By GOV. MIKE DUNLEAVY
“It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected,” wrote an elderly Thomas Jefferson as he looked back on the founding of our nation.
Throughout his life, Jefferson never wavered in his support for limited government. Decades prior he had warned supporters of a national bank that to take “a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”
As pandemic-related disputes once again brew in Anchorage, some Alaskans believe I should cross that boundary.
Agitated social media users and well-meaning bloggers tell me that it’s for the greater good.
“Just a touch of tyranny and then we can go back to following the law,” is their unstated message.
What’s incredible to me is that the founding fathers were almost clairvoyant. They couldn’t have imagined the impact of social media on our democracy, yet they were intimately aware of the very human desire for government abuses when it benefits the petitioner.
This knowledge inspired them to do everything in their power to prevent that “single step beyond.”
To combat the inevitability of corruption, they rooted government in the concept of local control. In fact, this core principle of American life far predates the founders.
Families, villages, townships – this is where the power has resided for some 400 years. Even centuries later, the principle of limited government allows the Mat-Su, Kenai, and so many other communities to manage the pandemic in a way their residents desire.
And love it or hate it, it allows Anchorage to be Anchorage.
This doesn’t mean I’m not vehemently opposed to some of things that have occurred in our largest borough, but disagreement doesn’t absolve me of my oath of office. It certainly doesn’t remove Anchorage’s emergency health powers or allow me to toss aside the leaders voters elected.
In the interest of thoroughness, I have once again asked my legal team if there’s any place in the Alaska Constitution or statutes that allows me to intervene when I, or others, don’t like the policies being put forth by duly elected officials.
We’ve found no such authority, and for that we should all be thankful.
We should be thankful because it means that an overreaching strongman would also be constrained if he were governor of Alaska. No powerful central government can destroy our Alaskan way of life, and that’s exactly how the founders wanted it.
Because I’ve acted within the law throughout the pandemic, Fairbanks, Kenai, and people across Alaska are free to behave in a manner chosen by local voters.
I know some will immediately point to the actions of governors in other states. I get it. But what I hope they understand is that these governors have state constitutions and legislatures that have given them the powers they’re using.
For example, many of the “anti-mandate mandates” elsewhere aren’t actually hard-and-fast rules; rather they’re “enforced” via legislative funding cuts. This requires a legislature that supports the governor’s decisions. As astute political observers will note, that is not the case in Alaska.
Further, it would be the peak of hypocrisy for me to take that dangerous step toward tyranny while fighting tooth and nail against the Biden administration’s overreach. How can I advocate for Alaska’s self-determination while imposing unconstitutional dictates that local governments oppose?
History is littered with the wreckage of nations who fell to the siren songs of strongmen who promised to come to their rescue. I would encourage residents to not head down a potentially disastrous path when faced with fleeting and temporary problems – problems that the voters of Anchorage are capable and competent to solve. After all, it’s not the mayor or the school board who run the show, it’s the voters of Anchorage.
Whether or not they choose to act is up to them, but what I can assure you is that I will not consider even the slightest venture into the realm of tyranny. The risks to our democracy are far too great.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Our founders were almost uniformly pessimistic about the survival of our republic when faced with executive encroachment. Ben Franklin summarized their sentiments best when he predicted, “The executive will be always increasing… till it ends in a monarchy.”
That won’t happen in Alaska on my watch.
I’ll leave you with a famous anecdote that is also attributed to Franklin. As the story goes, Franklin was stopped by a woman in Philadelphia who inquired whether a republic or a monarchy was the result of the 1787 convention.
“A republic, if you can keep it,” was his prophetic reply.
Mike Dunleavy is the governor of the State of Alaska.