After talking about my opposition to Rudy Giuliani and the dangers of the “select someone electable” mentality I thought it would be a nice change to talk about the kind of candidate that I would like to back. My example is Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, who I recently learned about. Much of the discussion about cleaning up national politics comes in the form of the need for an outsider or a newcomer. Condidates in both parties like to lay claim to being an agent for change. One of the tough aspects of political office is that the outsider who gets elected often becomes an insider very quickly. Governor Palin is a refreshing exception to this trend. Before her election she gained a reputation as a whistleblower against insider political activities. After a year of being governor she shows no signs of resting in her efforts.
This week, it was Palin who singlehandedly killed the leading symbol of Republican spending excess in Washington: the Bridge to Nowhere.
The Bridge to Nowhere was actually a state project, to be built with funds earmarked by the state’s powerful Congressman Don Young. Last week, Palin killed the $398 million bridge to Gravina Island (pop. 50), directing that the money be spent on more “fiscally responsible” projects.
In a small state that generally votes Republican, the divide between Alaska’s Republican elected officials could not be more clear. Palin was elected as a whistleblower, and routinely rails against the state’s transactional Republican establishment. Don Young has screamed “It’s my money!” when conservative lawmakers challenge his pet projects and blamed the Republican loss of Congress on conservatives who want to cut spending. And Senator Ted Stevens’ record as a porker is rivaled only by the patron saint of the West Virginia highway system.
With Palin now in office for the better part of a year, we have some data points to evaluate whose brand of politics works better. A poll out last month put Palin’s approval rating at 84%, and Fred Barnes has noted that she probably America’s most popular elected official in any party.
One of the things that makes newcomers become insiders is the perception that you have to join the system to get things done, and that you have to bring home the pork to get re-elected. Real change can only come about when we start electing people who are more interested in doing the right thing than they are in retaining their seat.
For voters, we have to vote consistent with our conscience even at the cost of losing the election. If the majority of the country disagrees with me then I have to accept that. I don’t do any favors by voting for someone who can win if they are not the kind of person that I would like to see in office. The political image of this country is taken from the reflection we cast in the voting booths. If we intentionally distort the reflection we can’t know the real character of the country – all we can see is that it is grotesque, like the monsters we see in fun-house mirrors.