Someone to Believe In

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.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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Comments

10 Responses to Someone to Believe In

  1. Great piece.

    If you’re interested, myself and some others are working to get Gov. Palin on the GOP ticket next year. The main site is palinforvp.blogspot.com, and we have a petition running at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/palinforvp.

    Adam Brickley,
    Founder, “Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President”
    palinforvp.blogspot.com

  2. David says:

    Thanks for the links Adam. I should have known that someone with the level of approval that Governor Palin has would be wanted for higher offices.

    For myself, my primary concern right now is who gets nominated for president. If the top of a ticket is wrong no nominee for VP can make the whole ticket right. Besides, why deprive Alaska of a fantastic governor by putting her in an administration that was bound to perform poorly. I don’t mean to say that any Republican administration would perform poorly, only that we won’t know until we know who the nominee is.

  3. The book by John F. Kennedy (sometimes attributed to Ted Sorenson) “Profiles in Courage” displays the oft rare willingness of some elected officials to risk losing elections by doing the right thing.

    I’ve often thought of the many Democratic legislators in swing districts who voted in 1993 to increase taxes in order to bring the deficit under control. One of them was jeered by Republican congressmen as they waived “bye-bye” to her as she cast her vote.

    The Democrats lost the House and the Senate in 1994, but ultimately brought the Reagan/Bush deficit to an end and even gained an oh, so brief, budget surplus.

    Politics in general has become dominated by politicos (political consultants) who are the political equivalent of marketing gurus. Their goal is to brand and position the candidate in such a way that gives them the best possible chance of election or re-election. The fact that they have prospered and succeeded shows the degree to which the public can so easily be influenced by them.

  4. David says:

    Why is the public so easily influenced by these politicos? I have suspected that it is a result of too many people not doing their homework on the candidates. They just vote on first impressions and the party affiliations of their parents or peers. Do you think I’m right or am I overlooking something? Am I being too hard on our electorate?

    Regardless of the above answers – does anyone have any suggestions of how we can lessen the influence of consultants and lobbyists and return to days when we get more statesmen in office than career politicians? I really think it all boils down to getting the average voter more interested and involved in the election process.

  5. Jason Black says:

    David,

    I have no doubt that voter apathy is a problem. However, I don’t think it is THE problem. The larger problem, in my opinion, is that too many Americans expect government to do for them that which they should be doing for themselves. If we would stop expecting our politicians to look after our wants and needs, they could stop worrying about trying to be everything to everybody, and focus on making and enforcing laws consistent with the constitution.

    As it stands, too many voters will turn down good candidates for office because they won’t be yes men. So even good politicians turn into pork machines in order to keep an increasingly whiny public happy.

  6. Jason Black says:

    That’s why we need more people like Palin in politics. She’s not willing to listen to the whiners. She reads, understands, and adheres to her state’s constitution. The vocal minority throws tantrums, but look at her approval ratings.

    More politicians need to ignore the squeaky wheels of society and focus on the silent majority that want government to do it’s job and stay out of everything else.

  7. David says:

    No fair – you stole my use of “squeaky wheel” before I could submit my comment:

    “I know there are plenty of people who always want more from the government, but is that really the majority, or is it a squeaky minority that gets their way while the majority fails to pay attention?”

    So how do we consistently elect people like Palin who will play deaf to the vocal minority in order to do what’s good for everyone?

  8. To be fair to all those evil bureaucrats who seem to be the catch-all cause of all our woes, politicos have also been very effective in playing the government as the enemy card as well. Politicos use the term “the government” when in reality, it is “our government.”

    Obviously, I believe in a more robust mixed economy of a strong private market augmented by public works that contribute to the success of that market and reject Ezra Taft Benson and his disciples’ paranoia about “creeping socialism”. I see many of the services we receive from the government as good things, despite some inefficiencies because privatization generally ends up being less efficient due to problems of economy of scale.

    But we as citizens must be vigilant to call it pork when it oinks. I’m glad Governor Palin is willing to do that.

  9. David says:

    There are definitely government programs that are beneficial to our nation. Some, like the Postal Service, were essential in developing the character of our nation. Only the government could have provided such a service in it’s early days. Now that one is not so essential because the services it provides can be handled by private enterprise. I’m not saying that we should get rid of the Postal Service, only that we could if we chose to. Sometimes government services are useful but should not be perpetual.

    The thing that worries me is that there are too many people who seem to think that the government should take on more services where it really has no business (like $5000 Baby Bonds).

    As long as we can agree that there is pork and unite against it when it’s really oinking then I have hope that we can find the right balance.

  10. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » The VP Picks

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