Turning 15 (or 30)

Well, today marks another milestone.  Today is my birthday, the big three zero.  Oh, how time flies.  Normally I don’t make much of a deal about birthdays.  After all, how much of an accomplishment is a birthday?  What great feat have I mastered?  Not dying, I suppose.  Nevertheless, I will admit that it is nice to have a day when people pay attention to you.  But in this post I’d like to talk to you what I believe is a more relevant anniversary, my fifteenth.

You see, about fifteen years ago I first took the great plunge into politics.  Sure, I developed an interest earlier.  Let me draw you back into those halcyon days.  I remember voting in our school’s mock Presidential election in ‘88 and ‘92; I stopped in to the local GOP headquarters in November 1994 to pick up an “Ollie!” button.  I watched the election returns at home and remember being excited about the result, though I wasn’t really involved.  Like most Americans, I was a passive spectator.  Soon after that cycle, everything changed.  I eagerly purchased “To Renew America”.  I committed myself to my first important issue, abortion, and so I ordered a bunch of Pro-life literature from Heritage House 76.  I even created a crude bumper sticker, which I proudly displayed on a folder around the halls of my high school.  It was a very simplistic time, a time when everything was clearly black and white.  All Republicans, like my heroes Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Bob Dole, were good guys, and Democrats, like President Bill Clinton and Minority Leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, were the bad guys.  1995 was a year of tremendous optimism.  After all, Republicans dominated the 1994 election unified on the back of the Contract With America.  And after my first attempt at volunteering in that year, Glenn Weatherholtz picked up the 26th House of Delegates seat and Kevin Miller won the 26th State Senator seat, things were looking extremely positive.  But life didn’t stay that way for long.

The next years were a back and forth series of ups and downs, positive at the state level and disheartening at the federal.  In my first Presidential election in 1996, Bill Clinton easily defeated Senator Bob Dole.  In 1997, then Republican Attorney General Jim Gilmore won the Governor’s race in Virginia promising to eliminate the car tax.  Next, in 1998, we had the GOP congressional loss and Newt Gingrich’s fall from power, coupled with the later discovery of his hypocritical affair.  Then in 1999, Republicans captured a majority of the seats in the House of Delegates for the first time since Reconstruction.  During this time, however, I slowly began to come to the critical understanding that politics was more than blind partisanship and the single issue of abortion.  Sure the Republican Party and pro-life work are important, but they are facets of a larger struggle of ideology and principles…conservatism versus liberalism.

Considering I mention it so often in this blog, I feel like I need to talk a bit about foreign policy.  Interestingly enough, foreign policy was never an important issue to me until after the attacks of 9-11.  Who cares about other nations?  I thought.  Our own domestic policy was all that really mattered.  Sure, I didn’t support Clinton’s adventure in Bosnia, but my objection primarily stemmed from economic concerns.  As I studied more about the issue in college (at first rather reluctantly), I came to realize that how we conducted our affairs abroad had a tremendous impact on policies at home both in terms of security and our budget.  If we are supposedly a Judeo-Christian nation, shouldn’t we treat other nations and peoples as we ourselves would like to be treated?  Now don’t misunderstand, the primary objectives of our government are to secure the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens and so if another nation (or group) seeks to destroy our freedoms or our people, we must prevent them from doing so.  But, as John Quincy Adams reminds us, “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”  Unfortunately, this seemingly simple time honored principle has gotten me in more trouble in Republican circles than any other.

These last eight years or so have been extremely depressing.  Why?  At the national level, how many government programs, department, and agencies have been eliminated?   Compare that number to how many new bureaucracies have been added.  It’s sad isn’t it, watching the government grow, our liberties shrink, and our constitution reduced to mere toilet paper?  So many politicians cry for change, but how many of them protect our rights, our borders, or the unborn?  So many are pathetic shills.  Until the Ron Paul campaign came along in 2007, I didn’t think politics would ever get better.  Suddenly Paul was a single drop of limited government conservativism in an indifferent ocean of status quo politicians.  He firmly stood for principle over party politics.  Most Republicans I knew shunned Paul and it wasn’t until after the campaign had concluded that they finally viewed the doctor in a positive light.  These days, with the rise of the tea party movement, I’m very hopeful that this new wave of activists will push both the Republican Party and the federal government toward the conservative principles that I have been advocating for a long time now.

