The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXII)

IMG_0196Welcome to the thirty-second episode of WSVA’s Early Mornings featuring Andy Schmookler & Joshua Huffman.  Although the podcasts of the program from August 2015 to January 2016 haven’t made it online, I wanted to share today’s program, given that it is available once again.

Our discussion this morning focused upon the recent New Hampshire Presidential Primary, the Iowa Caucus, the future of the Democratic Party, and predictions for the nominations.

You can find the link here.  Enjoy!

Feeling the Bern in Staunton

The Bernie Sanders campaign has done something that none of the other 2016 presidential candidates have done yet (to the best of my knowledge).  They have opened a campaign office in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, specifically in the city of Staunton.  Given that the Shenandoah Valley has unfortunately been treated as a second-class region in many election cycles, I decided to check it out for myself.

IMG_3148Although I couldn’t find their address online, a member of the Staunton City Council gave me their location.  And so, on Tuesday, I traveled down to Staunton along with Marc Montoni, the secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.

Fortunately their office was easy to find with several signs out front and a multitude in their window as well.  Two friendly people greeted us: a man and a woman.  I spent quite a while speaking to her and discovered that she was a member of the local Augusta County Democratic Party.  I didn’t talk as much to the other fellow, but his accent indicated that he was likely originally from somewhere many miles away.  While we were there, Will Hammer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th congressional district and a resident of Staunton, stopped by too.

I found that unlike most campaign offices, this one was created and is operated by volunteers and not paid staffers.  In addition, the Sanders campaign will soon be opening a more traditional office across the mountain in Charlottesville.  However, the Staunton office did have just about everything you’d find in most headquarters: a variety of signs, stickers (both lapel and bumper), position statements, and even a cardboard cutout of Senator Sanders which invited visitors to take selfies.  Alas, they had no buttons.  In the back, they had a schedule for events such as hosting a parade, debate watching, and phone calling.

As I mentioned to the volunteers, although I strongly disagree with many of Senator Sanders’ self-described socialist domestic policies, there are some positive aspects to him as well, such as his opposition to government spying with the liberty killing Patriot Act and not wishing to embroil the nation in additional overseas conflicts.

Would I prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton?  Probably.  For all his concerning issues, Sanders seems a heck of a lot more trustworthy than Clinton.  Will that translate to me voting in the Democratic primary?  Possibly.  With Senator Paul out of the race, quite a few liberty-minded folks no longer care who wins the GOP nomination.  Fortunately, until party registration passes, Virginians have the liberty to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries (though, in an effort to quell freedom of speech and association, as of 2014 the Virginia GOP will expel any of their members who are discovered to have voted in a Democratic nomination contest).

Regardless of how things shake out, it was good to interact with the volunteers at the Sanders headquarters because they didn’t act like the traditional political establishment and were people who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their candidate, a feeling that has been hard for me to rekindle since the retirement of Dr. Ron Paul.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Staunton area and are interested in politics, stop by the Bernie Sanders office on Lewis Street and say hello.  Or you can find their group on Facebook.

 

Thoughts of Iowa

Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.

First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP.  Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:

Candidate          Votes      Percentage    Delegates

Ted Cruz             51,666    28%                8

Donald Trump   45,427   24%                7

Marco Rubio      43,165    23%                7

Ben Carson         17,395    9%                  3

Rand Paul           8,481      4%                  1

Jeb Bush             5,238      3%                  1

Photo from Ted Cruz's Facebook page

Photo from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page

Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened.  Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates.  Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night.  Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed.  Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers.  Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar.  And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot!  As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.

Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook.  “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee.  As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.”  In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives.  Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus.  And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.

Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates.  The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks.  After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%.  Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.

Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.

Candidate              Percentage    Delegates

Hillary Clinton     50                    26

Bernie Sanders     50                    21

Martin O’Malley   0                      0

Photo from Hillary Clinton's Facebook page

Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page

Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote.  However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won.  As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.

Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds.  Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed.  While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.

Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley.  It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties.  It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.

