Sweet Neo-Con

Lately, a fair number of people I know have been expressing considerable lament about a number of U.S. policies.  They speak in favor of the C.I.A.’s recently revealed enhanced interrogation tactics (which many believe are nothing more than torture), or strongly oppose lifting the decades long travel ban and embargo of Cuba, or support increasing the national debt and government spending through the “Crommibus”, or laud the expansion of a police state; although mostly self-identified Republicans, they seem to advocate policies that expand the power and authority of the federal government.  For them, the Cold War never ended but merely changed form and so they take an “any methods necessary” approach to continually wage war against foes despite the fact that these people do not have anything approaching the capability the Soviets had to pose even a remotely legitimate threat to the United States.  This fight over foreign policy, civil liberties, and shrinking the size of government continues to divide the Republican Party.

What I find most troubling about the whole affair is that so many of these big-government people seem to wear their Christian religion on their sleeves but then advocate policies that belie their own faith and the underpinnings of our constitutionally limited republic.  As such, as I read comment after comment on Facebook, I’m reminded of the song “Sweet Neo-Con”.

For those who haven’t heard of this particular piece, it was written and performed by The Rolling Stones in 2005, during the zenith of the Bush presidency.  Although primarily serving to oppose the conflict in Iraq and neo-conservative foreign policy, many of the words and thoughts expressed within are still relevant today.

I encourage you to listen to the words of Sweet Neo-Con, especially if you’ve never heard it before though please be advised that it contains some mildly profane lyrics.

The Liberation of Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli and Joshua Huffman at the 2009 RPV Convention

Ken Cuccinelli and Joshua Huffman at the 2009 RPV Convention

In case you don’t follow former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Facebook, lately he has been expressing a lot of strong opinions regarding politics.

For example, when it comes to Del. Joe Morrisey and his adventures with an underage woman, Cuccinelli writes “I hope there’s a race on under Rule 24 of the House, or other appropriate mechanism, to expel him from the House of Delegates.”  But his comments aren’t limited to only Democratic misconduct.  For example, when there are poor Republican actions, such as the vote on HR 83 concerning amnesty, Mr. Cuccinelli stated that it “is so disappointing I’m beyond comment”.  On December 12th, he announced, “I am sorry to have to report that of all 8 GOP congressmen in Virginia, only Cong. Dave Brat voted ‘against the rule’ governing debate and amendments of the CROmnibus bill.”

I don’t know about you, but the fact that Ken Cuccinelli is willing to take a stand on principle, even when it means calling out members of his own political party, is one reason why I like Mr. Cuccinelli.

But wait a minute, the astute observer might say.  If you like Ken Cuccinelli why did you support Robert Sarvis over him in 2013?  How can what you say above make any sense?

Well, just about every Cuccinelli supporter I know is of the opinion that the 2013 Cuccinelli campaign was one of the worst run statewide campaigns that Virginia has ever seen.  Rather than highlight any of the positive aspects of Ken Cuccinelli as attorney general and a state senator beforehand, his campaign instead focused on painting Terry McAuliffe as a sleazy, unelectable dirt-bag.  Although they succeeded in creating a general disdain for McAuliffe, the McAuliffe campaign successfully defined Cuccinelli as a scary right-wing zealot out to control every aspect of our lives.  I’ve seen far too much fearmongering and incivility in politics in recent years and could not be an advocate of either.  For that reason, and several others, I could not support Cuccinelli and decided to latch on to the one campaign that offered a clear message of liberty and hope, Robert Sarvis’.

Shortly before Election Day, several of us, including the chairman of the Harrisonburg Libertarian Party had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Ken Cuccinelli.  I told him that his campaign had to offer voters a positive message, that there were a number of reasons why citizens cast their votes for him in 2009 and why they should do so again in 2013.  He did have one video, which I thought was great, but I said he needed more like.  I was told the funding wasn’t available and that the negativity was the only real course available.  The Ken Cuccinelli I knew, that I ardently supported in 2009, the one that would stand up for principle even when in means bucking his party, the one who got kicked out of the GOP in 2011 for supporting an independent candidate over a poor Republican choice, was lost amid the campaign.