Based upon these last years, what will the future hold?  Will taxes, regulations, and mandates from Washington further shackle the American public?  Will the states refuse to obey any more unconstitutional legislation?  Will a great leader emerge to restore the republic or conversely will he or she create a socialist paradise?  We should not look to others for the answers to these questions, but to ourselves.   Right now we have a lot of positive rhetoric and hope, but we need greater numbers and, more importantly, action.  Therefore, I ask you to join me.  Politically speaking, you may be an infant, a teenager like myself, or someone far more experienced, but really age doesn’t mater.  Only by working together can we enact meaningful change. We must not be silent.  We must not be complacent.  Recruit your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.  Run for office, draft legislation, write your Congressman, volunteer in your local GOP, or join a Tea Party.  Getting back to the original point about my birthday, if you’re looking to get me the perfect gift, how about a little liberty?

Finding New Friends

Yesterday, while at the polls in Keister, I met two ladies in matching red shirts.  Unlike most polls workers, they were not from the 26th, but drove down from Shenandoah County to volunteer for the cause.  Their clothing marked them as members of a relatively new political organization, the Friends for Freedom.  After speaking with the duo for a little while, I asked if they would send me a bit more information about their group.  To follow is their mission statement:

We are an independent group of conservatives who believe in limited government, free market capitalism, a strong defense, secure borders, personal and fiscal responsibility, the sanctity of life, and the individual freedoms as espoused by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Our mission is to communicate and coordinate with like-minded members of our community to identify, encourage, and support political candidates who will uphold these principles. We aim to educate, motivate, and activate our community to foster civic participation, fundamental to the democratic process. We aspire to be guided in these efforts by standards of honesty, integrity and Godly wisdom.

Given our related stances, I’m excited to learn about this association.  We certainly need more conservative citizens to get actively involved in the process.  Until enough voters cry “Hold, enough!” the government will continue to expand, our rights will continue to erode, and our cultural values shall crumble.

The next meeting of the Friends of Freedom will be taking place in Shenandoah County on July 8th.  I don’t know if I can make this particular gathering, but, like I always do, I encourage each and everyone of you to find a group like this one in your community and make a difference.

For liberty with responsibility!

Our New Delegate

Well the dust has settled here in the 26th district.  With all precincts reporting in, the winner is…Tony Wilt.  Although the official count is not available yet, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections, Wilt captured 65.82% of the vote while Democratic Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner won 29.89% and Independent Carolyn Frank had 4.14%.  Voter turnout was rather high in this special election as over 24% of registered voters showed up to cast their ballots.  As has been the trend in recent elections, the Democratic candidate won Harrisonburg, although narrowly, by fifty votes.  In Rockingham County, Republican voters came out in force giving the Republican candidate an enormous 81.66%!

When you consider current history, all in all, Degner fared a little better than other challengers, such as 2009 House of Delegates Democratic candidate, Gene Hart, and in 2007 when Independent Carolyn Frank launched her first attempt.  Then again, the last time this area faced an open seat back in 2005, Matt Lohr won with 53.48% compared to Lowell Fulk’s 46.11%.

So, my earlier adage held true.  Whoever wins the Republican primary will win the general election.  Even though the Democrats can win the city, the conservative County voters easily overwhelm whatever advantage the Harrisonburg electorate gives.  Therefore, barring some major surprise, I expect that Tony Wilt will represent the voters of the 26th in the House of Delegates for as long as he chooses to hold that position.  I hope that he will be the strong-willed constitutional conservative leader that the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley deserve.  As for the other candidates, I assume that Kai Degner will continue to serve as our Mayor, at least until the city council elections, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes another try for higher office in the near future.  And as for Carolyn Frank…well I really don’t know what she was thinking.  According to the local paper, she didn’t raise any campaign money in the most recent cycle and I don’t know if she had any sort of coordinated campaign.  A humiliating defeat such as the one she just suffered will certainly dampen any of her political prospects.

Congratulations to Mr. Wilt.  Please make us proud.

Knock On My Door

There are many differing groups that rely on going door-to-door.  Salesmen used to, and to a smaller extent still do, peddle their wares by visiting homes.  Some religions spread their message and seek converts through this method.  And of course political campaigns lean heavily on the tactic.  But door-to-door is dying.  More and more neighborhoods are fenced in and more and more people affix no soliciting signs to the front of their house.  After all, who wants to be bothered?  The last thing we would like is someone coming to our door to sell us products we don’t want, religion we don’t need, or politics we could care less about.  Stay away.  My home is my castle!  Then again, through avoiding folks coming door-to-door, don’t we isolate ourselves from the outside world and the interactions of society?  I know that my affinity for politics is different from most people, but I for one look forward to having unexpected visitors stop by.

