The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode IX)

As the title of this post indicates, today’s radio program on 550 AM WSVA marked the ninth episode where Andy Schmookler & Joshua Huffman appeared to discuss politics.

Topics included: the Virginia budget & medicaid expansion in the state as well as Crimea and U.S. foreign policy.

If you were unable to tune in, or would like to hear the hour again, you can find it here.

Thanks for listening!

Schmookler at JMU

On Wednesday, March 26th, Dr. Andrew Schmookler spoke on the campus of James Madison University.  The event was sponsored by the JMU College Democrats and the speech explored the topic of evil in American politics, much of which, according to Dr. Schmookler, results from a malevolent spirit in Republican circles.

Although a little over an hour, I was only able to record the first 42 minutes.  Whether you agree or disagree with the thoughts offered, I hope you will find the presentation of interest.

Bevington Still In Race, Picks Up Endorsement

Paul Bevington in Mt. JacksonThursday was the deadline to submit signatures and to pay the filing fee to run as a Republican candidate for the 6th congressional district in Virginia.  In response, Paul Bevington, Bob Goodlatte’s challenger, has announced that he is no longer running under the GOP banner and instead will be on the ballot as an independent in the general election.

In related news, Mr. Bevington has picked up the endorsement of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.  In a statement released also on Thursday, the PAC stated, “Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s efforts to help Barack Obama and John Boehner pass a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants that would rewrite existing American immigration laws to accommodate tens of millions of illegals along with those who employ them has finally caught up with him. Today his GOP Primary opponent Paul Bevington is receiving a national endorsement instead.”  They also add, “ALIPAC is endorsing Paul Bevington for Congress because he has pledged in ALIPAC’s federal candidate survey to ‘Support Americans and legal immigrants by supporting the adequate enforcement of America’s existing border and immigration laws as the US Constitution requires for the protection of American lives, jobs, elections, health and taxpayer resources.”  However, given that Mr. Bevington is no longer running as a Republican, will the PAC continue to support him or does that group only endorse Republicans?

At this point, there are only two declared candidates in the general election: Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte and independent Paul Bevington.  But will they be the only two?  Will the Democrats field a candidate?  And what about the Libertarians, who are seeking to run a candidate in every congressional district in Virginia for the first time in that party’s history?

Although there won’t be a Republican primary in the 6th district this year, it is possible that the story of this election has just begun.

Quinnipac Releases First Poll

Today, Quinnipac released their first poll for the U.S. Senate race in Virginia.  Not surprisingly, Senator Mark Warner currently enjoys a comfortable lead over former RNC leader Ed Gillespie, 46%-31%.  However, it should be noted that Mr. Gillespie is not the Republican nominee at this point given that he faces Shak Hill and two other challengers at the June state convention. Somewhat surprisingly, the poll also includes Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis who currently stands at 6%, close to the vote percentage he won for governor in the 2012 contest.

As the poll indicates, presently Warner enjoys a plurality of support in his reelection effort 49%-36%.  He is viewed mostly favorably by Virginia voters, 49%-30%.  Should he end up becoming the Republican nominee, most voters (64%) don’t know enough about Ed Gillespie.  At the same time, 80% don’t know enough about Sarvis to form an opinion.

You can find the details of the rest of the poll by following this link.

Yes, it is still quite early in the process, but like most of the pundits out there, at this point I would expect Senator Warner to easily win reelection in November.  Can that outcome change?  Of course it can.

Circling the Republican Wagons

If you look closely, I think you can just make out a Marshall supporter or two.
My first political convention in 2008

In 2014, the Republican Party will select their nominee for U.S. Senate as well as their leaders for congressional chairman at conventions.  Having served as a delegate to the 2008, 2009, and 2013 state conventions as well as the 2012 6th district convention, I’ve enjoyed voicing my opinion when it comes to selecting the most like-minded Republican candidates.  However, I regret to say that I cannot participate this year.

Based upon changes made in the Plan of the Republican Party of Virginia in 2013, the Harrisonburg Republican Party has adopted much stricter rules on who can represent the city at conventions.  They require all delegates to sign a pledge declaring that they have not participated in the nomination contest of another party for the last five years and that each delegate promises to support every Republican nominee.

For the record, the Harrisonburg call reads: “…a person otherwise qualified hereunder shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party in the last five years”.  The call ends with the participant signing a pledge declaring, “…I will support ALL the nominees of the Republican Party in the 2014 General Election.”

Unfortunately, I could not sign such a document for a multitude of reasons.

