Definitely Not Astroturf   Leave a comment

If conservatism wants to transform our nation from the ground up, we first have to start at the local level. Why? Because the “blue regions” think we’re nuts, so talking to them over the Internet isn’t really going to convince them of anything and the media won’t give the straight talk on our principles, so face-to-face, where they can see your eyes and your life is the best way to go. This doesn’t mean a national message will never get through, only that all politics is local and you are going to see your greatest harvest if you start there.

Here in Alaska, there’s a tale to tell about this. In 1990, a local motel owner found her property taxes going up yet again and in frustration she called the local talk radio station. Bill Wally, the Fairbanks business owner who hosted the week-day show Problem Corner, listened to Donna Gilbert and thought there had to be something to do to fix what many of us saw as tax Armageddon. Our mil-rate was going through the roof, our Borough and City government employees were making incredible wages and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. Off the air, Donna encouraged Bill to run for mayor, which at the time was a ceremonial position. The city was run by a city manager and the borough (our county) was also. Bill decided to run as mayor and use his position as a bully pulpit. The town’s people submitted an initiative that changed the major into a strong mayor position and shortly thereafter another initiative passed that put a tax cap in place, forcing the city to stay within budgetary limits and only raise taxation levels by a vote of the people. Not too long later, the borough also got a strong mayor and a tax cap, also by citizen initiative.

The battle that followed was not an easy one. The city chose not to plow the streets for a winter in order to get us to vote down the tax cap, but every two years the voters reinstate both caps and we’ve held the line on spending and government growth. The city gave up coercion as a tool and now actually has a savings account and the streets get plowed.

Slowly, but surely, that conservative ideal has permeated Fairbanks politics. For a long time, we sent Republicans to Juneau where they immediately became progressives, but recently we’ve sent conservative Republicans to Juneau. The GOP in Fairbanks is strongly conservative and it is having an effect on the state level GOP, though one the party is wholeheartedly resisting complete with political dirty tricks. As a non-partisan, I find the in-fighting annoyingly stupid and it tempts/prompts me to vote non-partisan, but I also see it as a sign that there is a debate happening in the Alaska GOP that might lead to some substantive changes – eventually.

During the last few years, the Alaska Senate was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but a handful of Republicans caucused with the Democrats and voted as a bloc – tying up legislation that Interior communities needed – natural gas trucking, a gas pipeline, etc. Interior voters helped to force a sea change this last fall and now the Senate is solidly Republican, but not just Republican – conservative Republican. They’re the ones who have fought for nullification of federal laws, more freedom with fire arms, and a reduction in regulations.

Alaska is a small population state with a well-educated, politically involved population, so changes here are perhaps easier than in other states, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. By targeting local offices where candidates often do not even need to declare a party, conservatives can teach their fellow citizens about our principles without scaring the unlearned with that word “conservative”. Our principles make incredible sense if they are not approached with presuppositions and local politics is the best place to prove that they work in the real world.

That done, it is much easier to conquer state and national elections because success at the local level brings supporters to our cause.

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