Today former Governor and Senator George Allen announces his bid for Virginia’s Senate seat in 2012. For most of those following the election, the question was not if he would run, but rather when he would run. I’m glad to hear both through this video and his visit during the Americans for Prosperity tour last week that he is central message thus far seems to be the same kind of limited government conservatism that so many people in the Commonwealth support. And so fellow Virginians, our front runner has arrived. The GOP nomination should be interesting, so stay tuned!
Welcome to my first of what will be many podcasts. Enjoy!
Today’s episode deals with prejudices and ignorance regarding the Tea Party movement.
Expanding my reach and audience of this blog has been one of my central focuses these last couple of months. To rehash, in late December I had my first radio spot on The Schilling Show. For readers of The Daily News Record, another of my pieces appears in the opinion section of Monday’s newspaper. But what about television? With the exception of a brief segment during the 2006 campaign, I’ve never been on TV. Therefore, I decided that I should take the time to learn more about this medium.
This most recent Friday, January 14, I drove up to Arlington to participate in one of The Leadership Institute’s training sessions. This particular one was called “Television Workshop, On-camera”. Unfortunately, due to the more or less complete urbanization of Arlington, parking was proving to be a bit of a challenge until the folks at LI directed me to a public parking garage. All in all, the workshop lasted a little over three hours. We did cover quite a bit of material including: what to wear, how to present yourself, and what to say. I’m not going to address those topics here. If you want to learn more about those issues, I would highly recommend attending the workshop yourself.
What I do want to talk about, however, is the tone they recommend adopting for TV. I can only describe the attitude as the worst aspects of political television. If asked a question that you don’t care to answer, simply steer the conversation in a different direction or ignore the point entirely. When you debate one or more people, you don’t have to wait your turn to speak. Just interrupt the other person whenever you feel you can get away with it. Civility is overrated and can even be a hindrance. The rules are simple; whoever gets in the most words, and thus the most airtime, wins.
Now whom should we blame for these displays which are quite frankly disrespectful and childish? I believe it rests primarily with the host or interviewer of the program. A good host can keep his or her guests in line and on topic. A poor host doesn’t restrain his or her guests, or, worse yet, treats them with open contempt. Upon further reflection, there is a strong comparison between the host of a political program and an elementary school teacher. A worthy host or teacher must be both a taskmaster and disciplinarian, motivated and fair. If you allow your guests or students to be disrespectful or constantly wander off topic, then no one will learn anything of value.
Of course, these days political TV is not really about education, but instead shouting trivial and meaningless talking points. The market and the audience have become oversaturated with emotion and devoid of facts. Without a meaningful exchange of ideas, the American public treats politics as fairly irrelevant. It is merely another form of entertainment to be spoofed on Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live. Therefore, we must reject the concept of no holds barred political television. It is detrimental to our political health and weakens the fabric of society.
In closing, I encourage you to explore the wealth of training options available at The Leadership Institute. My first experience with their learning opportunities was excellent and last week’s was quite good as well. I just take exception to one particular technique that they suggested. Although rudeness and political demagoguery is all the rage on TV these days, that doesn’t mean we should follow down this well-worn path. I know that I won’t. If that means I’ll never be successful in the medium, at least I can hold my head high knowing that I didn’t help trash the American experiment for a quick buck and to further my own selfish ambitions.
Since the tragic events in Tucson on Saturday, political rhetoric continues to flare. Everyone is looking for someone to hold responsible. Some people on the far left fault Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, and private gun ownership for the calamity while some on the far right see it as justice for Representative Giffords’ support of liberal policies or punishment from God for increasing immorality in our nation. In their mad rush to play the blame game, these groups have missed the point. As far as I can tell, the fault for this terrible deed rests solely with the gunman, Jared Loughner. No one else pulled the trigger, no one else handed him the gun, and no one else urged him to enact his plan. It wasn’t the natural result of having too many freedoms…or too few. It was not some grand political statement, but the act of a single coward.
Unfortunately, some political groups in the nation try to use any misfortune, be they natural or man-made, to push their agenda. For them, the end justifies the means and they will exploit any opportunity. I call upon all Americans to resist this temptation and rebuke any person or organization that seeks to profit from this terrible moment.
As they are similar to many of my own thoughts, I’d like to share with the words of Representative Steve Israel, the new Chairman of the DCCC:
I too ask that you please remember the dead, the families of the victims, and Representative Giffords. There is a time and a place for politics, but it is not right here and it is not right now.