First, I voted in the 2013 Democratic primary for statewide office.  Previously, I voted in the 2009, 2006, and 2004 Democratic primaries.  The fact that I participated in these contests is not some great secret, I’m fairly certain the information is a matter of public record and I am not ashamed that I did so.  In addition, I also attended the 2012 and 2013 Libertarian Party  conventions although I did not cast a vote.  I will make no apologies for any of these political actions.  Although not a Democrat, I want the Democratic party to nominate the candidate most consistent with my values in much the same way that I want the Republicans and Libertarians to do likewise.  Given that the Democratic primaries are funded by Virginia tax dollars, requiring people to not participate in a political process that they helped fund is nothing short of ludicrous.

Second, I cannot in good faith pledge my loyalty to a candidate without knowing who he or she is or what he or she stands for.  Wasn’t America founded upon the principles of political free will?  And, if so, how could the Republican Party require its delegates to support its candidates blindly?  It is a move bereft of both political and logical sense.

Now, as you might imagine, this pledge is completely unenforceable.  The party cannot legally require a person to support anyone.  I must say that when I support a Republican candidate, it should be because she and I hold similar viewpoints, not simply due to a party label (which unfortunately these days can mean a whole multitude of things).  For example, I gladly supported Republican Senator Mark Obenshain in 2013 because he was my preferred candidate in much the same way that I supported Libertarian Robert Sarvis.  Even though the GOP cannot force anyone to abide by this pledge, I feel it is dishonorable for me to sign something I do not necessarily intend to uphold.  Then again, I believe it is wrong of them to make such a request in the first place.

Now, I should point out that not every local Republican Party has adopted such a binding restriction.  For example, the Waynesboro GOP simply states that “all Participants are required to be in accord with the principles of the Republican Party as expressed in the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia.”  This restriction makes sense and doesn’t deprive anyone of his or her political freedom or require a person to support candidates which he or she believes does not uphold his or her values.  A little over a week ago, I wrote to the Harrisonburg GOP stating that, “in order to participate this year, as far as I can tell, I am faced with three options.  Either I can lie to you and the Harrisonburg GOP, signing a pledge I cannot honorably uphold, I can abandon my principles in order to have a chance to voice my opinion, or I can ask the Harrisonburg GOP to change their requirements.”  I could not choose the first two options and it seems the GOP declined to exercise the third.

Although perhaps not widely known, since 2010 only one Republican candidate has won a contested election in the city of Harrisonburg when facing at least one Democratic opponent and no statewide office seeker has captured the majority of the city’s votes since 2009.  Even when Democratic candidates lose elsewhere, they still win Harrisonburg.

I find it incredibly sad that a party that I’ve devoted so much time to in the last nineteen years would surrender to tactics reminiscent of the Radical Republicans of the 1860s.  Rather than encouraging voters to take an active role in deciding who the Republican nominee will be, some cities and counties, like Harrisonburg, have decided to circle the wagons and deny participation to activists who cannot swear complete and utter political fealty to the GOP.  And what will the results of this restrictive action be?  Will they somehow have the effect of increasing Republican victories?  It seems doubtful.

Dems Attack Gillespie

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A number of conservative activists in Virginia have warned the Republican Party that if they nominate Ed Gillespie for U.S. Senate, Senator Mark Warner will easily win reelection.  They claim that Gillespie supports the idea of a government funded healthcare program and thus will be unable to capitalize on one supposed glaring weakness of Senator Warner, his vote in favor of Obamacare.

Well, today there is a fresh attack ad against Ed Gillespie over this very issue.  However, it does not come from Shak Hill, any of his other Republican convention opponents, or Libertarian Robert Sarvis.  Instead, the salvo originates from the Democratic Party of Virginia; the Democratic Party declares Mr. Gillespie to be a hypocrite and claims that he will sell out if the price is right.  The website is available here.

The emergence and timing of this website raises a few political questions.  Does the Democratic Party simply assume that Gillespie will be the nominee, given that he is likely the frontrunner, and is getting a head start on attacking him early?  Or does the Democratic Party hope that Gillespie will lose the nomination and the Republicans select another candidate who will not have access to the fundraising tools that Gillespie enjoys?

Either way, I suspect that as we draw closer to the Virginia Republican Convention the number and variety of attacks from groups within and outside the GOP will only increase.

On The Passing of Fred Phelps

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Today we have learned that Fred Phelps, Sr., the founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church has died.  He was 84.

Given that Mr. Phelps was a man who preached such vitriol, always ready to declare the God hates this group or that one, I don’t know of anyone who is mourning his passing.  Some people are quite gleeful to hear of his death, looking forward to the protesters who will picket his funeral, in much the same fashion that he did with U.S. soldiers and countless others.  To many, such a sight would be well deserved sweet revenge.  Although it may be difficult, I do not encourage people to take joy in this man’s death.

