Writing-In Ron Paul

If you were to ask a political activist who strongly values the ideals of liberty and a constitutionally-limited government who was the best candidate running for president in 2012, chances are many of them would enthusiastically answer Representative Ron Paul of Texas.  I know that I would!  Unfortunately, due a number of issues, some relating the unfair tactics of the Republican National Committee, other due to errors on the part of the Ron Paul campaign, Dr. Paul is not the Republican nominee and will not be showing up on the ballot on November 6th.

As a result, some die hard Ron Paul supporters are planning to write-in Dr. Paul as opposed to voting for one of the other candidates.  However, I must caution my fellow Virginians, for I believe such a decision is a mistake.

Here in Virginia, we have five candidates on the ballot for president.  Besides both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, who presumably everyone knows, we also have Virgil Goode, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.  Although write-ins are technically allowed in the Commonwealth, they are of practically zero value, as the state board of elections does not report individual write-ins.

Don’t believe me?  In the general election of 2011, I worked as an election official for a precinct in Rockingham County.  At the end of Election Day, we dutifully recorded each and every write-in response for each office and there were a fair number of them.  They ranged from potentially legitimate candidates to fictitious characters like Mickey Mouse and “anyone but the guy in there now”.  Look at the official results for House of Delegates in Rockingham County.  The only two options listed are Tony Wilt and the rather generic Write In candidate.  And that race isn’t some sort of anomaly.  Every race in 2011 is the very same way, so too are the election results for each year available on the state board’s website.  Let me tell you that the only people who know whether a write-in vote is for a legitimate and real person or someone absurd like Homer Simpson are the voter who cast the vote and the election officials.  They are the only ones.

So, now that we’ve established that a write-in vote is close to worthless in Virginia, why would anyone still write-in Dr. Paul?  As I’ve already mentioned, we have five candidates running for president that will be on the ballot.  Are any of them as great as Ron Paul?  No.  Although each has his or her merits and flaws, none are quite as good.  However, given the fact that we do have a number of choices, at least one of them has to share a lot of our political principles.  Now, as I’ve mentioned previously, if you don’t know much about them, I would recommend visiting iSideWith.com to find out with which candidate or candidates that you most closely align.

If, however, at the end of the day, you still feel compelled to write-in Dr. Paul, I will not condemn such an action.  After all, I believe that the most important facet of voting is to never betray your convictions.  Nevertheless, if you explore the candidates with an open mind, I’m pretty sure you’ll find one that is more than acceptable.  I know that I did.

I encourage you to take heart.  Remember!  Regardless of the outcome on November 6th, this great movement spearheaded by Ron Paul will not die so long as we faithfully promote the cause of liberty in our words, our deeds, and in our votes.

Best of luck to you on Election Day, fellow Ron Paul supporter!

For liberty and responsibility!

Tea With The Council Candidates: Part II

Council Candidates Christine Johnson, Roger Baker, Anthony Bailey, and Richard Baugh

Last month, the Harrisonburg chapter of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party played host to four of the eight candidates seeking election to the Harrisonburg City Council.  Last night, the remaining four candidates took the stage to offer their ideas and plans for the city.

These candidates were: Christine Johnson, a local business owner and a Republican, Roger Baker, the former city manager and an independent, Anthony Bailey, the local assistant commonwealth attorney and a Republican, and Richard Baugh, the current Harrisonburg mayor, an attorney, and a Democrat.  Although not on stage, Abe Shearer was present as well.  As was the case with last month’s meeting, the audience attendance was a good bit smaller than expected.

Each candidate was allotted a ten-minute window to speak followed by a question and answer period.  Although hoping to offer his thoughts due to his early departure last month, Abe Shearer was not allowed to comment on the issues raised.

Like last month, I took this opportunity to present the same question regarding the city owned golf course.  Johnson, Baker, and Bailey each seemed to support the idea of the course, although admitted that it could have been run more efficiently.  Mayor Baugh did not have a chance to reply due to time constraints.  After the meeting, Abe Shearer mentioned that, despite the financial failings of the course, the council ought to strongly consider whether it is the proper role of government to operate the course.  Given his comments, I believe that if he were on the council when the decision was made, he would have opposed the idea of a city golf course.

After the question and answer period, I took the microphone to remind everyone to vote on November 6th and encouraged them to learn about all of the candidates running prior to the election so that they will make an informed decision.  After all, that concept was one of the key reasons why I pushed for and helped organized these two forums with the city council candidates.  I wanted tea party members to get to know the candidates so that they could gauge each based upon his or her principles and not merely rely on party labels.