But, once the campaign was over and McAuliffe was sworn in as our new governor, I noticed that the Ken Cuccinelli that I knew, the one who boldly takes a stance for what he believes in was making a comeback.  Now, do I agree with every position that Ken Cuccinelli takes?  Over course not!  But it was a very encouraging sign and thus I had a strong desire to speak to the former attorney general once more and reached out to his staff.

Shortly before the 2014 elections, I had the great opportunity to speak to Mr. Cuccinelli again.  I hoped to discuss the 2013 campaign and his efforts in promoting liberty through his new role with the Senate Conservatives Fund.  Unfortunately, some of the scars from last election had not fully healed and so our conversation was cut short before we could explore the second topic.  Although I think I failed, I was trying to provide whatever limited advice I could, not to maliciously reopen an old wound.

Regrettably, I’ve discovered that when a person holds or is running for an elective office, they often disguise or mute their true political opinions.  I’m wondering if Ken Cuccinelli was elected governor (and I think he would have made a far better governor than Terry McAuliffe) would he be presently hamstrung too?  Once they are no longer in position of power or are planning on seeking election do we catch a glimpse of the true colours of politicians?  In 2013 Republicans got a taste of liberated and vengeful Bill Bolling and in 2014 they might have finally realized that one could only laughably call former Senator John Warner a conservative.

So, today I’d like to take a moment to recognize Ken Cuccinelli.  I’m glad to see him speaking out whether it is admonishing either Democrats or Republicans who seek to expand the power of government, strip away our freedoms, or funnel our money to further crony capitalism.  Don’t ever obey the voice that tells you that you must stand by your party regardless of their actions.

Keep fighting the good fight, sir!

See Through Black Eyes

-1A guest article by Leonce Gaiter

We know that when Darren Wilson and many of his defenders see a black man, they see someone who “looks like a demon,” and someone who has the extra/sub-human ability to “bulk up to run through” bullets.

We know this image of black men from an entire history of racist stereotypes. The image that Darren Wilson successfully invoked before the Missouri grand jury was the same image of monstrous black bucks lusting for white blood that propelled D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist masterwork, “Birth of a Nation.”

Throughout American history, most images of blacks have been created and presented by whites—and throughout the overwhelming majority of this nation’s history, the nation and its people have been institutionally racist. Only for the past 50 years have blacks enjoyed laws aimed at granting us equal treatment under the law. For the previous 188, we lived as slaves and a sub-species of citizen.

However, throughout that history, blacks have developed our own images of whites, images buttressed not by the toxic stew of fear, hatred, and guilt that boils in white America’s kitchen, but by history and lived experience.

Imagine that my southern-born parents taught me that each white man or woman I encountered was a potential enemy, that each should be seen as someone who might deny me a job for which I was qualified, might deny me schooling, housing, freedom—even deny me my life.

Imagine they told me that whites often saw me through the twisted lens of a self-serving lie—the lie of my otherness, my laziness, my ignorance, of my propensity to violence—lies they told themselves to justify their vicious brutality, and their tolerance of it. Imagine I was told that to forget that in the face of the evidence would make me the basest kind of fool, deserving of whatever harm befell me at vicious white men’s hands.

Imagine that my striving, southern-born parents taught me that seeking equality with whites would be a demotion. A people who tolerated for centuries the enslavement of others, who enshrined chattel butchery in their founding documents, and then, most importantly, denied the existence of blood when their hands dripped with the stuff—these were not people with whom you sought parity. These were negative object lessons to whose depths you swore never to fall.

Imagine that my righteously angry southern-born parents taught me that the American Dream was for whites, that American justice was for white people, that Disney-esque happy endings were for white people.

Now, imagine that we’re not imagining.  This is what my parents taught me—that every white man or woman was a creature that I should approach as I would a strange, stray dog, just as likely to bite your hand off as wag its tail. They taught me and my siblings to be wary at every encounter, and constantly steel ourselves against what ill will might erupt from white skin.

