The Governor of Alaska should be a role model for Illinois Republicans

We’ve highlighted successes in other states like Florida and Texas to show Illinois Republicans what’s possible—today, we note another one, this time all the way out in Alaska.

Fred Barnes has written a great piece in the July 16, 2007, Weekly Standard—the title of which says it all:

The Most Popular Governor: Alaska’s Sarah Palin is the GOP’s newest star.

As Andy McKenna and other Republican office holders in Illinois mouth the words they think they’re supposed to, Alaska’s Republican Governor Sarah Palin is actually backing up her words with action.

The best part for those of us looking for role models is that she’s taking on the crooks and the crooks’ enablers in her own party. Coincidentally, that aspect is the worst part for Republican activists and elected officials in Illinois who think the goal is to play nice with everyone as long as they’re not yet indicted.

Sarah Palin hasn’t yet used the Sunnis/Shiites excuse for why 2006 was a bad year for state-level Republican candidates—Illinois Republican officials love that one here in Illinois. In fact, Palin won her first term last November. Fred Barnes writes that she is “a politician of eye-popping integrity.”

“She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.”

How did that happen in such a short time?

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle–especially to transparency and accountability in government–can produce political success. And by the way, Palin is a conservative who only last month vetoed 13 percent of the state’s proposed budget for capital projects. The cuts, the Anchorage Daily News said, “may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history.”

Palin was as recently as last year “a political outcast.” She complained about ethical violations by fellow Republicans back in 2004 and resigned a state post she then held. One of the people she complained about happened to be the Republican state party chairman, Randy Ruedrich. Barnes writes that when she was vindicated and Ruedrich agreed to pay a fine for breaking state ethics laws,

She became a hero in the eyes of the public and the press, and the bane of Republican leaders.

It gets worse for the Illinois Republican old guard and their youthful enablers. Palin is a 43 year old mother of four and “unabashedly pro life.”

With her emphasis on ethics and openness in government, “it turned out Palin caught the temper of the times perfectly,” wrote Tom Kizzia of the Anchorage Daily News. She was also lucky. News broke of an FBI investigation of corruption by legislators between the primary and general elections. So far, three legislators have been indicted.

Sounds familiar. Illinois has corruption, and many corruption enablers. No one yet has come forward who has the guts, brains, and ability to stand up and make the case for reform here. Empty words and “reform tours” don’t cut it.

She made three other promises: to end corruption in state government, cut spending, and provide accountability. She’s now redeeming those promises.

Those promises would sell in Illinois. Evidently Palin is popular because she’s credible. The shortest path to credibility with the public is to go after corruption in your own party. Anyone can attack the other party. It’s the effort to clean up your own house that sets someone apart and elevates them in the mind of a cynical public.

What Palin is doing is the opposite of what we see from our Republicans leaders. If they’d follow her lead, we could make up for lost time. Courage and a commitment to principle aren’t an option.

Palin’s tough spending cuts drew criticism from Republican legislators whose pet projects were vetoed. But her popularity doesn’t appear threatened.

We’re not surprised.

Click here to read the Weekly Standard article.