About a week ago, I received a pretty troubling email from another political activist. It concerned a pre-filed bill for the upcoming legislative session, HB 1528 sponsored by Dickie Bell of Staunton. According to the email, this bill “requires every dealer to prepare a daily report” of precious metal transactions. Furthermore, these reports would be available to both government and law enforcement agents. As you would imagine, I found this news to be particularly troubling. I would assume that more and more Virginians would look toward investing in precious metals given the continued weakness of the U.S. Dollar. Isn’t it just a little bit disconcerting that the government would take such a keen interest in these transactions? What do they plan to do with this data now or in the future?
Resisting the temptation to hastily write a letter to Delegate Bell regarding my concerns, I thought it prudent to do a bit of research first. The most interesting point that I discovered is that the Virginia Code (54.1-4101) already requires precious metal or gem dealers to keep a written record of both their transactions and customers that are available on request. Delegate Bell’s bill would primarily change two points:
- “Every dealer shall prepare a daily report containing the information required by 54.1-4101 sold to him each day and shall file such report by noon of the following day with the chief of police or other law-enforcement officer of the county, city or town where his business is conducted designated by the local attorney for the Commonwealth to receive it.” The dealer can submit his or her report electronically as opposed to mailing or delivering them in person, which is the current norm.
- Dealers can charge their customers a small service fee to cover the added costs associated with these filings.
As you can see, some of the most onerous parts of the law are already in place. Delegate Bell’s bill just enhances them and provides a much closer and daily link to law enforcement. As you can imagine, with this new information I was still against HB 1528 and looked for an opportunity to speak with the Delegate about it. That opportunity came on Friday when Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republicans gathered for lunch at our typical First Friday meeting. All of the Delegates and Senators who represent any portion of the city and/or the county were invited. Once I got to the gathering, I discovered that neither Senator Hanger could not attend nor could most of the Delegates. Fortunately, both Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain were there.
After the meal and a short speech by the Senator and Delegate, I patiently waited my turn to ask about HB1528. Senator Obenshain moderated the questions from the audience and several times he passed over my outstretched hand. Amazingly, after just about everyone else’s questions had been answered, the Senator ended the meeting, thus denying me my opportunity and primary reason for showing up to the meeting in the first place. Although it would be easy to assume such a move as an intentional slight, I really hope it was merely an oversight.
As the crowd began to trickle away, fortunately Delegate Bell stuck around to speak with some of the guests and so I kept my eye on him. Once the line dwindled, I finally got my chance.
The first thing Delegate Bell said to me was that he noticed that I had been waiting patiently for quite some time. I agreed and pulled out my printed copy of HB 1528 and asked him why he was proposing that bill. He responded that local law-enforcement officials suggested the bill as an effort to further crack down on illegal trafficking of stolen goods. However, after speaking with a number of interested parties, Delegate Bell stated that he no longer supports this bill and would be removing it from consideration very soon. In addition, given the potential privacy violations already present in the law, he mentioned that he would be speaking to the Attorney General about deleting (or at least modifying) 54.1-4101 from the Virginia Code.
It is difficult to find the balance between security and liberty. Although I’m sure that HB 1528 would aid Virginia police in catching criminals, is the added bureaucracy, hassle, and loss of privacy worth is? I would say no. In our post 9-11 world, far too many conservatives and liberals alike are willing to sacrifice just about every right in order to gain even the slightest feeling of security, even if doing so provides no tangible benefits. For another example one needs look no further than the ridiculous nature of airport security. First, why do we allow the federal government to look after airport safety? Shouldn’t that role be the responsibility of the independent airport authorities or at least the states or the localities in which they are located? Second, aren’t these body scanners and aggressive pat-downs a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights? Must we give up our Constitutional protections in order to fly the not so friendly skies? I could go on, but the simple fact is that once we surrender liberty in one facet, like travel, it will be that much easier to surrender it in another, like commerce, all in the false and misguided hope of greater security.
Now some activists might be upset by Delegate Bell’s HB 1528 proposal, but I think we should look at this event in a different light. After all, Delegate Bell freely admits that HB 1528 is a blunder that he intends to correct immediately. I believe that gesture shows volumes about his character. He could have ignored the concerned letters and phone calls. He could have not taken responsibility for this lapse in judgment. After all everyone makes mistakes and the easiest and most widespread response is to simply deny their existence. A true mark of strength is when we recognize missteps and correct them before the damage becomes irreversible.
Even though we share many conservative values, I’m sure that Delegate Bell and I will disagree on a few points in the future. I’m just glad to know that the 20th district has a Delegate who listens to the people and will change course when he discovers he is in error.
