Last weekend the Alaska Republican Party met in Fairbanks for their bi-annual convention to discuss the party platform, consider endorsements and pass resolutions. One of the resolutions put forward by Big Lake Representative Kevin McCabe roundly condemned the activist training group Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership (FACL) and dictated that no one associated with the group would be eligible to receive party support or endorsement. 

This resolution, submitted at the 11th hour, and passed under a questionable voice vote, was enthusiastically supported by multiple legislators who were nearly tripping over themselves to reach the microphone and voice their assent.

As someone who has been through multiple FACL trainings (unlike the resolution sponsor who has never attended even one of their classes) I have my own thoughts and feelings on the tactics that are taught. I don’t agree with them all. But I also find substantial value in other parts of the training that have rung true during my years of political activism in Alaska.

The Alaska Republican Party has set a dangerous precedent in censuring those who would be a voice of dissent…

Regardless of whether we believe in the entirety of a training or appreciate how various members of the public apply it, FACL and its adherents have as much of a right to free speech as the next person.

Supporters of this resolution are offended by confrontation coming from their constituents and activist groups. In seeking to distance themselves from FACL, they have become the very thing they so vehemently disavow.

Passing this Resolution was a mistake of monumental proportions. By doing so, the Alaska Republican Party declared war on the constitution. Our rights, while not granted by the Constitution, are guaranteed in it. Two of those rights which are now under direct assault by my own party are the rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.

Gone are the days when we can solely blame the Democrats for the woes of our nation.

FACL and those who embrace its tactics, love them or hate them, have just as much right to free speech as the liberal NEA, AFL-CIO, ACLU, and a multitude of other left-leaning alphabet-soup organizations. Just because FACL will also hold Republicans accountable to votes that our own party members are taking does not mean they have less freedom of speech than someone who agrees with us. Freedom of speech is fundamental to a free society. Even, or maybe especially, when it’s speech we don’t like.

The Alaska Republican Party has set a dangerous precedent in censuring those who would be a voice of dissent, opting to punish anyone who would have differing views instead of adhering to the fundamental principles of freedom that we claim to embrace.

Now, we see the Republican Minority Caucus in the State House taking this even further and deciding to expel a member. They’ve done this not because the member (Rep. David Eastman) has deviated from the Party Platform or publicly come out against the caucus organization. It’s been done because Rep. Eastman is a known organizer for the FACL trainings in Alaska.

Now, because certain activists are employing FACL tactics to hold Rep. McCabe accountable to his campaign promises and stated convictions, the Republican Caucus has decided that Rep. Eastman is guilty by association and have denied him the right to continue fully representing his constituents.

I am a member of the Alaska Republican Party because it is the party that best represents my beliefs.  It is a set of principles to espouse and champion, not a club to be loyal to. In these latest attempts at silencing dissent and castigating lawmakers who have different approaches, Alaska Republicans have shown themselves to not only be drifting, but rather racing, away from the platform that so many Alaskans support.

Gone are the days when we can solely blame the Democrats for the woes of our nation. It is only too obvious that we as Republicans have brought tragedy upon ourselves, not the least of which is the recent war that has been levied against our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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OPINION: Alaska GOP wages war on free speech within the party

Haylee Kurka
Haylee Kurka is a small business owner who lives in the Mat-Su with her children and husband, State Rep. Christopher Kurka.