Next, the leader of the tea party took the stage to remind everyone that the tea party does not endorse candidates.  However, in what came as a bit of a shock, she then proceeded to more or less remind everyone to vote for George Allen for Senate.  In addition, she recommended that attendees should not “throw their vote away” by voting for either Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson for president given that neither of these two candidates will be listed on the ballot of every state.

The meeting concluded with a reading of Angie Williams’ Vote Your Conscience, which reminds the listener to “put partisan politics completely aside, and let your conscience be your guide.”

JMU & The 2012 Presidential Race: Part II

About a week ago, I wrote about the attitudes of James Madison University students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  Although you should read the previous post below if you have not done so, the summary is that 42.6% of students surveyed support President Barack Obama, while Mitt Romney has 27.8%, Gary Johnson has 2.8%, Jill Stein has 1.9% and a large percentage, 24.1%, were undecided.

After the second presidential debate, but before the third, I conducted another door-to-door poll of a different batch of off-campus JMU students to gauge how their opinions had shifted.  The two questions asked were the same as before.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, which of the presidential candidates would you support if the election were held today?  This time, 95 students answered.  Like the last survey, their answers closely mirrored the previous results.  Democratic candidate Barack Obama improved slightly, rising by .6% to 43.2%, while Republican Mitt Romney declined by 1.5%, falling to 26.3%.  Libertarian Gary Johnson dropped as well by .5% to 2.1%.  Interestingly, none of the respondents this time mentioned Green candidate Jill Stein as his or her top pick.  As before, zero students made any comment about Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode.  With this numbers, you will note that a considerable number of students were once again undecided, showing an increase of 4.3% to now rest at 28.4%.  Continuing the previous trend, when considering just Obama versus Romney responses, Obama dominated with 62.1% to Romney’s 37.9%

With the two surveys combined, Barack Obama is the favorite of a plurality of James Madison students with 42.9%, Mitt Romney is second with 27.1%, Gary Johnson is third with 2.5%, Jill Stein is fourth with 1%, although not a candidate, Ron Paul is fifth with .5%, and a vast number of students are still undecided with 28.4%.  In the Obama/Romney head-to-head, Obama gets 61.3% to Romney’s 38.7%.

Although I’m admittedly a political animal, I’m surprised that the number of undecided voters remains so high among JMU students.  What explains this trend?  Do they suffer from a lack of information, is apathy high, or is there simply a strong dissatisfaction with both of the two major party candidates?  After all, as one undecided student commented, she didn’t particularly care for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Given the previous results, I would assume that at this point a majority of undecided students will break along the same percentages as their brethren have done, unless something changes.  But a lot of factors could alter this outcome in the 13 days that remain.  I hope to have one final survey of JMU students before Election Day to gain a clearer picture.

JMU & the 2012 Presidential Race

On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I’ve visited three different off-campus JMU apartment complexes in Harrisonburg.  Part of the purpose in doing so was to assess the opinions of the students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  The general theory is that JMU students who registered to vote in Harrisonburg in 2008 supported Barack Obama by huge margins and helped him to capture the city last time.

For a bit of historical perspective, in the 2004 presidential election, when students had to vote in their hometowns rather than at their college or university, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections about 11,000 people voted in Harrisonburg.  George W. Bush won about 6,100 or 55.9%.  In 2008, John McCain had slightly less votes than Bush did four years prior, but only took 41.2% as around 14,500 people voted in the city. While about 1,000 more people voted in Harrisonburg in 2004 as they did in 2000, 3,500 more showed up in 2008 as compared to 2004.  A large portion of this increase was no doubt due to changes in Virginia law, which allows students to vote where they attend university.

So one important question to consider is will JMU break heavily for President Barack Obama this November?  With this thought in mind, I asked the JMU students two questions.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, if the election were held today, which of the candidates would you support?

Now, a considerable number of students were not at home at the time of my visit, a handful was not registered to vote, some were registered in their hometowns in other states, and still others refused to answer.  However, 108 students did respond.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won a plurality, 46 or 42.6%.  Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, finished in second place with 30 votes or 27.8%.  Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, was a distant third with 3 votes or 2.8%, Jill Stein, the Green candidate, was fourth at 2 votes or 1.9%, and, although not a candidate, one student planned to write-in Representative Ron Paul.  Even though he is listed on the Virginia ballot, none of the students mentioned Constitution Party candidate, Virgil Goode.  However, you should note that a sizable portion of respondents, 26 students or 24.1% stated that they are undecided.