Yes, Fred Phelps, Sr. was filled with an overabundance of hatred, spreading his awful messages wherever his could.  There is no doubt that he will not be remembered with any fondness.  But I’m wondering if we should not pity his legacy.  Was this a man who ever experienced either joy or love in his life?  Did he have even an ounce of compassion?  Did he ever improve the life of his fellow man?  I’m having a tough time thinking that he did.  Although supposedly a pastor of Jesus, did he know the love of our savior?  Given his actions and words, it’s hard to think the answer was yes.

A hundred years from now, if any memory or history of Mr. Phelps remains, it will likely only be as the founder of a radical hate group, a miserable man who spread misery to others.  Isn’t that a tragedy?  Is that the kind of world that anyone strives to leave to the next generation?

I hope that we can learn something from this man’s life, and not simply be pleased that it is over.  Although it could come off sounding harsh to some (and not harsh enough to others), whether Christian or not, Fred Phelps, Sr. can serve as a negative model to us.  Let us strive to never use our power, influence, or lives to be anything like this man or his message.

Thoughts of Guatemala

A view from a rooftop in Antigua, Guatemala

Even though many of you haven’t been there, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that Guatemala and Virginia are markedly different places and, as such, switching from one to the other brings with it a whole multitude of changes.  Therefore, I’d like to share a few observations of the country.

First there is the weather.  As Guatemala is far closer to the equator, the climate in general is much warmer.  For example, while residents of Virginia worried about the prospect of more snow, Guatemala City routinely experienced temperatures in the 80s, 90s, and even hotter still.  However, there are considerable variations, given that a fair chunk of Guatemala sits along the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  In addition, Guatemala has a lot of changes in elevation.  The capital of Guatemala City is very low in elevation while the highlands where we spent the bulk of our time, were typically 10 to 20 degrees cooler.

People complain about the militarization of the police in America, which is troubling, but the police in Guatemala are even more heavily armed.  It was common to see them carrying weaponry typically reserved for soldiers.  In addition, banks and some businesses employed armed security.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but I find it disconcerting to see a man with a shotgun or sometimes two men standing  vigil outside a bank.

IMG_2584Political signs were prevalent in Guatemala.  You could find them on billboards, on the sides of buildings both commercial and residential, even painted on guardrails and rocks!  Although I knew nothing of the various parties, each had a color and a hand gesture associated with it. Lider was far and away the most common.

Many of the basic facets of life that we take for granted in Virginia are rare or unheard of in Guatemala.  Due to sanitary concerns, we did not drink the tap water anywhere, some communities still used outhouses and even in places where plumbing was available, you could not flush toilet tissue.  Gutters were almost nonexistent.  In the villages, many women still cook over open fires; stove construction was one of the motivations for our journey.  Partially domesticated dogs were a common sight roaming the streets.  I was told not to touch any animal due to the worry of fleas.

Communication wasn’t always easy.  Although Spanish was the most prevalent language, others did not know it, speaking varieties of ancient Mayan.  Then again, almost every time I tried to say something in Spanish, I could only remember German; from time to time I accidentally spoke German leaving everyone even more confused.

What $100 looks like in Guatemala
What $100 looks like in Guatemala

Some businesses accepted only quetzales, the national currency of Guatemala, while other took both quetzales and U.S. dollars.  When I exchanged my money, I received Q763 for $100.  Speaking of money, prices varied greatly on products, likely based upon tourism.  For example, I saw signs for a bottle of Coke as low as Q3 ($.39) and as high as Q12 ($1.57).  Nevertheless, the price of most goods in Guatemala was noticeably lower than in Virginia.  In addition, unlike the United States, haggling was expected.  The original asking price of the painting I bought was Q700; we later agreed upon Q300, a considerable difference.

A painting of Antigua. (Still needs to be properly mounted and framed)
A painting of Antigua. (No, it isn’t damaged, it just still needs to be properly mounted and framed)

Although one could find American fast food establishments like McDonalds, we enjoyed traditional Guatemalan cuisine at almost every meal.  Reoccurring elements included: rice, tortillas, black beans, plantains, and coffee.  However, we did have Dominos pizza one evening.

IMG_2583Soccer, or football as they call it, is a big deal in Guatemala.  Fans get very animated, shouting curses at the other team and making gesture that I later discovered were quite rude.  A sizable group of riot police were on hand at the game to make sure that no one stormed the field.  When I purchased a Pepsi, it was poured into a plastic bag, presumably so I wouldn’t hurl the can at the players or the referees.  I was glad the home team won as I didn’t want to see how the fans would react if they didn’t.

Yes, as Americans, it might be easy to look down upon Guatemalan society as backwards, dirty, and destitute.  After all, they don’t enjoy many of the same facets of life that we often take for granted.  I must confess that I greatly prefer my Virginia (except for the cold).  Nevertheless, having witnessed many parts of their country firsthand, even in the poorest villages, the people generally seemed to be relatively happy and they promoted an ethic of hard work and friendliness.  Aren’t these traits universally sought?