It worked. Like any good parents, ours prepared us for the world as it is, and by any standards, we are a highly accomplished set of children.  I credit much of that to the hard lessons our parents taught us.

Now, imagine once more—this time that I, and those like me represent the majority, the state and its power, and that we have guns on our hips, badges on our chests, and the power to shoot you without consequence.

Leonce Gaiter is a prolific African American writer and proud Harvard Alum. His writing has appeared in the NYTimes, NYT Magazine, LA Times, Washington Times, and Washington Post, and he has written two novels.  His newly released novel, In the Company of Educated Men, (http://bit.ly/ZyqSuN) is a literary thriller with socio-economic, class, and racial themes.

The Unveiling

Last night, as snow began to fall in Harrisonburg, the Valley Family Forum held their annual Unveiling ceremony.  Although designed to showcase upcoming legislative measures by local members of the General Assembly, curiously a vast majority did not attend.

Matt Homer, staffer for Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), began by leading with an invocation and the pledge of allegiance.  From there, Dean Welty, Director of the Valley Family Forum, offered welcoming remarks and introduced the first two speakers, Travis Witt, the Chairman of the Tea Party Federation of Virginia and Chris Freund, the Vice President of the Family Foundation of Virginia.  Mr. Freund spoke on the social issues facing the Commonwealth while Mr. Witt mentioned the tea party’s role in Virginia politics.

Delegate Mark Berg

Delegate Mark Berg

Next, Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) talked about issues like Medicaid expansion that seek to enhance the power of government in the lives of ordinary citizens.  Then, Rita Dunaway, the Deputy Director of the Valley Family Forum, brought up the issue of an Article V Convention as a means of curtailing the expansion of the federal government.  Conservatives have been split on this issue.  Although some favor a convention, others believe it will merely end up expanding the power of Washington.

Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event

Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event

Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie were slated to address the crowd next, but due to illness, Mr. Pattie was unable to attend.  Mr. Moxley spoke of his faith and his political principles which seemed to resonate well with the audience.

Finally, Dr. John Sloop, Chaplain of the Valley Family Forum, offered the commissioning to close the event.  He planned to offer additional thoughts, but decided against it due to the continued precipitation.

Although I’ve never attended an Unveiling before due to prior commitments, it did draw a sizable number of activists; almost every seat in the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors room was filled.  As far as I could tell, many, if not most of the audience seemed to be members of the Republican Party; both Harrisonburg Chairman Mac Nichols and Rockingham Chairman Donna Moser were there.  All in all, I’d say it was a worthwhile evening, though I would have liked the opportunity to hear and speak with more elected officials and candidates as has been in the case in previous Unveilings.

Football & Politics

Image from waitingfornextyear.com

Today, like many other Sundays in the autumn, many of us gather together to cheer on our favorite football teams.  For me, that means the New York Giants, who have had a rather dismal season thus far and have already been eliminated from any hopes of a playoff spot.  When you look at it objectively, my life doesn’t really improve if my team wins or diminish if they lose.  The Giants blue and red has no greater value in the great scheme of things than the Redskins burgundy and gold or the Cowboys navy and silver.  Although fun, most of us realize that it is merely a game, a diversion to entertain us every fall and winter.  No team really subscribes to any kind of philosophy or ethic…the only goal is to win.

Are political parties any different?  Are they merely a collection of politicians and activists looking to get “their people” elected and to ensure that “their people” acquire power?  A number of my Republican friends are cheering Saturday’s defeat of Mary Landreau in the run-off race in Louisiana. But how many of us were a part of that campaign?  How many of us can even vote in Louisiana?  I wasn’t involved in either capacity.  Though, on the other hand, I suppose I did have a bit of a hand in the process, working for a pro-life group who supported Bill Cassidy.  Nevertheless, from my research it seemed that from an ideological perspective, Rob Maness would have been a far better choice than Cassidy.