If these survey numbers are indicative of the entire student population, then the race is still pretty fluid at JMU.  As expected, Barack Obama is ahead, but not by an insurmountable margin.

I assume that whichever candidate or campaign works the most diligently to court these undecided voters will not only win the JMU vote, but also likely claim Harrisonburg as well.  Toward that end, rumors swirl that President Obama will visit JMU prior to the election as he did back in 2008.  And what sort of impact did the second presidential debates make? What will happen?  We’ll find out soon!

Romney vs. Quincy Adams

Today, at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney offered his thoughts regarding U.S. foreign policy.  The full text of his speech can be found here, but to follow is an excerpt:

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us.  Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, ‘We will not forget that you forgot about us.’…

…I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.

Now compare these ideas with those of John Quincy Adams, our 6th President.  While serving as Secretary of State, on July 4th 1821, he said the following:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her [America’s] 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 of her own.

Quite a difference of opinion, don’t you think?  Both seek to remake the world, but while Adams calls for a policy of peace and leading through example, Romney’s plan will invariably lead to bloodshed and is a call for either direct or covert military action, overthrowing regimes and installing ones more friendly to the United States and her ideals.

It wasn’t too long ago when both those on the left and those on the right would have rejected Romney’s plan of action and instead have embraced the reasoning of Quincy Adams.  As recently as the presidency of Bill Clinton, Republicans condemned the president’s military adventurism in the former Yugoslavia due to the fact that the conflict in no way threatened the security of the United States or her citizens.  In fact, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the group the United States supported in the conflict, had previously been declared a terrorist organization.  But the “isolationist” line of thinking of people like John Quincy Adams and the GOP ought to have changed after the attacks of 9-11, right?

In order to answer that question, we must ask another; what motivated the airline hijackings on 9/11?  Was it due to a rejection of our supposedly decadent American lifestyles and immorality?  Perhaps it was…in some small part.  But, if that reasoning alone was sufficient, why attack the United States?  Aren’t there a variety of “evil” countries closer to the Middle East that could have served as a target just as easily?  Could it be that there might be additional reasons?

It seems that a considerable number of Americans have little to no knowledge of Middle Eastern history prior to the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979 to 1981.  However, if we turn back the clock several decades, we find a prime example of when the United States interfered in the internal affairs of a Middle Eastern nation with unfortunate results.  Back in the 1950s, Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran sought to wrest control of Iran’s oil fields from the British.  In response, the British and the United States governments teamed up to launch a coup against Mosaddegh and propped up the Shah, a man who many Iranians came to view as an increasingly brutal dictator and an unwelcome westernization of their nation.   His overthrow in early 1979 led to the Islamic state, which now rules in Iran and remains hostile to the United States and her allies, as well as leading to the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  I am also certain these actions taken in Iran by the United States helped fuel the hatred and actions of the hijackers on 9/11.

Now I know what you are thinking, two wrongs don’t make a right.  And, of course, I agree.  Regardless of any U.S. foreign policy, the 9/11 hijackers were in no way justified in their actions and ought to be condemned by every civilized people.  But, if two wrongs don’t make a right, shouldn’t we also agree that three wrongs don’t make a right either?  Doesn’t Romney’s plan repeat the mistakes we made in Iran?  If we wouldn’t appreciate a foreign nation either overthrowing our leaders or propping up our despots, what makes us think that some other group of people would?  And isn’t it also possible that if we overthrow either the government of Syria or Iran such an action could lead to blowback that is far greater than what we have seen?

We seem to have forgotten that the primary purpose of both the United States government and its military is to protect the lives, liberties, and property of American citizens.  It is not intended to dole out taxpayer money to foreign governments, install puppet regimes, or promote the horribly misguided Wilsonian idea of “making the world safe for democracy.”  Should we ask our soldiers to give up their lives in order to promote governments that very well might have ties to the same ideology and people who attacked us on 9/11?

Therefore, we must reject any foreign policy that deviates from the limitations imposed by the Constitution.  Although it might be interesting to speculate how our government could mold a better world, we have seen far too many domestic failings of the feds first-hand through bailouts, subsidies, regulations, and overburdensome security at our airports.  What would make us think that the rest of the world would either desire or appreciate the same treatment?  As bad a leader as many of us think Barack Obama is, what would your reaction be if the Iranian government removed him from power and gave us a new president?