The Death of a Friend(ship)

Image from http://quotesgram.com

Image from http://quotesgram.com

Today happens to be rather bittersweet for me as it marks the anniversary of the death of a friendship.  Through my adventures in politics I have met a multitude of people, some of whom I have had the honor of calling friends.  I discovered this particular person about six years ago or so.  Over the years we had many adventures together, we talked about politics, we ate together, we sang karaoke together (if you can imagine that!), we even celebrated our birthdays together as they were only a few days a part.  However, if you want to know what people truly think of you, try running for public office.

Unfortunately, when I ran for office back in 2014, I ended up losing several people I considered my friends as they publicly opposed my candidacy, backed my opponents, and some were downright nasty.  During the campaign season I was visiting one of my other friends when she got a knock on the door.  After discovering it concerned politics (a subject which doesn’t really interest her) she called me to the door.  Imagine my surprise when I found this now former friend out campaigning door-to-door with two of my opponents.  It was a moment that breaks one’s heart.  However, I consoled myself that it was just politics and I shouldn’t let this one campaign, even though it was my own, ruin a multi-year friendship.

Therefore, when in January of last year I was invited to meet a nationally known Republican politician, I invited this friend to join me on the adventure, which she did.  It took some time to get to our destination and the trip was fairly uneventful.  Unfortunately, although the organizers of the event had promised us one-on-one time with the official, we were only given the slightest of moments to say hello and snap a photo.  When we returned back to Harrisonburg, this friend posted the photo of the two of us with this elected official…well, sort of.  One third of the picture was missing and I had been cropped out.  I asked why this had been done and was told that this friend was seeking a position within her party and she worried that being seen with me would hurt her political ambitions.

That move reminded of another event which took place several years earlier.  At that time I was fully smitten by a woman who I supposed you would say was the “Yer Jalan Atthirari Anni“.  One day she held a party and invited her family, a handful of her closest friends, and me, perhaps about eight of us in all.  After the event, she posted a multitude of photos of the day on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I noticed, much to my dismay, I was in none of them.  I asked her why I had been excluded, but she didn’t really offer an answer.  It was an exceedingly painful truth to realize that I was little more than her “dirty little secret“, to be used and discarded whenever I proved valuable to her.

Although I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus, these experiences made me think of a Bible verse.  In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (NLT).  I have friends who are Republicans.  I have friends who are Democrats.  I have friends who are Libertarians.  I have friends who are apolitical.  I have friends who are Christians.  I have friends who are atheists.  I have friends who are gay.  I have friends who are straight.  I have friends who are white.  I have friends who are black.  I have friends who are women.  I have friends who are men.  I have friends who are rich and I have friends who are poor.  Do some of these people annoy me from time to time?  Of course, such is the nature of humanity.  Do I agree with them all of the time? It is impossible.  But, I would not be ashamed for the world to know that any of these people are my friends.  If I were to treat any of them in this fashion, I do not believe that I could rightly call them a friend.

It is unfortunate that sometimes we are so caught up in ourselves and fail to reflect upon how our actions could negatively impact others, especially those we call our friends.  Although I try to act differently, I’m sure that I’m likely as guilty of this transgression as anyone.  If I’ve insulted a friend I hope someone would let me know for I hate to mourn the death of a friendship.

Obenshain for Committeewoman?

On Saturday morning, while watching the snow continue to fall in the central Shenandoah Valley, I read something on the internet that caught my attention.  My state senator, Mark Obenshain, wrote a Facebook post in support of his wife.  For those who don’t know, Suzanne Obenshain is running to be Virginia’s next Republican Party National Committeewoman.  There is another candidate running too, Cynthia Dunbar.

Anyway, as a way to bolster support for Suzanne, Senator Obenshain listed what he thought were some of her important qualifications:

UntitledSounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  After all the idea of electing a Virginian who has been active in conservative politics for decades is appealing, right?  However, are these points really important to Senator Obenshain?

If we rewind the clock to the 2014 Harrisonburg City Council elections, although all of the candidates had ties to Virginia, to the best of my knowledge only one (or perhaps two) could have been considered a conservative grassroots leader.  Only one of the candidates had been involved in over a dozen campaigns for conservative (or at least Republican) candidates in Virginia and only one had attended the 2008, 2009, and 2013 state Republican conventions along with the 2012 6th district convention.  And, to top it off, this candidate was active in politics for the past 19 years.

