The Local Republican Headquarters

Yesterday, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Republican Party Headquarters celebrated its grand opening.  Local State Senator Mark Obenshain acted as the master of ceremonies as neither the chairman of the Harrisonburg or Rockingham County GOP was in attendance.  Oddly, none of the four delegates representing Harrisonburg or Rockingham County made an appearance.

IMG_2680As a surprise guest, Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) was on hand to speak.  Also talking about their candidacy were D.D. Dawson and Ted Byrd, the two Republican city council candidates.  One remark that the mayor made which stood out in my mind was that he declared that his opponents for city council were fairly new to the city.  Although that statement is true of many of his opponents, it isn’t true for all as I have lived in the city of Harrisonburg almost my entire life.

I was told that one of the organizers of the event wasn’t happy that I was in the crowd, given that I am running as an independent for city council.  However, given my multitude of years of ties to the party and my fellow activists, I wouldn’t be deterred from being there.  Not surprisingly, I wasn’t offered a speaking opportunity nor even officially acknowledged.

Nevertheless, I did end up talking to a sizable chunk of the crowd one-on-one, not really discussing my campaign, but rather the current state of the GOP.  Ms. Dawson pleasantly said hello as she often does and even Bob Goodlatte made it a point to shake my hand.  The mayor also came up to me at one point to offer his greetings and mentioned that his statement about his opponents being from out of town didn’t apply to me.  With that thought in mind, I thought it would have been prudent for him to use the phrase “almost all”.  Then again, technically both Ms. Dawson and Mr. Byrd are opponents for each other given that they could siphon away votes from the other from voters who wish to support one Republican, not both.

The Republican elected officials and candidates at the opening.

The Republican elected officials and candidates at the opening.

Although I was appreciative of the fact that Rep. Bob Goodlatte mentioned what supposedly are the guiding principles of the GOP, such as limiting government and promoting liberty, I’m disappointed that such rhetoric isn’t much in vogue among Republican politicians.  Worst yet, even fewer actually legislate with these thoughts in mind.

Anyway, the local GOP headquarters is now open and should be a hub of activity for Republican activists making phone calls and knocking on doors between now and Election Day.

Cuccinelli & Republican Coffee

CuccinelliThis evening, Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia and 2013 Republican nominee for governor, wrote a rather interesting piece on Newsmax.  In it, he makes the claim that the Republican Party spends a lot of time and effort promoting candidates who don’t stand for what are supposedly Republican principles.  Mitch McConnell and Thad Cochran are two Republican politicians that he names specifically.

As Cuccinelli puts it, “the Republican Party is spending enormous sums of money to support these people, who are about not believing anything.  And that is the core of our problem.”  Mr. Cuccinelli goes on to add, “You can’t stand for anything, you can’t win that way.  In fact, you can’t win without it.  If there isn’t a reason to fight, the people won’t fight and they won’t show up.”

I believe that Ken Cuccinelli is quite right in what he is saying; the GOP sometimes nominates candidates who either don’t know Republican principles, are openly hostile to these values, or simply pretend and play the game so long as they are trying to get elected.

I must say that I’d be quite surprised to hear a current Republican office holder make a statement such as what Cuccinelli did in this piece.  Unfortunately, as long as a person is part of the system, they usually sit silently, saying nothing as their party nominates unprincipled candidates.  Ken Cuccinelli is right to say that Mitt Romney and John McCain are not conservatives, but why wasn’t this fact hammered home both before and after they received the party’s nod for president?

I’m reminded of a scene from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. (Warning a tad bit of language for those sensitive to it).

In the world of party politics, it doesn’t matter the fidelity of a candidate to principle.  Instead, it only matters that the party brand is sold to the voter, no matter how poor the product actually is.  And if you have the audacity to point out that a party’s candidate is, in fact, crappy, rather than improve their politicians, they remove the head of the messenger.

Ding!  The coffee is ready!

Double Standards

Recently, there has been a lot of resentment surfacing regarding President Obama’s salute of several marines.  In it, he salutes while holding a coffee cup.  In case you somehow missed it, you can watch the video for yourself.

Quite a few of my friends and the right-wing media have been making an issue of video, declaring that the president showed a significant lack of respect.  10408929_10152733200218454_6450720806641680647_n

However, as my friend Carl shared on Facebook today, President Obama isn’t the only leader to salute while holding something in his hands.

