Greetings from Tennessee

A view of Cherokee Lake

A view of Cherokee Lake

Hello readers and greetings from eastern Tennessee.  For the last several days, I have been here and will remain for a while longer, visting family, cat sitting, and the like.

Of course there have been political developments since last I’ve written.  After all, with a presidential election bearing down upon us, there is always something new to talk about.

As I’m sure you know, tonight is the first debate between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).  Unfortunately, the debate excludes the voices of Gary Johnson (L) and Jill Stein (G), two candidates who are on enough ballots to win the presidency. but are not allowed on stage nevertheless.  Although the debate is likely to be entertaining, with Trump and Clinton attacking each other relentlessly, I assume it will be fairly substance free.   Therefore, I not planning on watching, instead visiting the local gaming store or watching Monday Night Football.

I wish that I could say something positive about any of the presidential candidates or campaigns, but I can’t really.  The Gary Johnson campaign (my choice) has been a disappointment thus far, with the odd Johnson sticking out his tongue interview, Bill Weld showing he is more of a liberal Republican than a Libertarian, and the general lack of organization and professionalism overall.  As for Clinton and Trump, well, the borrow a quote from Henry Kissinger regarding the Iran-Iraq War, “it’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

In about 48 hours, I will be in Knoxville taking the GREs.  I last took them about 8 years ago.  I hope I will do as well as I did then.  It would be nice to do something more meaningful in politics.

On Thursday, the Knoxville Libertarian Party will be holding a meeting.  Their featured speaker is Glenn Jacobs.  For the WWE fans out there, you might know him by the name Kane.

Well, the cause of liberty can and will continue, but for the moment I think I’ll take a bit of time for myself here in eastern Tennessee.  Nevertheless, I suspect you’ll catch me on tomorrow’s podcast of Freedom Gulch.

Best wishes and I look forward to writing you again soon!

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXIX)

IMG_0339On September 15th, Andy Schmookler and I returned to the radio waves on 550 AM WSVA to discuss what has been going on politically over the last month.  The time mainly considered the 2016 presidential election including:  Hillary Clinton’s recent health problems, the upcoming debates, and Trump’s rise in the polls.  In case you missed the radio hour when it was broadcast, you can find it here.

Freedom Gulch #12

fg12Last night, Will Hammer, Michael Pickens, Joshua Huffman, Carl Loser, and Andy Bakker gathered together for Freedom Gulch’s twelfth podcast.  Topics for the evening included: Gary Johnson and his Aleppo misadventure, Hillary Clinton’s health, the upcoming presidential debates, recent newspaper endorsements, and more.

If you missed the broadcast live, you can find it below.  Enjoy!

MAC PAC Comes to Harrisonburg

Image from the MAC PAC Facebook page

Image from the MAC PAC Facebook page of the Harrisonburg gathering

Recently, ten or eleven political activists from across the state created a new political action committee called the Millennial Advocacy Council or MAC PAC for short.  As a way to introduce themselves to Virginians, they have been holding gatherings around the Commonwealth.  As the group includes several of my Facebook friends, when they came to Harrisonburg on their third stop on their tour last night, I decided to check out what they had to say.

About a dozen people attended the meeting at Capital Ale House in downtown Harrisonburg including: several leaders of MAC PAC, some local college activists, and Delegate Steve Landes (R-25).  At the beginning, the leaders of MAC PAC introduced the leaders of their group.  As far as I could tell, each either worked for an elected official, another PAC, the Republican Party, or was a leader of a Republican group.  This information sparked a concern in my mind that the PAC might be little more than a front group for the Republican Party.  However, next they began discussing their principles, focusing upon a number of issues facing millennials, such as dealing with student debt, the future of social security, increasing home ownership, and the like.  These matters sounded pretty good, so that was a positive development.  But, then they explained that only millennials could hold any position of leadership in their group.  Although the term millennial has been defined in a variety of ways, MAC PAC labels it as a person born between 1982-2000.  Given that I was born about 17 months before this range, it is disappointing to learn that I could have no real part in this group, other than donating to them, simply based upon date of birth.  For someone who grew up watching Nick At Nite, to quote Maxwell Smart, I “missed by that much.”