If the qualifications Senator Obenshain listed on Saturday morning were so important, one would assume that he would support all candidates who meet them.  However, that is not the case as he ended up endorsing two candidates for Harrisonburg City Council, neither of which had nearly the same level of involvement as his wife, Suzanne Obenshain.  How can I know these things?  Well, it is because I was the “only candidate with these qualifications” listed above in the 2014 city council elections.

Yes, it is exceedingly important to have standards and principles, but shouldn’t a person, especially an elected official, be consistent in their application?  If Senator Obenshain values a steadfast principled activist who has been toiling in the Virginia trenches for years, including one who regularly volunteered for his campaigns, as both Suzanne Obenshain and I have, wouldn’t logic dictate he would stand behind both of us?

Therefore, you have to wonder if any of the points listed in the Facebook post truly matter or are they merely talking points to rile up an “us against them” mentality against someone like Cynthia Dunbar who moved to Virginia about half a dozen years ago?  I could be wrong, but being “one of us” is more an issue of unashamedly fighting for causes we believe in rather than what city, state, or country one happens to call home.  Being a good and true Virginian is less about transitory things, like geography, and has more to do with a person’s code of conduct, honor, and morals.

I don’t plan on voting at the 2016 RPV convention, but, as is the case in any election, I think principles ought to be of utmost importance and being dedicated to them ought to matter.  To do otherwise seems darned hypocritical to me.

Jerry Mandering for Delegate

As I’ve written in several previous posts, drawing political boundaries to favor a candidate or a politician undermines our political process.  Rather than allowing voters to choose their representatives, the system has been turned upside down with elected officials choosing who they will represent, rigging the process so that they will be elected and re-elected.

Today, much like the Gil Fulbright or Hugh Jidette, OneVirginia2021 released a satirical video of “Delegate Mandering” to highlight this issue.  Enjoy!

Seniority Plates

10644136_1045473845496990_599221162677710886_o

Photo from Senator Dick Black’s Facebook page

This morning, Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) announced on Facebook that he has received new license plates for his vehicle.  Each member of the General Assembly is assigned a plate so that their vehicles can be identified easily.  If you see a car on the road that bears the tag “22 Senator”, then you have likely found Senator Black (or someone who has absconded with his property).

However, given that Senator Black represents the 13th senate district of Virginia, it might seem curious that he bears the number 22 instead of 13.  Bizarrely, this numbering system has nothing to do with district number and instead is based upon seniority.  Thus, of the 40 members of Virginia’s State Senate, 21 have served longer than Senator Black.

However, should a senator or a delegate resign his or her office, die, or lose an election, then new license plates will need to be issued to every elected official with less time served than the outgoing member in order to properly reflect this update in seniority.  Depending on how long he or she has been in office, this change could result in a lot of new plates, especially in a large group, like in the hundred member Virginia House of Delegates.

On the Republican primary day in 2015, while volunteering at the polls, I spoke to Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) about this issue.  I observed that although he represented the 29th House of Delegates district, his license plate number was not “29 Delegate”.  He agreed that the numbering scheme didn’t make much sense and offered to sponsor a bill in the 2016 General Assembly session so that the legislators’ plate numbers matched their respective district number.  Unfortunately, the bill didn’t materialize as Delegate Berg was defeated in the GOP primary.

Sure, there are certainly more important issues than license plate numbers.  But, do we really want to “reward” legislators to try and stay in office as long as possible in order to gain a coveted low number?  We don’t renumber legislative districts every year or two when a new delegate or senator acquires office so why in the world should we craft and re-craft so many license plates based upon something the average Virginian would think is so trivial, like seniority?  It may not be the biggest cost savings technique, but if we assigned license plates based upon legislative districts I’m certain we wouldn’t print as many.  Of course redistricting happens too, but it typically comes up once every ten years as a result of the census, not nearly as frequently as either elections to the House (every 2 years) or Senate (every 4 years).