Let me ask you this question; If someone gets upset by President Obama’s actions in the video above, shouldn’t they also bear resentment against President George W. Bush for doing, more or less, the same action?

Unfortunately, we live in a politicized and polarized society where we often rush to condemn the other side of the political spectrum while at the same time ignoring or downplaying the very same actions when done by a member of our own political party.  I want to know how something can be considered “acceptable” when “our guy” does it, but “unacceptable” when “their guy” acts likewise.

Now, before you say I’m being unfair, please know that this isn’t a problem exclusive to Republicans; I witnessed Democrats attack President Bush when he mimicked his Democratic predecessor as well.

There are a lot of reasons to be troubled by Barack Obama.  His most likely unconstitutional actions in Syria ought to raise red flags among activists on both the left and the right.  But, don’t get swept up in petty and trivial details.  And remember…don’t hold double standards.

Update:  Based upon the above video, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has created a new website, SemperLatte.com

The Problem In the Middle East

Several weeks ago, quite a few of my friends were sharing a video regarding the situation in the Middle East produced by Dennis Prager.  In case you haven’t seen it, you can find it here:

After seeing this video, I was disturbed.  I argued that the video was far too simplistic in both the problem and solution to this issue and it failed to take into account many events that took place before the creation of the modern state of Israel, such as WWI and the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Here, let me offer a bit of history.

During WWI, Britain and France wished to defeat the Central Powers, which included the Ottoman Empire.  For those who don’t know, during WWI the Ottoman Empire (sometimes called the Turks) ruled the Middle East.  As a way to accomplish their goal, Britain and France encouraged the local Arab populations to rise up in revolt against their Turkish rulers.  The Europeans promised that if they did so, the Arabs would be able to rule themselves, which for some Arabs meant the recreation of an Arab Caliphate or the birth of a single, massive Arab state.  Unfortunately for the Arabs, while the British and the French made these promises, they were secretly working on carving up the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence (along with the Russians to a lesser extent) in the Sykes-Picot Agreement.  When the Soviets came to power in Russia, they released this information to the public, much to the embarrassment of the British and the French.

Then, in 1917, the British created the Balfour Declaration.  This statement called for a Jewish homeland in the region known as Palestine.  Note that to avoid upsetting the Arabs further, it mentions a “Jewish homeland”, not a “Jewish State”.  Afterward, some Arabs tried to make good on the promises made to them during the war by creating a large Arab state, such as the Arab Kingdom of Syria, but it was suppressed, conquered, and broken up by the European powers.

In 1947, after the unbelievable persecution endured by the Jewish people in WWII, the U.N. released their partition plan for dividing the territory in Palestine between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine.  And most people know the multitude of conflicts that have transpired since that time.  Certainly one could and should spend much more time on the subject, but this basic information forms the framework.

Although I have mixed feeling about Glenn Beck, on his show yesterday he explored the history of the Middle East conflict.  Unlike Mr. Prager, who claims the situation more or less stems from an irrational hatred of the Jewish people by the Arabs, Mr. Beck looked back at WWI and what events helped shape the Middle East we know today.  I recommend giving it a read/listen.

Going Viral?

Earlier this week, I stopped by the campus of James Madison University, as I often do.  While heading back to my car, I happened across a fellow who was offering his theology to the students.  Given that he had attracted such a crowd and seemed to be riling folks up with his rhetoric, I pulled out my iphone and recorded a portion of his multi-hour presentation.

A few hours later, I discovered that my video had been picked up by The Blaze.  Although certainly not as promoted as the video embedded in the article, you can find a link to my recording as well as my name listed in the credits of a screen shot.  As a result, in the last 24 hours, this video has been seen almost 5,000 times on YouTube.

I’m not sure what constitutes “going viral”.  After all, the first video mentioned on the article on The Blaze has over 180,000 views in about the same time frame.  I’m glad that folks have found this video to be of interest, though I wish that our society valued political discussion as much as inflammatory speech.

Phoney Republicans

Real RepublicansLast night, I ventured over to the Harrisonburg Republican Party headquarters.  Given how many hours I had volunteered to the party over the years, I thought I should pop my head in to see how they were doing.  After all, I still have many friends who call the GOP their political home.