IMG_2615Overall, I would say Guatemala is an exceedingly interesting place to visit and I was grateful for the opportunity to join with my church at RISE in this adventure.  It was fantastic to explore and learn about this country.  In addition, I got to connect with a number of people I had only briefly seen on Sundays.  I must confess that if you would have told me six months ago that I would travel to Guatemala, I would have thought the idea impossible.  Therefore, my advice to you, dear reader, is to be open to the possibility of all sorts of new experiences.  You never know where they might lead!

Perhaps The Answer Is Nothing

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On February 25th of this year, I wrote a post asking the question, “did McCain teach the GOP anything?”  In case you haven’t read it, the central point of the piece was that many Republican activists now admit that the nomination of John McCain for president in 2008 was a mistake.  However, it is unclear whether the Republican Party has learned that a politician holding McCain’s viewpoints is unpalatable to the American people.

Having returned from Guatemala, I have sifted through my crammed inbox and discovered not one, but two emails from the Republican National Committee written by none other than Senator John McCain.  Although sent under different titles, the bodies of both emails are exactly the same.  Here is what the senator from Arizona has to say:

A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military.

Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned.

As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies—and for us.

My friend, what we’re seeing across the world, particularly with the situation with Russia, is the ultimate result of Obama’s reckless and feckless foreign policy.

From the beginning, when he refused to criticize the Iranian government, all the way through his incredible misreading of Vladimir Putin, the tyrant hell-bent on restoring the Soviet empire, Obama has led from behind.

If you want to see where Obama and the Democrats’ priorities lie, look at how much they’ve slashed the defense budget yet found ways to pay for every item on their liberal wish list—the pinnacle being ObamaCare.

What kind of message are we sending when we slash defense funds and shrink the size of our military?

On national defense and international security, Democrats just don’t “get it.”

That is why we must take back the Senate to put a check on Obama’s feckless foreign policy in the final two years of his presidency.

We must return to our best traditions of American leadership—for the sake of the cause of freedom, for the sake of the brave Americans who are willing to give their life for this cause, for the sake of our nation’s peace and prosperity.

We must be committed to peace through strength to protect our national security in this dangerous world.

And we must support those facing brutal tyranny by their oppressors and our enemies.

That’s why we must elect more Republicans to the Senate who will fight for freedom and will promote peace throughout the world.

Contribute $14 to the GOP today to help us take back the Senate in 2014.

Thank you,

Senator John McCain

Senator McCain is right when he criticizes some Democrats for expanding the debt through domestic largesse, but fails to realize that in order to combat this issue we must also shrink our military to more affordable levels.  Instead, he promotes a largely unpopular neo-conservative or Wilsonian ideology of using the American military to get involved in every corner of the globe regardless whether the United States or her citizens are under threat of attack.  Along these same lines, Senator McCain goes on to make threatening remarks against Iran and Russia leaving the reader to wonder if he would advocate war or military action (in the absence of Congressional approval) against one or both of these nations.

Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Americans oppose a globalist, expansive, and intrusive foreign policy like McCain’s.  Unfortunately, the senator still hasn’t gotten the memo.  And, as they offer a platform to Senator McCain to air his positions on this issue, it seems that the Republican National Committee doesn’t understand the American people either.  Although admittedly far more Americans are troubled by Russia since the Crimea issue took shape, there has been considerable buyer’s remorse from the conflict in Iraq, steady opposition to getting involved in Syria, and more Americans seem to favor President Obama’s approach to the Ukraine question than McCain’s.

So has the GOP leadership learned anything from the 2008 elections?  They continue to support John McCain even though, according to Politico, he is the least popular senator in the country (even opposed by a considerable majority of Republicans) and seem to advocate a foreign policy that is expensive and opposed by the will of the American people.  Although there are many factors that can and will sway the 2014 midterm elections, should it come as any surprise if the Republican Party fairs poorly, especially if they run candidates aligned with McCain’s ideology?  If the GOP is serious about retaking the Senate in 2014, they must quickly realize that this kind of email will only make their task all the more difficult.

Like Sergeant Schultz, does the leadership in the RNC hear nothing, see nothing, and know nothing?

A Week in Guatemala

Hello readers!

I want to let you know that is highly unlikely that there will be any updates to The Virginia Conservative for the next week.  In case you didn’t know, I will be leaving the country tomorrow morning to participate in a mission trip with RISE (my church) in Guatemala.

While I’m gone, I’d like to leave you with this song.  They play it during the church service from time to time and I think it appropriate to the occasion.

See you again soon!