Haven’t we learned that we can no longer afford a neo-conservative foreign policy?  More importantly, doesn’t stumbling down this path foster greater hatred of the United States and, in the long run, make us less safe?  Don’t you think that it time to return to the wisdom of men like John Quincy Adams?

Taking Sides

As Election Day draws closer, each presidential candidate looks to capture the ever-dwindling block of undecided voters.  After all, as in many cases, the race will not be decided by either the hardcore Republican or Democratic activists, but rather the mass of swing voters that could tip the election in several ways.

Toward that end, I encourage you to check out a website called iSideWith.com, assuming you have not already done so.  I first discovered this site in late May.  After answering the questions, the results indicated that I had the most in common with Dr. Ron Paul, 99% in agreement to be exact.  Not much of a surprise, huh?  However, one oversight I noticed in the program was that it failed to include Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate.  After a few back and forth emails with the creator of the site, I was glad to see that they ended up including him.  Now, I don’t necessarily plan to vote for Mr. Goode, but given that he is a candidate for president on a multitude of ballots across the county, I thought that he should be listed.  After all, to be an informed voter, one should be aware of all of one’s choices.

Once the GOP nomination had concluded and Ron Paul was no longer an option, I returned to iSideWith several times to see what they had to say about the other candidates.  Although my percentages fluctuate depending on which issues I believe are the most important on a given day, the results are always the same.

I suppose it shouldn’t come as any great surprise.  Former Governor Gary Johnson was my second choice in the GOP contest after Ron Paul and I collected signatures for both men to be on the Republican ballot in Virginia’s March 6th primary.

However, I should point out that I wouldn’t necessarily take your results as gospel truth; it should not be the only guide you use when pledging your support to one candidate or another.  After all, if you happen to be a single-issue voter, it doesn’t really matter how much you agree with a candidate on a range of topics if he or she happens to stand in stark contrast when it comes to your most important issue.

So, whether you happen to still be undecided as to who you will be supporting on November 6th, or you’re a died in the wool party person, I encourage you to try out iSideWith.  Maybe you’ll match in perfect lockstep with a certain candidate or perhaps there will be several with whom you agree.  Either way, I think you’ll find this site to be of interest.  Try it out and, if you feel so inclined, list your results in the comments sections below.  I’d be interested to discovering where my readers stand.

Tea With The Council Candidates: Part I

Council Candidates Deb Fitzgerald, Abe Shearer, Rodney Eagle, and Kai Degner

On Thursday of last week, four of the eight candidates vying for a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council spoke to a gathering of the Harrisonburg branch of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  In November, city residents will select three members for the five-member council.

The speakers consisted of Kai Degner, a Democrat and current member of Council, Rodney Eagle, a Republican and former member of Council, Deb Fitzgerald, a Democrat and wife of a former Council member, and Abe Shearer, an Independent with no apparent political ties to Harrisonburg’s governing body.  Christine Johnson, a Republican candidate, watched as a member of the audience.  The meeting was sparsely attended with about 25 people there of whom less than half were self identified city voters.  Both WHSV and the Daily News Record had a reporter in attendance.

Each was allotted a ten-minute speaking slot to provide for an introduction and to outline a few thoughts regarding their future plans for Harrisonburg.  They spoke in alphabetical order by last name with Degner first and Shearer rounding out the pack.

Prior to the question and answer period, Mr. Shearer left the meeting explaining that he was late for a meeting at his church. However, he promised the crowd that he would return for the question and answer period for the October meeting.  The questions from the audience that followed demonstrated a general misunderstanding of the power of the city government.  As Mr. Degner pointed out, Virginia is a Dillon rule state, which means that local governments only have power over matters granted to them by the state government.  Or, to put it another way, the Harrisonburg government has only “those powers that are specifically conferred on them by the Virginia General Assembly…those powers that are necessarily or fairly implied from a specific grant of authority… (or) those powers that are essential to the purposes of government — not simply convenient but indispensable“.