While there, one activist suggested that I should return to the fold, that I ought to re-join the party that I had been an active part of from the ages of 15 to 33.  I reminded her that I never left the party, it was the party which left me.  However, her suggestion reminded me of an email that I saw many years ago.

Here, let me tell you a story.

On June 26th of 2009, the secretary of the Republican Party of Harrisonburg sent out the email pictured above, lambasting what the city committee considered to be “phoney Republicans”.  In this case, they were a list of 8 Republicans who voted for Cap and Trade.

What made this message significant was that it conveyed the idea that the Republican Party stood for a certain set of values; furthermore, those members of the party who opposed these core values weren’t really Republicans.  These days, some might call these people RINOS (Republican In Name Only).  To me, it emphasized the idea that Republicans needed to stand on principle, and that merely following party labels blindly could get us in all sorts of trouble.

However, in the five years that have transpired since this email, unfortunately, it seems that the GOP has broken free of ideological mooring.  As far as I have observed, the party doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned about issues anymore.  In my opinion, what any party worth its salt should be doing is promoting principles as their most important goal…as well as helping elect politicians who embrace these values.  Instead, it seems that the greatest (and perhaps only) priority of the GOP is supporting and electing Republicans…even if they embrace a philosophy abhorrent to the grassroots.  For a few notable examples, consider senators like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, or the late Senator Arlen Specter.  How Specter was seen as a good guy when he was a Republican and then a bad guy when he switched to the Democratic Party was beyond me.  After all, his principles remained more or less constant.  Today, where any politician stands on any specific issue is irrelevant.  Only complete and unquestioned loyalty to the party is all that is valued anymore.

I haven’t seen an email like this one from the city committee in a long time.  I do have to wonder though…what if the current secretary of the Harrisonburg Republican Party were to send out a message like the one I have shared with you?  Would the city committee even approve such as message any longer?  Would the establishment insist that he be stripped of his position immediately?

What do you think?  Is there such a thing as “phoney Republicans” anymore?  I think the answer is yes.  However, over the last several years, the party has become so saturated with these so-called “phoney Republicans” that those who point out this truth are becoming the minority and thus silenced or ostracized.  Don’t they know that they are sowing the seeds for their own demise?

Has the party label expanded so much so that one doesn’t need to believe in supposedly core principles?  Let me ask you this, besides Dave Brat, when was the last time that you heard a Virginia Republican stand up for or even mention the Republican Party Creed of Virginia?  Outside of a handful of exceptions, have both the label and the party been rendered effectively worthless?

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XV)

Normally you’ll find Andy Schmookler and myself on WSVA 550 AM every month discussing the various political issues of the day (except for one occasion when Andy was out of town and we needed a temporary replacement).  Well, today’s show, our 15th, marked my absence.  As I’m running for Harrisonburg City Council in November, unfortunately this means that I was unable to participate this month for legal reasons nor will I be able to do so next month.

Nevertheless, filling in for me was Karen Kwiatkowski, who ran against Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for House of Representatives in 2012.  Given that Andy Schmookler was the 2012 Democratic nominee in that very same contest, having them both on the air seemed like an interesting combination to me.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to listen to and enjoy today’s show!

Is the Senate Race Over?

IMG_2662The biggest race to be decided in Virginia this year is the election for U.S. Senate.  Whether you agree with his policies or not, Democratic Senator Mark Warner is almost certainly the most popular politician from either party in the state.  However, plagued by his support for Obamacare and rising discontent over President Obama, Warner isn’t as invincible as he proved to be in 2008.  This year he faces two challengers, Republican Ed Gillespie, who previously served as the chairman of both the Republican Party of Virginia and the Republican National Committee, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who pulled 6.5% of the vote last year when he ran for governor.

So what do the poll numbers say?  Well, the latest poll, held by the Watson Center for Public Policy at CNU, shows that Warner has a 22 point lead over Gillespie with Sarvis taking 5% and the remaining 11% undecided.  This poll is not some kind of outlier, instead being fairly consistent with previous ones.  For example, the CBS/NY Times poll, which ended on September 2nd, had the race 51% Warner -39% Gillespie and the late July Hampton University poll showed the race with 53% Warner -28% Gillespie -5% Sarvis or 55%-32% if Sarvis is excluded.  The Republican Party of Virginia claim that “in most polls Mark Warner is struggling to break 50 percent” might be wishful thinking, but it simply isn’t true according to a vast majority of the polls I’ve seen in the last three months.