I believe the reason why so many in our community shun these unwelcome guests is a trend away from face-to-face social interactions.  Look at the trend in blogging for example.  Even though I write and you read this blog, have we ever met?  Chances are poor.  Now I’d like to meet many of you out there, but the sheer geographic distance may make such an arrangement unthinkable.  Nevertheless, if we were to find ourselves at a political gathering, you should certainly say hello and not shy away.  As we focus more and more on social and entertainment avenues like TV, Facebook, and Twitter, I worry that we are cutting ourselves off from a traditional society and wearing away not only our communication skills, but our trust too.  After all, if I’ve never met you, how can I possibly believe anything you have to say?  It is far easier to lie impersonally than it is to someone’s face.

I’m not going to belabor the point, but my advice is to welcome the door-to door crowd. Politics should not be just 30-second sound bites, TV Ads, and prolifically colorful mailings.  It should be about reason, discussion, and issues.  Whether they admit it or not, deep down, I think most people appreciate the personal touch, which is why citizens who have been visited are far more likely to vote and volunteer versus those who have not.  To a lesser extent, I believe the same holds true for salesmen and religious messengers.  Speaking of that matter, one of these days, I’m going to have to share with you my experiences with the Mormon missionaries.  Ah, but that’s another blog post.  My advice to you is to take off the no soliciting sign.  Sure you’ll be bothered from time to time, but hospitality is and should be a mark of not only the South, but also the nation as a whole.  Are we a friendly and welcoming people or have we become wary and antisocial?  Do we now suffer from the moral basis of a backwards society?  I tell you, assuming they do so at a reasonable hour, I wouldn’t snub any of these brave pilgrims who knocked at my door.

Tuesday’s Results

If you were like me, around 7:00 PM yesterday your browser was fixed on the Virginia State Board of Elections website as results began to pour in from around the state.  Unlike traditional Republican against Democrat contests, I had no strong perception of which cities and counties would go toward what kind of candidate.   In the early moments and until about 60% or so of precincts had reported, Matthew Berry maintained a lead in the 8th.  Although he ended up winning both Arlington and Alexandria, his loss in Fairfax County and, to a lesser extent, Falls Church led to his downfall.  Another interesting statistic in this contest was voter turnout.  Every district statewide had at least 6% turnout with the 2nd district exceeding 9%.  The 8th was the exception where turnout was only slightly above 3%.  3%!  I know there aren’t nearly as many Republicans in Northern Virginia as there are in the Shenandoah Valley, but 3%?  Only 13,787 voters determined the result.  Now I’m not saying that one more voter would have made a difference, but only 522 more dedicated Berry voters could have swung this election the other way.  Turnout, turnout, turnout!  Turnout is key in these sparsely attended elections.  Then again, given their voting patterns, maybe there are only 13,787 Republican voters in the suburbs of D.C.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the results.  Berry didn’t win nor did a few others I would have liked to see victorious, but there were a few bright spots in the evening.

So you don’t have to look elsewhere, here is the rundown from the VASBE as of 12:15 AM June 10, 2010:

1st District

Rob Wittman 87.96%

Catherine Crabill 12.03%

2nd District

Scott Rigell 39.5%

Ben Loyola 26.78%

Bert Mizusawa 17.4%

Scott Taylor 8.09%

Jessica Sandlin 4.44%

Ed Maulbeck 3.76%

5th District

Robert Hurt 48.51%

James McKelvey 25.83%

Mike McPadden 9.74%

Kenneth Boyd 7.39%

Feda Morton 4.58%

Laurence Verga 2.27%

Ron Ferrin 1.65%

8th District

Patrick Murray 51.88%

Matthew Berry 48.11%

11th District

Keith Fimian 55.93%

Patrick Herrity 44.06%

Big Ol’ Primary Day

Today across our Commonwealth many voters have the opportunity to select their Republican candidates for the House of Representatives.  Here in the 6th district, I’m pleased to see Representative Bob Goodlatte as our nominee once more.  There are many GOP races going on: The 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd, the 5th, the 8th, and the 11th.  Each race (especially the 2nd and 5th) offers a multitude of differing choices.  Each person has their strengths, their weaknesses, their varied backgrounds, and their unique political philosophy.  So, assuming you haven’t already done, get out there and vote!  As is typical, I encourage you to vote if and only if you feel sufficiently informed about your options.  An educated voter is key to the survival of our nation, government, and our very freedom.

Remember…if you live in the 8th district, vote for Matthew Berry!  Although I haven’t endorsed a candidate in the other districts, I urge you to vote for whichever candidate you believe best embodies the ideals of limited government conservatism.  Today is your chance and your choice to make your voice heard.