So, isn’t it better to distribute license plates based upon district numbers instead of seniority?  I’m pretty sure that the state government could save at least a few tax dollars by not replacing a multitude of perfectly good plates every two or four years.

Goodlatte Faces Opposition

Representative Bob Goodlatte

Representative Bob Goodlatte

Since Karen Kwiatkowski was the first person to challenge Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s sixth district back in the 2012 elections, conservatives and libertarians in the Shenandoah Valley have wondered when or if Mr. Goodlatte would face another interparty contest.  In 2014, Paul Bevington attempted to seek the nod but fell short of the signature requirement to make the ballot.

IMG_7603Well, today Harry Griego of Roanoke issued a press release announcing his candidacy.  Mr. Griego recently ran for office in 2015, opposing Delegate Chris Head for the Republican nomination in the 17th district and garnered over 47% of the vote.

According to the press release, Harry Griego states, “over and over again voters told me they were unhappy with the lack of leadership and the failure of Republican officials to vote and fight for the Republican principles they campaign on.” As a hint of his possible campaign issues, he mentions, “an end to the expansion of the budget and the crippling national debt.  They want the border secured.”

Will 2016 mark the end of the Goodlatte era of Shenandoah Valley politics that began after the 1992 elections?  Or will Bob Goodlatte fend off this challenge?  Hopefully, this primary will make for some interesting times in the 6th district.

The Virginia Republican Throwback Pledge

In the last several days, a number of Virginia activists, bloggers, and the Donald Trump campaign are up in arms about a pledge the Republican Party of Virginia is insisting on voters signing.  They want all voters in Virginia’s March 1st Republican Presidential Primary to sign a document indicating that they are Republicans.  It certainly makes sense to have only Republicans choose the Republican nominee.  However, despite this worthless pledge, there is no way to tell who is a Republican because the party’s principles are ill-defined and ill-enforced.  In addition, the fact that the party is making all Virginia taxpayers pay for this primary should be reason enough to shoot down this foolish pledge.

However, this isn’t the first time that the Republican Party of Virginia has tried to compel Virginia voters to give them their loyalty.  Although many likely don’t remember, the RPV created a pledge prior to their 2012 primary.  This was was far more odious as it read, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”  Why anyone would agree to such a blanket statement without knowing who the nominee would be and what he or she stands for is baffling.

TTIn response, on December 30, 2011, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard urged his readers to boycott the Virginia primary if the RPV insisted on this pledge.  I discovered this piece after he had included a link in the article to my website.  As I wrote four years ago, “A few moments ago, I was surprised to find that well-known neo-conservative analyst and editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, wrote a piece yesterday linking to my blog, The Virginia Conservative. Even though we disagree on quite a few issues, (and I don’t think that boycotting is the best solution to the problem) I’m glad to see that we both believe that the loyalty oath in the upcoming VA GOP primary is folly.”  As a result of massive public outcry against it, the party dumped the pledge shortly thereafter and it was soon forgotten by almost everyone.

However, here we are four years later and again the Republican Party of Virginia is pushing its pledge and, just like last time, the public is rising up against it.

As Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift wrote recently, the party can either hold a convention, which is privately funded by the party in which they get to choose who participates, or they can choose an open primary that is and ought to be open to any voter that helps fund it.  As a party supposedly devoted to fiscal responsibility and liberty, they shouldn’t suckle at the public teat for funding of their private inter-workings, try and fail to restrict participation, then complain when they end up with another terrible candidate in the mold of John McCain or Mitt Romney.

You have to wonder if the leaders of the RPV remember their history at all.  Are they doomed to making the same mistake every four years, using tax dollars to fund their private party contests and then trying to restrict which of these taxpayers can participate?  Will this ugly issue resurface in 2020 (assuming the GOP loses the presidency again) or 2024?

It is profoundly frustrating the Republican Party and their State Central Committee continually demand unquestioned loyalty to their party and their elected officials especially given that neither one is held to any sort of ideological standard.  Is there any wonder why more people, like Franklin Graham, have left their party and become independents?

Well, if history is any guide, we’ll discuss this issue again four years from now as we work to shoot down another RPV pledge.  Enjoy your Throwback Thursday.