With Virginia’s legislative session beginning next week, Delegates and Senators are busy getting all of their affairs in order. If you check the Legislative Information System, you can find a wealth of pre-filed bills and resolutions from General Assembly members across the state. A few moments ago, I received an email from my State Senator, Mark Obenshain. In what promises to be the first part of his previews, he discusses some of his legislative priorities. It reads as follows:
Now there is quite a bit of meat in this email. However, one particular issue that stands out to me concerns political primaries. As I’ve stated before, I believe primaries are a poor method to nominate party candidates. Not only are they an added expense to the Virginia taxpayer, but they often create weaker nominees and ones less wed to their party’s supposed ideology. Given that the costs of holding a convention falls squarely on the parties, I understand why political parties might choose a primary, but is it fair to defray these costs to average Virginians? That doesn’t sound very fiscally responsible.
I was greatly disappointed when state Republicans decided upon a primary to select our 2012 Republican nominee for Senate. Given that the decision has been thrown open to every Virginia voter, we will likely end up with a nominee that is not the most conservative (and some may argue not the most Republican), but rather the one who best panders to the liberals and the moderates. After all, they will have as much of a say in choosing the Republican nominee as Republicans will. What a great idea ladies and gentlemen! Let’s let the Democrats pick the Republican candidate. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’m glad to hear that Senator Obenshain is working to correct this issue. If political parties still insist on holding primaries, it is high time that they cover the bill themselves. Once the RPV and the DPVA have to front the cost of their own nomination process, if only for financial reasons, maybe they will come to realize that conventions (or canvasses) are a better method. After all, as they say, “It’s the money stupid.”
We live in strange times, at least from a political perspective. On one hand, we have a massive federal government that seeks to dominate the states and the citizens regardless of any supposed restrictions set forth by the Constitution. Deficits and spending are recklessly multiplied ensuring the economic slavery of future generations. But on the other side of things, states are beginning to reassert their power through rejection of nationalized health care, sovereignty resolutions, and the push for nullification. More and more ordinary American citizens are starting to take a keen interest into both domestic and foreign policies. For far too long, politicians assumed that the indifferent silence of the average voter equated to tacit consent of beltway policies. And all the while, conservative and liberal pundits temper the news with their particular brand of spin.
Obviously we all have to get our political news from some source or another. Ideally, the well-rounded person will have several avenues of information. Regrettably, some folks are content to rely on a single pundit. Now don’t get me wrong, there many good commentators out there. Unfortunately, a great many of them do not advance political dialogue, but hinder it instead. They treat politics like a kindergarten argument where the person who is the loudest, most disagreeable, interrupts constantly, and hurls the cruelest insults is considered the winner. You cannot refute this kind of pundit without being declared stupid, brainless, or otherwise mentally incapacitated. These kinds of antics strip politics of any sort of dignity and warp it to be more like an unpredictable circus comparable to the Jerry Springer show.
Don’t think that either the right or the left holds a monopoly on civility; both conservatives and liberals are guilty of dumbing down and stifling discourse. Talk show hosts on the television and the radio, bloggers, writers, and even politicians can all fall prey to this sort of rubbish. Oh, you’re just a “libtard”, a “teabagger”, or a “nutjob”. Therefore, we can’t trust your opinions on any issue and your thoughts are equally worthless. They don’t confront and refute contrary opinions, but rather attack their opponent’s credibility and basic human decency. Ultimately, I believe these tactics display the shortcomings of the argument of those who employ them because it shows that their own evidence is weak, exhausted, or likely both. Their listeners, watchers, or readers are no more enlightened than they were prior to reading their rude drivel, but instead falsely empowered with the worst aspects of political rhetoric. Although a few people may claim otherwise, I try to hold my writing and this blog to a higher standard.
In the first few pages of his First Discourse, Jean-Jacques Rousseau laments the earlier understanding of mankind. “A nondescript scientific jargon, even more despicable than ignorance, had usurped the name of knowledge, and opposed an almost invincible obstacle to its return. A revolution was needed to bring men back to common sense”. Today, some residents fill their heads solely with the vulgar prattling of some pundit or other, holding their petty rudeness as sacrosanct as the writings of the prophets of old. This advice may sound strange coming from an unapologetic conservative, but I encourage you to listen to the words of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and statists alike. Of course, you do not have to agree with them all (and obviously you cannot for their ideologies are diametrically opposed). Nevertheless, in order to be good citizens and also informed, we must explore and discuss thoughts contrary to our own. By doing so, we increase our political intelligence and bolster our beliefs without denying the right of others to disagree. We must avoid the common pundit’s snare of propagating a political environment devoid of rationality and proof, but one that is rich in slander and childishness. If we fail to do so, then we will never escape our current state of discourse that, for many, is even worse than ignorance.