So, next year the Republican Party will increase its majority in the House of Representatives and gain the Senate as a result of the 2014 midterm elections.  The important question to ask is, what does this mean for conservatives and libertarians?  Will Congress now take a firm stand against the unconstitutional overreaches of the president?  Will they work to actually cut the size and scope of the federal government?  Will they try to cut the exploding federal deficit?  And if they engage in the above activities will it be because they actually believe that it is the right thing to do or merely to oppose a Democratic president?  After all, so many of the Republicans in office now were active conspirators in the effort to expand federal power under the presidency of George W. Bush.  The first test will be whether Republicans continue to give the reins of power to people with little ideological principle like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

I’m very hopeful that at least a few, solid individuals were elected in the Republican wave of 2014.  After all, the GOP needs a heck of a lot more people like Ron Paul and Justin Amash while at the same time rejecting the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams.

I do caution those of us who love liberty that while November 4th was a victory for the Republican Party, it wasn’t necessarily a victory for us.  In the next two years, will the government allow us to keep more of our own money in our pockets?  Will it work to restore our civil liberties here and abroad?  Will it curtail needlessly entangling itself in civil wars and the internal affairs of foreign nations?  Will it actually obey the limits placed upon it by the Constitution and insist the president do likewise?  If the answer to all of these questions is no, then the only thing that happened last month was that the red Republican team defeated the blue Democratic team and the most recent election was as meaningless and hollow as the Giants trouncing of the Tennessee Titans today.

A Convention for the 24th

Earlier this week, a number of local Republican leaders got together to discuss the party’s nomination process for Virginia 24th senate district.  And, perhaps surprisingly, they have decided upon a convention.

In previous contests, the incumbent was allowed to choose the nomination method, presumably picking which ever one favored him or her.  As such, it was a primary in 2007.  Nevertheless, challenger Scott Sayre from Rockbridge County gave Senator Hanger a good run for his money.  But times are changing.

As previously mentioned, presently there are three candidates are seeking the Republican nod in the 24th.  Longtime Senator Emmett Hanger is squaring off against Marshall Pattie and Dan Moxley.

Given his higher levels of name identification, fundraising capacity, the fact that Emmett Hanger is viewed favorably by a number of Democrats, and that the two other candidates would likely split the anti-Hanger vote, smart money would dictate that a primary would result in a victory for the Senator.  However, as most of these advantages are mitigated by a convention, this decision means that both Moxley and Pattie now have a greater chance of victory.

In my opinion, this could very well be the most exciting state senate race in 2015.

“Spoiler” Seeks to Unspoil

Robert Sarvis

Robert Sarvis

Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2013 and U.S. Senate in 2014 is back with a message.  No, it isn’t an announcement of his next campaign.  Instead, it is a call for electoral reform here in Virginia.

Specifically, he is suggesting three changes:

First, “reduce the threshold for ballot-qualified party status to 2% of the vote in statewide elections.”

In Virginia, a political party needs to get 10% of the vote in a statewide election in order to achieve major party status.  As a result, there are technically only two political parties in Virginia, the Republicans and Democrats.  One major focus of the 2013 & 2014 Sarvis campaigns was to reach this threshold for the Libertarian Party.  Although achieving a record percentage in 2013, the Sarvis campaign still fell short of this goal.  A vast majority of states have a far lower threshold than Virginia.

Second, “reduce the ballot signature threshold to 5,000 for all statewide offices (Gov., Lt. Gov., Atty. Gen., U.S. Sen.).”

In statewide elections, Virginia requires primary candidates and non-major party candidates to collect 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.  As a result of this relatively high requirement,  Virginians only had two choices in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, despite the fact that many more candidates were running.

Third, “enact ranked-choice (instant-runoff) voting in Virginia elections. No more claims of spoilers or wasted votes.”

