A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

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Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

Freedom Gulch #10

FGLast night, the folks at Freedom Gulch held their tenth podcast.  Included in the conversation were: Will Hammer, Robert Clemmer, Michael Pickens, Joshua Huffman, Andy Bakker, and Carl Loser.  We discussed a variety of recent political events such as: Gary Johnson’s rise in the polls and possible inclusion in the debates, Representative Scott Rigell’s (VA-2) endorsement of Johnson, the newest candidate to throw his hat into the ring for president and what that might accomplish, the recent Libertarian town hall on TV, and more.

You can find a replay of the live podcast below.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXVIII)

IMG_0365On Monday, August 1st, Andy Schmookler and I (Joshua Huffman) spoke on our monthly radio hour on 550 AM, WSVA.

Unlike most of our previous shows, this one was not live and instead was recorded and then aired on Wednesday of last week.

The topics for this show included the recent Republican and Democratic conventions as well as a brief discussion of voter ID laws.

If you missed the show, you can find it here.

 

Lessons Learned at the LPVA Convention

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Joshua Huffman & Gary Johnson at the LPVA Convention

On March 5th, 2016, the Libertarian Party of Virginia held their state convention in Sandston.  During the gathering, they presented a panel called “Lessons Learned” consisting of former candidates who spoke about their experiences running for office.  Seated from left to right, the panel consisted of: Andy Bakker (who ran for House of Delegates in the 46th district), Joshua Huffman (who ran for Harrisonburg City Council), Brian Suojanen (who ran for House of Delegates in the 87th district), and Mark Anderson (who ran for House of Delegates in the 33rd district).  LPVA Vice Chairman, Dr. Jim Lark, introduced the panel and LPVA Chairman Bill Redpath served as the moderator.

Although it has taken some time, I have acquired the video of that panel, which you can find below.  Hopefully, it will provide useful insight to those who are considering running for office or those who are interested in learning more about our political process.

I’d like to thank the Libertarian Party of Virginia once again for giving me the opportunity to join their panelists earlier this year.

Positive Outreach

Scan 2These days, most people rely upon email to send all of their messages.  As such, our inboxes are often stuffed both with legitimate correspondence…as well as far too much spam.  Given this reality, except when we are expecting a package, we don’t eagerly wait for the mailman like we did when I was little, as he typically delivers only bills and generic information of sales.  However, sometimes there are surprises.  Today, for example, I found a hand-addressed envelope in the mailbox.  Inside, was a hand-written note from Delegate Bell (as pictured).

To offer some background, on the evening of July 14th Americans for Prosperity-Virginia held an event in Harrisonburg featuring Delegate Rob Bell (R-58), Delegate Ben Cline (R-24), Delegate Nick Freitas (R-30), and a member of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors.  Although I’ve found AFP events to be hit or miss, this gathering was excellent, featuring many great, informative, and inspiring speeches.  In fact, it was arguably the best AFP event I have attended in my years of activism.  Afterward, I spoke with some of the AFP staff and their guests, including Delegate Bell, who informed me that he read The Virginia Conservative (it is amazing how many elected officials tell me that they visit this website).  Nevertheless, I didn’t think much more about the event and didn’t end up taking any photos of it, as it was one of those “you had to be there” kind of occasions to listen to it for yourself.  However, with today’s mail, I am reminded of it once again.

As some of you may know, Rob Bell is seeking to be the Republican nominee for Virginia’s Attorney General in 2017.  Although he already has several declared opponents, sending out personalized, hand-written notes as he did after this recent AFP event is a good way to set yourself apart in a world of slick, colorful, but impersonal campaign flyers.  In addition, I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t some kind of plug for a donation.

I don’t have a preferred candidate for attorney general at this point, but I have to say kudos to Delegate Bell for his efforts at memorable outreach.

Stand Up For Your Principles!

BwxNluxIgAEcwXfStand up for your principles!

Honor and honesty

Are glorious things

That ought to be valued

Right?

 

Unless…

…your political party needs you to do otherwise

…this election is just too darned important

…you need to support the lesser of two evils

…we could be facing the end of civilization

…you can abandon them just this one time

…you want a promotion at work

…doing so would make your friends or family mad

…you will be viewed as a rebel or a traitor

…you really need the money

…everyone else is doing it

…you have a quid pro quo arrangement

…no one will ever know

…being part of the group is more important

…it would hurt your reputation

…you don’t want to be “that guy”

…your crush or significant other won’t like it

…no one likes a stick-in-the-mud

…unity is more important than principles

…it would hurt your self-esteem

…it makes you uncomfortable

 

Standing up for your principles

Sometimes means standing alone

Resulting in distrust, scorn, or even hatred

The world teaches us not to do so

How many of us listen?

 

 

Image from https://twitter.com/10millionmiler

 

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXVII)

IMG_0359On July 14th, Andy Schmookler and I (Joshua Huffman) appeared on our monthly radio hour on 550 AM, WSVA.  Topics included:  the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions, Senator Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, a discussion of the possible selection of Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine as the Democratic nominee, and more.

If you missed the program live, you can find it here.

Freedom Gulch #9

Last night, I joined Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and Corey Fauconier for the 9th Freedom Gulch podcast.  Topics under discussion were: the recent shooting of black males and Dallas police officers, Hillary Clinton’s non-indictment, possible VP choices for Donald Trump, and more.

If you missed the discussion live, you can watch it here.