Following upon a line from Mrs. Fitzgerald’s speech regarding the proper role of government, I asked if each of the candidates thought the concept of the city operating a golf course fell within the proper role of city government.  Although a decade old issue, the golf course was and remains a sore spot with many city residents.  The idea was fairly unpopular when first implemented and three of the council members that supported the plan were all voted out of office in the following election.  Three “change” candidates who opposed the course won but continued with the plan anyway and were subsequently voted out four years later.  Since that time, the golf course has hemorrhaged money, running a deficit every year it has been in operation.  Mrs. Fitzgerald offered the “phone book test” for any city project stating that the city should not be in any business that is offered by the private sector and is found in the phone book.  Mr. Eagle, who was part of the Council who approved the golf course a decade ago defended the decision stating that at the time the city did not have a privately run golf course and that the course provides valuable programs to some of the younger residents of the city.  Mr. Degner did not get an opportunity to answer the question on stage, but stated later that as the golf course is a city venture, it should be run as efficiently as possible and that the government has taken steps which have reduced the yearly deficit of the course.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed by both the smaller-than-expected turnout and by some of the less-than-helpful questions and comments.  I both lobbied for and helped organize this forum for the Harrisonburg City Council in the hopes of spreading awareness of all eight of the candidates running for office.  After all, although not as glamourous as the high profile races, voters in the city will have far more impact in the race for Harrisonburg City Council than President, Senate, or House of Representatives given the much smaller number of votes cast in that election.  Therefore, it is the civic duty of each city voter to learn about his or her choices so that each can make an informed decision on Election Day.

I’m hoping next month’s meeting will see both a surge in attendance as well as an improvement in the questions asked when the tea party plays host to the remaining four candidates, but we’ll see what happens.

The Obama Stagnation

A guest article by Dan Wilson.

With the onset of the election, the economy continues to remain the number one issue on voters’ minds.  President Obama would have them believe he turned the economy around from the abyss after the financial crisis of 2008, and were now on a forward path because of his policies.  The problem with this story is that  it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Almost every broad-based measurement of economic well-being shows stagnation or decline over his term. Given this, voters should look towards the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, to lead this country towards economic revival.

For starters, look at the jobs market. 23 million Americans continue to remain unemployed, underemployed or stopped looking for work. The only reason the unemployment rate declined from its recessionary peak of 10% to its current level of 8.1% is from millions of Americans dropping out of the labor force. Since the unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the amount of people unemployed by the labor force, all it takes for the unemployment rate to drop is for individuals to become discouraged and stop registering their unemployed status to the government. The labor force participation rate stands at a 60 year low for males. Instead of finding a job millions of Americans have found it more convenient to live off the current administration’s expansion of the social safety net. In fact, the unemployment rate calculated with the same labor force participation rate held on January 2009 would be through the roof at 11.3%.

There has been 4.5 million private sector jobs added over the past 30 months that Obama likes to talk about. But, compared to other recoveries after a severe recession, 4.5 million jobs is disappointing to say the least. If this jobs recovery kept up with the pace of the Reagan recovery, roughly 7.5 million more people would have a job. Based on the past 20 years of job growth our economy is currently 13 million jobs below its trend line.

On top of that, a recent study demonstrated that most of the jobs lost during the recession were middle-class jobs while majority of the new jobs are lower class. In other words, not only have the quantity of jobs added under Obama undershot expectations, but they have also suffered in quality.

Given the dismal state of job and income growth, it’s no surprise that household incomes have actually fallen more during the so-called recovery than the actual recession. Under the latest estimations, household incomes fell 2.6% during the recessionary years and by 4.8% since.

Though the scariest picture of them all is the coming sovereign debt crisis this country faces similar to the situation facing many European countries. The current administration’s appetite for debt fueled government spending in the name of stimulus and wealth redistribution may be the final straw that breaks the back of our economy, equalizing us with the debt ridden, depressed economies of Europe. Since taking office, the Obama administration has run four consecutive trillion dollar deficits, increasing the national debt by 5.6 trillion in less than four years. The national debt as a percentage of GDP, which measures our liabilities against assets, has risen from an already too high rate of 70% when Obama took office, to over a whopping 100%. Under current budget projections, this ratio only worsens under an Obama second term, as the national debt continues to grow faster than the economy.

In short, economic statistics clearly reveal that the US economy has stagnated under the current administration’s policies and faces financial ruin in the near future if we don’t reverse course. Ultimately, voters will decide whether we stay with the status quo of misery or turn the corner and select a new set of policies with a Romney administration, which will foster prosperity that this country is so used to.

Daniel Wilson is a recent graduate of James Madison University and holds a degree in economics.