Now, I’ve heard it said that Ken Cuccinelli faced similar poll numbers last year against Terry McAuliffe last year and, given that race was decided by 2.5%, victory for Gillespie is still possible.  However, looking back at the statistics, by early September how many times did McAuliffe reach or crack the 50% mark?  The answer is zero, not even once.  Only in October did he enjoy such high polling.

Unfortunately, the statewide 2013 race devolved into a contest begging voters who was the lesser of two evils; both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli had fair numbers of detractors among their own party faithful.  Compared to last year, as the latest poll indicates, Warner loses only 9% of the Democrats while more than double the number of Republicans (20%) do not favor Gillespie.  These numbers aren’t terribly surprising, for I’ve heard complaints about Gillespie from many traditional Republicans in the state.  The simple truth is that the Virginia GOP is heavily fractured right now and, in general, the liberty wing of the Republican Party doesn’t support Ed Gillespie as he has painted himself as a fairly standard big government Republican.  As a result, at the end of the day some Republican votes will go to Warner, some will go to Sarvis, and some will simply stay home.  Unlike the last election, where exit polls showed that more Democrats voted for Sarvis than Republicans, given Warner’s popularity and Gillespie’s lukewarm support in GOP circles, I predict Sarvis will see far fewer Democratic votes but will find a noticeable upsurge from the traditional Republican base.

So, on November 4th will Gillespie get blown out by 22%?  I don’t believe so.

Is the Senate race over?  Well, that depends on your perspective.  Polls have been wrong before, but, given past trends, I expect the race to tighten a little and, barring any major surprises, at the end of the day Warner will emerge the victor by 6-12%.  If I had to offer a prediction today, Warner will beat Gillespie by about 9%.   With that said, Gillespie’s campaign does have value to the GOP as it has forced the Democrats to spend money in Virginia, as opposed to elsewhere, and thus will improve the chances for a Republican controlled Senate after these elections.  However, anyone who has their heart set on saying “Senator Gillespie” will almost certainly be disappointed.

Therefore, with Virginia’s Senate seat not really being in play, the most important question left to be decided is, how will the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian Parties use this election to bolster their volunteers and support network for the 2015 elections when Virginians go to the polls to determine every single seat in the Virginia General Assembly?

Shakeup in the Augusta County GOP

Last night, while attending a meeting of the JMU College Republicans, I received word from the Marshall Pattie campaign that Dan Moxley had resigned his chairmanship of the Augusta County Republican Party.  For the record, both Pattie and Moxley are challenging State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-24) for the Republican nomination in the 24th district in 2015.

The Augusta County GOP has been in a renewed turmoil as of late.  Not only is has there been tension between the Moxley and Pattie camps, but a recent disagreement over the Republican nomination for a county supervisor position made the situation far more tenuous.  Rumors were rampant that some Pattie supporters were attempting to launch a coup in order to remove Moxley from his position as chairman.

Nevertheless, this news of resignation did come as a surprise to me and thus I sought additional verification.  Yesterday, the following message was posted on the Augusta County Republican Facebook page:

From the ACRC Chairman, Dan Moxley:

Dear Committee Members,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Chairman of the Augusta County Republican committee, effective immediately. I appreciate the opportunity I was given to serve in this capacity. The responsibilities of family, business, the critical 2014 US senate race, and my own Commonwealth senate race of 2015, necessitate that I leave the extensive administrative duties of the county committee to another individual. I look forward to working together with you to elect Congressman Bob Goodlatte and nominee Ed Gillespie this November.

Respectfully,

Daniel J. Moxley

Although Augusta is one of the most Republican counties in the state of Virginia, the county has been plagued by years of political infighting.  Although the actors may be different, the Pattie/Moxley feud is not a new phenomenon, but rather a continuation of a long-standing rivalry for the direction of the Augusta County GOP.  Regardless of whomever will be the new chairman of the party, one thing is relatively certain; the war for Augusta is not over yet.