The Power of a Name

Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio

A Democratic, Republican, and independent candidate walk into a radio studio…

While reading online last night, I was reminded of an encounter from mid 2012.  To set the scene, it was a Republican gathering in Harrisonburg shortly after a primary where Representative Bob Goodlatte fended off a challenge for the Republican nomination for the 6th district seat from Karen Kwiatkowski.  As many of you may know, I was a volunteer for her campaign.  Although I had been an ardent supporter of Representative Goodlatte from 1995 to 2010, I no longer believed that he represented my values in Washington while Kwiatkowski articulated a much better message.  Anyway, at this meeting Bob Goodlatte saw me, came over, and stated that he hoped that I would now support him as much as I supported his opponent.  It may sound strange at first reading, but I found his statement quite offensive.

You see, leading up to the primary, Bob Goodlatte seemed to do his best to try and ignore Karen’s challenge.  He steadfastly refused to debate her and, to the best of my knowledge, he never mentioned her by name.  On the scant times he referenced her, she was always identified as “my opponent.”  Then, even after the election was over, she still wasn’t worthy of being called by her name.

Using the term “my opponent” isn’t something novel for Goodlatte or his campaign.  For example, in 2006 I was an employee of the Republican Party of Virginia.  I’m sure many of you will remember the “macaca moment” when then Republican Senator George Allen called one of Jim Webb’s staffers “macaca”, apparently a racial slur which likely cost Allen the election.  However, I’d like you to listen to the recording of this incident once more.

Notice what Senator Allen says.  Not once does he mention Jim Webb by name, instead calling him “my opponent” or rather curiously “your opponent” in reference to the Webb staffer, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Also, Allen doesn’t call S.R. Sidarth (the Webb staffer) by his name and instead makes up a name for him.  Even if the word macaca wasn’t a Portuguese word for a monkey, in this video Allen seems to suggest that Sidarth’s name isn’t important.  Apparently some Allen staffers called Sidarth “mohawk” based upon his hairstyle at the time.  But really, is using that term all that much better?  Rather than taking the time to learn who this fellow is who has been following him around to various campaign stops, by inventing a name for him Allen and his crew seem to suggest that Sidarth is simply a nameless replaceable staffer for the Webb campaign who doesn’t have much value.

With either of these two examples I’m not claiming that it is only Republicans who refuse to reference their opponents by name.  I’m sure politicians of all stripes do likewise.  However, as a former Republican staffer and political activist, these are two examples I personally remember.

This subject reminds me of a scene from the movie Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend doing so.  Anyway, at one point the characters create a plan called Project Mayhem.  When a person is part of Project Mayhem, he is stripped of his name and becomes an undistinguished and replaceable cog in the plan.  But, when Robert Paulsen is killed and it is suggested that they secretly bury his body in the garden, Edward Norton’s character objects to calling his fallen friend a nameless and disposable object.  Here’s the scene.  (Please pardon the language and violence from the movie).

As you might imagine, I find this tactic of refusing to call one’s political adversaries by name very demeaning.  After all, a person is more than a mere political opponent, an obstacle to be overcome, or an annoyance to be brushed aside.  Be it for better or worse he or she is much more than a candidate for an election or even a series of elections.  He or she has a unique personality, has a collection of experiences, an abundance of hopes, dreams, and fears.  He or she is someone’s mother…or brother…or niece…or son.  He or she is someone’s friend, possible lover, potential mentor, or perhaps an eager pupil.

I am of the thought that everyone has at least enough human dignity to be worthy of being called by his or her name, not degraded as an “opponent” or slurred based upon their appearance.  I’d like to think that our elected officials should be at the forefront of embracing this philosophy, instead of deriding those who dare challenge their misguided perception of a divine right to rule.  In an open and fair political system especially, everyone should at least have the power of his or her name, his or her right to run for office, and the ability to express his or her opinions.

The Harrisonburg School Board 2016

SBBesides electing three members of city council in November, voters in Harrisonburg will also be picking school board members.  Unlike most years, the school board races seem to be more competitive than city council.  There are three, four-year seats available and one, two-year seat up for grabs.  As the school board is nonpartisan, none of the candidates will have a party affiliation listed on the ballot.

The five candidates for the three, four-year seats are: Nick Swayne (current vice chair of the school board who is seeking reelection), Tom Domonske (who is also hoping to be reelected), Deb Fitzgerald (the chair of the Harrrisonburg Democratic Party), Kaylene Seigle (the leader of the local Young Republicans), and Dany Fleming.  Mr. Fleming, as you may recall from an earlier article, previously served on the school board, but lost his seat for representing a part of the city that he was not legally eligible to represent.  When Kelley Rooney (who was elected in 2014) resigned her seat earlier this year due to relocation, the school board appointed Mr. Fleming to fill-in until a special election could be held.  As mentioned, that seat with two years remaining is also up for election with Lauren Penrod and Bill Wilson vying for the one opening.  Curiously, at one point Dany Fleming was apparently running for both the school board and also seeking a seat on city council.  When I visited the local registrar’s office recently, I asked if it is legal for one candidate to run for these two offices at the same time, because it certainly isn’t permissible to serve on both city council and school board concurrently.  However, Mr. Fleming did not win the Democratic nomination for city council at their meeting on June 13th and thus he ended his bid for that office.

Although school board races are typically low-key races and often uncontested in Harrisonburg, this year could prove considerably more interesting, especially given that we have both a Democratic and a Republican Party leader seeking office.  It should be interesting to see what happens.