Backwards Voting Logic

About a week ago when I went in a local mechanic to get my car inspected, I noticed that their office contained a handful of yard signs for our Republican nominee for Delegate, Tony Wilt.  As I’m always looking for an opportunity (or excuse depending on your point of view) to discuss politics, I made a comment to the woman working behind the counter about the race.  I asked her if she was planning on voting for Tony.  Her response was that she wasn’t planning on voting at all.  She stated that she only votes in “important races” like the one for President.  Although such a viewpoint is common, it still makes little sense to me for several reasons.

Sure, the President is a lot more powerful position than a Senator, Delegate, or a Mayor, but which of these leaders are more likely to know who you are and know which issues are important to you?  Think about it.  Take me for example.  In my years of political involvement, I’ve met a lot of Delegates, a handful of State Senators, a few Representatives, and even a U.S. Senator or two…but never a President.  How about with voting?  Time to roll out the numbers.  In the 2008 election, there were approximately 131,000,000 votes cast for President.  In 2009, there were 15,510 votes cast for Delegate in the 26th district.  Tell me, a vote in which election carries more value?  When is your vote more important?  When it is 1 out of 15 thousand or 1 out of 131 million?  Then again, as we don’t elect the President through the popular vote, but rather through the Electoral College, depending on whether or not you live in a battleground state, your vote likely carries even less weight.

The bottom line is the following.  Although it may seem glamorous to only cast your vote when it is time to elect the “leader of the free world” (I hate that term by the way), in all truthfulness, such a vote is a mere drop in the vast ocean of ballots.  If you really want to make your vote and your voice count, take the time to vote in smaller state and local elections.  The turnout is lower and you might actually be able to make a personal connection with the candidates.  So, fellow citizens of the 26th, I urge you to become informed in the nine days we have left and then get out to the polls on June 15.

The Great Twilight Struggle

The Cold War was a time of uncertainty in world history.  Two great superpowers, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. wrestled for control of territory, allies, and resources in a quest for supremacy.  The threat of nuclear war always loomed on the horizon as one misstep or faulty computer could trigger mutual annihilation and even the end of civilization as we know it.  Although that era is thankfully over, one can relive a portion of that tension and doubt through the board game Twilight Struggle.  Created by Ananda Gupta & Jason Matthews and published by GMT Games, this game seems like a natural fit for those who appreciate politics and games of strategy.

Twilight Struggle is a game for two players where each takes the role of the one of the superpowers.  Rather than fight each other directly, you battle over the remaining nations of the world through spreading influence in foreign countries, inciting coups, and fighting proxy wars like Korea and Vietnam.  In addition, a player should be mindful of the space race as it can create a powerful advantage.  The game features many, if not all, of the important historical events:  the formation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the list goes on.  As a added bonus, to deter nuclear war, if a player intentionally or unintentionally causes a thermonuclear holocaust, the game ends immediately with that player losing.

The game last several hours and consists of ten turns, each of which comprise six to eight action rounds.  Should a player achieve global domination (twenty or more points than his or her opponent) the game ends even earlier.  I have found having played the game a dozen or more times that the Soviet player has an advantage over the United States player overall, especially in the early game, so I recommend offering some sort of influence boost to the U.S. player at the beginning of the game to level the playing field.

I give the game high marks for it’s historical accuracy and its re-playability.  On the minus side, there is a good bit of luck in the game which can often greatly hamper a player due to no great fault of his or her own both, what with dice rolling and in the cards dealt.  Twilight Struggle is highly rated on the popular board game site boardgamegeek.com, currently ranked third among all board games.   Personally, I was so impressed with Twilight Struggle that I bought my copy after playing the game only once.  I should note, like many of the best games, you cannot find this product at a Target or Wal-Mart, but rather a specialty game store or online…and it retails for $55.  Nevertheless, I highly recommend giving this game a try.

Two Candles

Today is the day.  The Virginia Conservative has been around for two years now!  Two years!  Some of you have recently found this site; some of you have been visiting for the last several months or more.  Though mainly political, we’ve covered a variety of topics in the pursuit of limited government conservatism.  I’m pleased to say that site views have over doubled from the previous year.  More and more folks are tuning in and this influx is exciting!  Just remember, to reclaim our nation, we must accomplish three important tasks: spread our message to others, promote sound legislation, and elect like-minded leaders.  What this next year will bring I cannot say, but I hope you will continue to join me in the journey!

For liberty with responsibility!