Columns 2016

You get what you vote for

People who had issues with the concept of a privileged class founded America. Somehow we’ve managed to circumvent their intent and created our own version of a privileged class that is seemingly answerable to no one for their actions. No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians. Given what our political leaders have been doing recently, the Kardashians are starting to look fairly normal. This is why we should all be grateful that the next election is only seven moths away.

Yes, it is still that long until we get the chance to show the politicians that they are not a protected class and can lose their jobs just like all the people being laid off due to their budgets cuts. Cuts, may I add, that would not have to be so severe if legislators found the guts to face their overlords and restructure a tax policy that somehow has us giving the oil companies more than they give us.

So while it’s true that this political campaign season seems to have begun somewhere in my childhood, Election Day will eventually arrive and we will have the chance to show those who would be our leaders just what we think of their leadership.

If history is any guide, it’s more than likely that we’ll return the same tired faces to state and federal office that have held those positions for decades. They will proceed to function as though what they’re doing is what they promised to do if elected.  The dichotomy between the unhappiness and outrage expressed by many citizens over how their legislative bodies act seems often to be wildly out of sync with what happens on Election Day. We just keep sending them back year after year as though this time we think they will act in our best interests and not theirs.

While the debacle playing out on the national scene in the Republican nominating battle is only a couple actors short of a farce, Alaska has no room to brag. After all, Don Young is still our representative. (Sorry Republicans, but let’s face it, for sheer insanity, the Hillary/Bernie show is nowhere near as insane as the Trump/Cruz/Kasich/”please god anyone but” extravaganza of the Republican campaign this year.)

But let’s for a moment focus on the upcoming elections for the Alaska Senate and House. Last week our elected officials finally bit the bullet and made that hard call on the Anchorage LIO building. They thought and thought and thought about it. They commissioned study after study. They took testimony and held hearings. And in the end they decided that they simply could not go back to a world in which their trashcans didn’t salute them as they passed. I guess this makes sense. We won’t salute them or bow to them when they pass so they had to find something that would.

So while cutting programs that would benefit the poorest and neediest, while gutting a scholarship program that was a lifeline for so many young people seeking higher education, while telling seniors to move out of state because they are useless and expensive to keep around, they somehow found a way to offer to pay $32 million dollars for the Taj Mahawker. Wow. Even for Alaskan politicians that’s an amazingly tone deaf move. Granted the offer is $2 million less than the asking price, for which I assume they expect praise for being Trump-like negotiators. But I still wonder where that $32 million was when all those other cuts were being discussed. Did it roll under the bed so they just didn’t see it?

The real question in all this is whether the anger expressed by Alaskans all over the state at the pathetic functioning of our legislature – which once again will probably have to go into overtime and maybe even a special session after that – will translate into anything at the polls in November. Or we will again send the same dysfunctional group back to Juneau and then react with dismay when they continue to be dysfunctional.

In a democracy, you get what you elect. Given our current legislative make up, Alaskans are either voting while very drunk, very high or totally asleep at the wheel. If we don’t change whom we send to Juneau, why in the heck do we ever think the results coming out of there will be any different?