying about risking their careers, paychecks and perks of office? John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, is an expose' of politicians who took a stand, but paid a political price. These are the kind of people we need in office, not the usual do-nothing bench warmers.