The MAC PAC folks followed up by taking some questions from the group.  I tried to express my concern about the PAC advocating for a political party instead of for a certain set of principles though I was assured this was not the case.  Nevertheless, a bit later in the night one of the leaders of MAC PAC encouraged the attendees to invite their friends to become members of their local Republican Party units.  Given the various loyalty oaths and restrictions required for participation in many Republican Party functions, this call to join the GOP seemed like MAC PAC had abandoned at pretenses of being a nonpartisan organization and was simply establishing itself as another wing of the Republican Party.  Although that might very well be what some people are looking for, I have no interest in being a cog in the Republican machine or getting the largest possible piece of the Republican pie.  Therefore, I excused myself and departed before the gathering had concluded.

As you might imagine, I left the meeting feeling rather disappointed.  I suppose that if you fit the MAC PAC definition of a millennial and are also wed to the Republican Party then the organization might be a good fit for you.  However, as I don’t seem to fall into either of these two categories, it doesn’t seem like a group that speaks either to me or for me.  Oh well.

Corruption in Frederick County

A photo of a portion of the crowd

A photo of a portion of the crowd

On Tuesday, August 30th, the Frederick County Republican Party gathered for their monthly meeting.  The room was packed with about 100 people, including Delegate Chris Collins (R-29), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33), former Delegate Mark Berg (R-29) and John Whitbeck, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  There was also a fellow clad in a Barbara Comstock shirt holding some of her bumper stickers, most likely a campaign staffer. This was the first meeting of the Frederick County GOP since the Republican State Central Committee upheld the decision of the 10th district GOP to expel Mark Berg and nine other members of the Frederick County GOP from the Republican Party and ban them from Republican functions for the next four years, which presumably also stripped Dr. Berg of his chairmanship of the Frederick County GOP.  Given that development, one would assume that this meeting would likely be quite interesting.

Outside the meeting room there were two tables, one for guests to sign in and another for county party members.  There was also a poster which contained a curious message stating that Frederick County was not Russia.

IMG_3171Inside, there were a variety of additional posters including a supposed quote from 10th district GOP Chairwoman Jo Thoburn denouncing due process and the 1st Amendment, and another declaring that Article I of the RPV Party Plan was unconstitutional.

Shortly after 7 PM, a woman (I’m told it was Rose Focht, the vice-chair of the group), declared that the meeting was likely to be very contentious and therefore announced that a neutral party, Bill Card from Prince William County, would serve as chair for the meeting.  However, as far as I observed, her decision was neither voted upon nor ratified by the membership.  After the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance (offered by Delegate LaRock), the meeting got underway.  It was announced that there were 63 members of the Frederick County GOP present along with 34 guests.

Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck

Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck before the start of the meeting

The chair then declared that the group would vote on a slate of new members to the committee.  There were some murmurs from the crowd that the chair had changed the order of the agenda of the meeting as the addition of new members was supposed to be scheduled for the end of the meeting.  In addition, no one presented a list of these possible members either in writing or verbally.  One member objected, declaring that she wanted to know more about these potential new additions, but the chair ruled her out of order.  Then, one of the applicant new members agreed that they should be introduced, but he was ignored by the chair.  In the voice vote that followed to add these new members, it sounded to me as if the nays were more plentiful. Curiously, as some guests were scattered among the membership, it was impossible to tell if any of the guests had voted in the voice vote.  For example, although a visitor from Harrisonburg, I could have easily added my vote to the total and no one likely would have been the wiser.   Nevertheless, the chair ruled that they ayes had won and disregarded several protests from the audience.

What was even more surprising was that the temporary chairman then called for the meeting to be adjourned without any further business.  Many folks seemed stunned by the voice vote that followed, but the chair again declared that the ayes had carried the motion and thus the meeting was over only about 10 minutes or so after it had begun.  One exasperated member shouted about fascism.

Afterward, people shuffled out.  An older woman left while wiping tears from her eyes.  8 or so people, including Mark Berg, gathered in a circle for a prayer outside the room.

Inquiring into the matter further I talked with several of the members of the FCRC.  I was told that these new members were added to the committee so that one faction would now have sufficient numbers to purge the group of anyone deemed a troublemaker or those who did not support the new leadership.

I spoke with one woman who recorded the meeting and, if I am able to get a copy, will share it as well.

I have to say that although I’ve been going to political gatherings for 21 years now, I cannot recall a meeting so short, or one that was able to ram through their business in such an blatantly corrupt fashion.  One does wonder what sort of fallout will come to the Frederick County Republican Party and the Republican Party of Virginia for allowing these shenanigans to transpire.

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.