What does it mean to be a conservative today- especially in Alaska? As I began to reflect on the foundation stones undergirding the Republican Party Platform and then contrast them with the politicians serving in Juneau today, I see a great ideological chasm. It’s as if their conservative slacks are being held up with liberal suspenders.
To clearly see the truth in the matter, we must first separate eternal campaign rhetoric from legislative fruit. To truly evaluate a leader Jesus once said “You will know them by their fruits.” We must carefully avoid allowing inspirational campaign rhetoric to obfuscate governing results. One can easily see and cheer a gleaming fox on the neighborhood campaign stump, but so easily lose sight and therefore interest once they enter a distant capital henhouse. It’s time to start noticing the scattered feathers.
The first cognitive dissonance that I want to address is fiscal conservatism. Most Republicans campaign as a fiscal conservative in one way or another. After all, what conservative voter would not support responsible public spending? However, almost as soon as our elected leaders touch down in the capital, they generally vote for more public spending and passively allow the government bureaucracy to grow every year by mathematical formula. The incessant lobbying of public supplicants together with the collective ego of central planners- continually pull them of course like gravity into the big government orbit that diverts most career politicians who do not have the personal integrity to resist it.
Career conservatives have long forgotten the principle that the single greatest internal threat to our personal freedom and privacy is the unrestrained growth in government. In Alaska, our “fiscal conservatives” have managed to outspend liberal states in virtually every category leading to the most government laden state per capita in the nation. The legislature’s refusal to rein in spending along with the governor’s choice to keep the line item veto sword mostly in the scabbard is revealing. This year the State of Alaska is facing a $1 to 2 billion dollar deficit on declining oil revenue and yet still is spending like there is no tomorrow. Well, according to the state’s own budget forecasts, there will hardly be a tomorrow after we deplete or savings and hit a fiscal cliff in the early 2020s. Obviously, the label “fiscal conservative” does not apply to the majority of our career politicians in Juneau, so how else might we define being a conservative in Alaska?
Many Republicans run on a pro-life platform every election cycle and consistently cultivate campaign donations and voter support based on that issue. And yet in Juneau, they have accomplished nothing to advance the pro-life platform – in fact quite the opposite by ever increasing government spending. How many pro-life bills have made it through the legislature? Did a bill make it through the last legislative session when there was a solid Republican majority in both legislative branches as well as a Republican governor? Did the legislature reduce funding for agencies that pay for public abortions or did the governor veto abortion funding? You be the judge. If just being a campaign pro-lifer no longer defines being a conservative in Alaska, how else might one define it?
How about being a constitutional conservative? Perhaps that defines being a real conservative in Alaska! This broad area implies conservatives are ardent defenders of the U.S. Constitution. Alaska is consistently strong in its support of Second and Tenth Amendment rights. However, it fails miserably in other areas. For instance, the Alaska State Constitution specifically strips private citizens of mineral rights on their own private property. If the U.S. Constitution guarantees life, liberty, and property, and yet Alaska does not allow you to fully own your property, I guess we can cross true private property ownership off our Alaskan conservative values list.
Another area where I believe we have recently faulted in is public education. The Alaska State Constitution explicitly states that the legislature will establish a system of public schools. Yet the governor’s office allegedly went over their head and signed onto the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (i.e. federalized Common Core) and only asked to be released from membership after a massive parent and teacher furor going into an election year. The first and foremost rule of any elected official is to do no harm, either to an individual’s freedom or privacy. In my view, Common Core eliminates 85% of individual state, teacher, parent, and student freedom in public schools while utterly destroying personal privacy with personalized data tracking. Given our Republican inconsistences in constitutional freedom, privacy, and property areas, how else might we define being a conservative in Alaska?
Republicans by and large despise excessive government regulations. We decry federal regulatory overreach into Alaskan sovereignty. However, we have grown our own state bureaucratic and regulatory behemoths that bury any potential new natural resource development company in excessive red tape- the very thing we blame the feds for. I for one have been told by an oil executive that the small drilling companies – the very ones that are causing the economic miracles in states like North Dakota and Texas – are being actively kept out of Alaska by our burdensome state bureaucracies, and that “they wouldn’t touch Alaska with a ten-foot pole.” We must reverse course in this area if we expect to get different results. Our elected conservatives in Juneau apparently don’t believe in the principles of limited government at the state level, just at the federal level.
If we cannot adequately define an average conservative in Juneau as being either a fiscal, social, constitutional, or a limited-government conservative, how else can we define them? Perhaps by the conservative way they part their hair or by the conservative way they dress (minus of course the liberal suspenders)? Seriously, with these governing fruit inconsistencies, it’s high time that we re-anchor the definition of an Alaskan conservative from the U.S. Constitution on up. It’s time for a great reawakening of the concept that, “We the People,” means “We the individuals,” and that all God given rights flow up from the individual to government for the protection of our life, liberty, privacy, and property. We need to repatriate the Founding Father’s vision that government must be limited in scope if self-determination and free market competition are to flourish. Each one of these sacred principles is a lamp to our feet. Let us relight the conservative vision.