Taking a Stand (1)

By Vic Kohring, August 10, 2016

Election season is in full swing and the usual array of candidates have come out of the woodwork pledging to practically lasso the moon. Nearly all act virtuous and the next best thing to the Pope himself. 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," blah, blah, 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 - "trust but verify" - but my hopes are usually dashed by the continued 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 of where we need to with a perpetual increase in the size and reach of government. Since I left office nearly a decade ago, spending on the state bureaucracy has tripled, all on the Republican's watch and those who claim to be "conservative." It's as if the most liberal possible Democrats have been in charge.

Why do we keep moving toward bigger and more expansive government despite Republicans in control? And why does our leadership lack courage to make fundamental changes while they nurse a big yellow stripe down the middle of their backs? I know the reason, having served in the Alaska Legislature for seven terms and observing this phenomenon first-hand.

Most of my former colleagues are well-meaning and believe that the Reagan principle of less government is best for society, but don't wish to risk their careers by taking on the enormous bureaucracy. They quickly discover it's too much of a headache and that the government and their allies will fight them every step of the way, backed by the salivating, leftist press machine. So why bother? 

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 part of the Good ol' Boys Club and get reelected," they surmise. Besides, legalized bribery and quid pro quo's are too tempting. So the money keeps flowing and nothing changes.

This attitude is so commonplace, that some high profile Republicans have had enough. The Reverend Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham's son whom I admire and who prayed at the steps of our state capitol this summer asking for God's grace on our country, recently quit the Republican Party out of disgust. Hooray for him.

When I was in the legislature, I nearly gave up on the same party 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 largely Christian, conservative philosophy, is mostly 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 moral principles) and formed my own caucus with three others.

I paid a steep price when I was punished by being stripped of my coveted Finance Committee seat and budget chairmanships and having staff reduced which made it difficult to serve my constituents. Punished for following my conscience! Being principled also ultimately cost me my job as a legislator when the government targeted me as part of the FBI's assault in 2006, forcing my resignation. 

Carefully examine the background of candidates before casting your ballot. Not only should their political philosophy be scrutinized (don't fall for a cute, photoshopped portrait photo, pretty road signs or clever campaign ads), but try to identify one's values and peer into their heart. How honest are they? Do they have the strength of conviction to stick to their promises? Are they God-fearing with Christian values?

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 and collecting a paycheck or are they taking a stand by genuinely attempting to limit the effect of government in our lives instead of worrying about jeopardizing their careers, pensions, fancy title 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 big political price. These are the kind of people we need in office - true public servants willing to risk their necks - not the usual do-nothing, self-serving bench warmers.