The GOP is Falling Apart

Image from sodahead.com

Image from sodahead.com

On Saturday night, before sitting down to play Die Macher with a handful of friends, I had the opportunity to speak with a local professor about politics.  A self-identified Republican, he voiced his frustration with the direction that the party has been heading.  In an earlier conversation he mentioned that although he had donated to the party in the past, he has not done so in some time.

As a libertarian within the GOP, the professor said that he now has little in common with the other factions in the party.  Although the Republican Party used to be an advocate for both fiscal responsibility and limited government, those haven’t been primary concerns in many years.  Amusingly, the professor has a Republican elephant magnet on his refrigerator, but it is turned upside down as if the party were now dead.

Looking at the matter objectively, what have limited government advocates gained in the past 15 years with the Republican Party?  Yes, in the first half George W. Bush was president and in the second Barack Obama has been at the head.  All the while the Republican Party has been in control of Congress more often than the Democrats.  But the policies under both the Republican and Democratic leadership have been fairly consistent.  We’ve gotten a massive increase in our national debt and an expansion of government programs including: No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, NDAA, continual war in the Middle East, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, curtailing of our civil liberties, extrajudicial killings of foreign civilians, scores of executive orders, and the list goes on.

As the professor lamented, far too many social conservatives seem to tolerate or even embrace these intrusions so long as Republican politicians continue to offer lip service to God in the public sphere while national defense Republicans howl at any sort of cost saving measures regarding our armed forces or the idea of cutting back on our ever-expanding policing of the world.

Perhaps the worst part is that limited government conservatives are actively being fooled (or more realistically they are fooling themselves).  For example, when the 10th district of Virginia was deciding upon a Republican candidate to replace Frank Wolf, anyone who had been paying attention would know that based upon her rhetoric and record that Barbara Comstock was not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination.   After she won the nomination and the election many seemed surprised when she voted more like the Democrats than any other national Republican legislator in the state.  Or how about Paul Ryan?  When he campaigned for vice president in 2012, I had an opportunity to listen to him in person and came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was about as committed to limiting the power of government and reducing the national debt as my own representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  It seems odd that people are now calling Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a traitor after he pushed through the latest budget given that his track record showed that that was exactly what he was going to do if he were given such authority.  Isn’t it painfully obvious that neither Paul Ryan nor Barbara Comstock share our ideology?  Therefore, why in the world should we support them?

Over at Bearing Drift Brian Schoeneman bemoans the infighting in the Republican Party, declaring that the libertarian Republicans “openly flaunt their unwillingness to stand by the Party when it does things they disagree with, going so far as to run and support third party candidates that have cost Republicans victories”.  However, the better question one should ask is, why should liberty-minded folks continue to support the Republican Party?  In the last decade and a half can you name even one federal department that has been eliminated or drastically curtailed as a result of Republican leadership?  Can you point out more examples of ways that the Republican Party has reduced government involvement in our lives…or ways that they have expanded it?

562326_10100138673893277_140546162_n

The William & Mary College Republicans and Margaret Thatcher in 2000.

I would argue that regardless of party Americans desperately need a Margaret Thatcher.  After World War II the Conservative Party more or less surrendered on the issue of limiting the power of the British government, much like the current Republican Party, instead trying to make the bloated national government as efficient as possible.  However, Thatcher upset the wisdom of the day by openly questioning government involvement in a variety of areas that used to be under the control of the private sector, charities, or churches and, once she became prime minister, instituted policies which began to dismantle government control.  How many leaders of today’s Republican Party are willing to take such a step?  Certainly not Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and not most of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for president.

The traditional three-legged stool of the GOP is falling apart because the party has almost completely abandoned the tenets of liberty and limited government.  The party is led by men and women who treat power and not principle as the holy grail of politics and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it.  When these people don’t get the influence that they so desperately desire, rather than blaming their failed policies they blame us for not blindly following them!  If the Republican leadership is unwilling or unable to abide by the limitations set forth in the Constitution, perhaps liberty-minded folks ought to take the advice of Dr. Henry Jones at the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade: