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.

Labor Day in Buena Vista

Senator Mark Warner addressing the media

Senator Mark Warner addressing the media

On Monday, a host of political activists made their way to the streets of Buena Vista, Virginia.  Although certainly a small city, Buena Vista plays host to the largest political parade in the state, a decades old tradition.

Although last year was the smallest gathering I had seen in my several years of going, 2014 was more robust.  Republican activists nearly doubled the Democratic crowd.  As is typical, countless yard signs littered the parade route with Mark Warner emerging as the victor in the sign war.  It was unfortunate that some supporters of Mark Warner used their signs to cover the Republican ones, but, then again, Gillespie supporters did likewise.

Ed Gillespie speaks to a reporter

Ed Gillespie speaks to a reporter

After the mile and a half trek through downtown, which culminated at Glen Maury Park, each of the candidates were invited on stage to speak to the crowd.  This group included: Senator Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie, Robert Sarvis, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Will Hammer, and Delegate Ben Cline.  Both the Republican and Democratic activists cheered loudly for their candidate(s).

Robert Sarvis addresses the crowd

Robert Sarvis offers his opinions to the crowd

Interestingly, Bob Goodlatte didn’t speak about his own race, where he faces Libertarian Will Hammer and Independent Green Elaine Hildebrandt (who did not attend the Buena Vista event) but rather the need to elect Ed Gillespie.  Delegate Cline made some critical remarks about Senator Warner which led some of us to wonder if he would be yanked from the microphone.

After Warner and Gillespie spoke, they left the gathering along with Bob Goodlatte before Robert Sarvis took the microphone.  Although that development was disappointing and disrespectful to their Libertarian opponent, what I thought was far worse was that 90% of the Republican crowd walked out as well.  By comparison, a majority of the Democratic activists showed far more decorum, having enough courtesy to listen to what Sarvis and Hammer had to say.

All in all, it was encouraging to see an upswing in Buena Vista this year.  Hopefully, this Shenandoah Valley tradition will continue to thrive.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XIV)

Today’s installment of Andy Schmookler and my hour on 550 AM WSVA is now available online here.

For those who missed it, topics include:  Texas Governor Rick Perry’s legal issues, ballot access laws in the state of Virginia, and the plan to sue President Obama.  We also took several callers and make our predictions for the outcome of the trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Enjoy!

What is a Republican?

Lately, I’m been mulling over a question in my mind.  What is a Republican?  Having been part of the Republican Party since the age of 15, I thought I knew.

Now, we all know that there is never complete uniformity in any group, but I was under the impression that Republicans stood for a basic set of principles.  That they advocated a relatively small government, one that kept taxes low and let individuals more or less live their lives without too much government interference except if he or she sought to injure his or her neighbor.

Here, let me share with you the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia:

“We Believe:

“That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,

“That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,

“That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,

“That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,

“That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,

“That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.”

Several weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Greene County Republican Party and they opened their meeting by reciting this creed.  I must confess, I cannot recall the last time that I had been to a Republican Party gathering where the creed was read or even acknowledged.

But do all Republicans actually adhere to the principles of limited government conservatism as is found in the creed?  The answer is clearly no.  After all, it was a Republican legislature and Republican Governor McDonnell who passed the 2013 transportation tax bill, dubbed the largest tax increase in Virginia history.  And quite a few of those same Republicans helped pass what was previously known as the largest tax increase under the governorship of Democrat Mark Warner.  Why is it that whenever Republicans take control of the Virginia Senate they choose a leader who has supported these tax increases?  If the GOP was serious about limiting the size of government, don’t you think they would nominate someone other than Senator Norment?

Switching gears to the federal government, which party brought us increased federal government control in education through No Child Left Behind?  Republicans.  Expanded federal involvement in medicine through Medicare Part D?  Again it was Republicans.  What about giving us the civil liberties threatening Patriot Act, or the NSA, TSA, or NDAA?  The GOP controlled Congress and presidency.  And which president got this country embroiled in a Middle East conflict in Iraq which has had lasting repercussions to this day and could result in the formation of a horribly brutal and repressive Islamic state?  Why, it is none other than former President George W. Bush, and yes, I’m sure you know that he is a Republican.  And neither John McCain with his hyperaggressive militarism and disregard for civil rights or Mitt Romney and his RomneyCare would have been any better.

It seems to me, that in general Republicans are far more interesting in holding power than they are electing people that hold any sort of principle.  Personally, I find that sad.  And when grassroots Republicans try to stand on principle, as they did in the 6th district when they unanimously insisted that our representative, Bob Goodlatte, not vote for John Boehner as Speaker of the House, they are ignored.  Some people thought it tantamount to heresy when I suggested to the 2014 Republican Senate nominee Ed Gillespie that he ought to advocate eliminating unconstitutional federal programs in his platform.  In case you are wondering, he isn’t doing so.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party in my home of Harrisonburg is similarly a mess.  In recent times they seem to value a blind adherence to the party rather than a common set of political principles.  Believe what you want, but support the GOP, even if they nominate candidates to whom you have a moral objection.  Is it any wonder then that no Republican has been able to win the city of Harrisonburg when facing a Democratic opponent since 2010?

Although one of the most heavily Republican counties in the state of Virginia, the Augusta County Republican Party seems to be in a continual state of civil war.  Certainly there are many factors involved: the struggle for power and personality conflicts.  However, I’m wondering if what is happening in Augusta isn’t just a never-ending struggle between those who feel electing Republicans is the party’s most important task, compared to those who believe that Republicans ought to nominate people who hold to a certain set of conservative principles as found in the party creed.

This past week, the GOP had a booth at the Rockingham County Fair.  In the past, volunteering there was my absolute favorite political activity, one I looked forward to every year since I was 15.  Given that I am running for office as an independent, was booted from the GOP in the early part of this year, and that I have philosophical differences with some of the Republican nominees, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I did not volunteer for them this year.

6th district Republican Chairman Wendell Walker made an appearance and posted this picture on his Facebook page with the following comment:  10583997_10204312722326836_3587689603352275332_n“Spent time in Rockingham at the county fair, campaigning for Ed Gillespie, Bob Goodlatte, and Harrisonburg city’s next councilwoman, Dede Dalton.”

The problem?  Well, if you know the woman on the left, can read the shirt she is wearing, or can see the signs behind them, you will note her name is D.D. Dawson, not Dede Dalton.  One does have to wonder, does Chairman Walker know anything about Ms. Dawson and her political principles?  Or is the party label all that matters?  Having had several conversations with her myself, I can say there is more to Ms. Dawson than the fact that she is the Republican Party nominee.  I don’t bring this point up to disparage either Ms. Dawson or Mr. Walker, but to further illustrate the dis-functionality of the Republican Party locally, statewide, and nationally.

To tell you a little more about my own circumstances, for over a year I served on the Board of Directors for the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.  I’m glad to say that there have been victories for the moment, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.  But perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that so many liberty-minded people know what I’m saying to be true and they either can’t admit it, or they feel that there is no other alternative than trying to reform the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, that course of action often leaves us feeling ignored or maligned.  For one personal example, in late 2012 I submitted a RLC-VA petition to my local committee calling for the resignation of John Boehner.  But the group wouldn’t hear of it and it was tabled until the start of the next year and then dismissed.  They welcome our help…so long as we keep our views to ourselves.  Thus, when liberty-minded folks cast our ballots, we are often faced with the ordeal of having to “hold our noses” to vote for a Republican candidate that is diametrically opposed to our principles.

When I first met former Republican Robert Sarvis in mid 2013, he told me that the Republican Party is hostile to liberty.  I didn’t believe him at that time and I have to tell you that it was mainly because I didn’t want to believe him.  But as time pressed onward I began to realize that he was unfortunately right.  This is one reason why the Libertarian Party is seeing growth.  We aren’t leaving the Republican Party so much as we are coming to the realization that the Republican Party has already left us.

I must confess I do have the hope, some may call it a naive hope, that Republicans will stand on shared values, but as long as a sizable segment of the party cares only about power and insists on making participants sign loyalty oaths, not to principle, but rather to the party and her candidates, I know that my hope isn’t really realistic.  Although I opposed many positions held by former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA 11), I have to agree with one point he made in 2008, “Members instinctively understand that the Republican brand is in the trash can. I’ve often observed that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

So, how do we answer the question first posed, “What is a Republican?”  It is a question that I wrestled with when I wrote “Some Nights With the GOP” after the Republican losses in 2012.  All I can say is that I don’t know anymore;  there are great Republicans and there are terrible Republicans, but the label itself isn’t particularly meaningful.