Given some perceptions of Robert Sarvis, this idea will likely generate the most interest.  While the first two suggestions would expand ballot access and political freedom in Virginia, the third would prevent candidates, like Sarvis, from supposedly “stealing elections” from either the Republicans or Democrats as was suggested in 2013 and 2014.  After all, under this idea if no candidate achieved a majority of the vote on the first ballot, then the candidate or candidates with the lowest vote total would automatically be eliminated from the process and his or her votes would be split among the remaining candidates based upon the preference order of the individual voters.  Thus, this change would elect a candidate that is presumably preferable to the majority.  Unlike some states, like Louisiana which is holding its runoff election in a few days from now, with instant-runoff voting a new election would not needed, thus saving considerable tax dollars.  In addition, it would give voters greater freedom to cast their first vote for the candidate they most prefer without the potential worry of “throwing a vote away” for a candidate that isn’t favored to win.

Although I’d like to see a few additional reforms, like requiring all candidates collect the same number of signatures in order to make the ballot regardless of party, I do think that the suggestions that Robert Sarvis suggests would certainly improve elections in Virginia.  If you agree, please contact your delegate and/or state senator to urge them to support this kind of election legislation.

Moxley Announces

IMG_2708A few hours ago, in one of the most long-awaited political announcements in recent Shenandoah Valley history, Dan Moxley of Augusta County officially declared his intent to seek the Republican nomination for Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  He spoke in front of a crowd of about forty at a local business in Fishersville.  After an introduction from Tina Freitas of Culpeper County, Mr. Moxley talked of his principles, what motivated him to get involved, and a brief history of his political activity.  Promoting the ideals of limited government and liberty were scattered throughout his speech.

After greeting members of the audience, the Moxley campaign packed up their materials and headed off to Madison County where they plan to repeat this announcement on the other side of the district later today.

At this point, three people are wrestling for the GOP nod in the 24th, incumbent Senator Emmett Hanger, Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie, and former Republican Party Chairman Dan Moxley.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XVIII)

Today, Andy Schmookler and I took to the airwaves of WSVA to discuss politics.  It is hard to believe that we’ve been doing so for the last year and a half.  Anyway, today’s topics include a few additional thoughts about running for office, our opinions on the Ferguson decision, a handful of calls from the audience, and much more.

You can listen to it here.

Thankful for RISE

With today being Thanksgiving, a number of my Facebook friends have listed who and what they are grateful for.  Well, I suppose that I should start off by saying thanks to Laura for assisting me in getting my current job several month ago, though I regret to say it will be ending shortly and I’m doing what I can to find the next.  I’m thankful for my friends, both political and non-political who helped me endure the campaign for city council and life in general.  I appreciate the members of my family who have been there for me over the years.  But today I’d especially like to thank my faith community at RISE.

This week is special to me for it marks two years since I first attended RISE.  Back then, one of my very important friends told me about the church that she was attending.  In truth, I stopped going to any church several years before this time due to a falling out with the church I grew up in.  Yes, I attended a few random churches on occasion, but nothing with any regularity.  Anyway, as this friend seemed to be in poor spirits the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2012, I decided to make a surprise visit to RISE in the hopes of cheering her up.  I showed up wearing a button-up shirt and a tie, customary for the churches I had attended in the past, but I’d say too formal for RISE.  Ah, just one of many memories.

Anyway, as the slogan of RISE goes, “receive love, give love, repeat”. I hope that we’ve done just that.

Over these last two years, I have certainly received considerable support from the folks at RISE and hope that I have, in turn, been of value to those who need it.  We’ve done many things together: went on a mission trip to Guatemala, ran a 5k, gleaned a local garden, enjoyed some delicious mac & cheese, helped feed 31,000, and much, much, more.

I don’t really know what has happened to my now former friend, the one who told me about RISE.  I’ve not seen her on any Sunday in 2014 and only shared a handful of words these last months.  I cannot say if she has found a new church home or, like I was before finding RISE, is alone in the spiritual wilderness.  Either way, from time to time I do pray for her.

Whether it is during this winter or at some point down the road, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of sharing the story of my spiritual journey with my faith community. Should that day come, I hope you’ll sit in to share the experience.

If you are looking for a new church home in the Harrisonburg area or are spiritually searching, I hope you’ll think about joining me some Sunday at 10 AM at the Court Square Theater.

Anyway, getting back to the main point, today is a day to give thanks to everyone who has been there in the most difficult of times.

So, thank you!