Differentiating the Parties

10171024_10152772632113868_2118986644_nThis morning, the group Free & Equal shared this image on Facebook.

The sentiment offered in the picture seems to be increasingly held by more and more Americans…and it isn’t too difficult to understand why.

Many politicians say that the ballooning national debt is a serious problem…unless their party happens to be the one spending the money.

Many politicians say they oppose military conflict and nation building…unless the president happens to be of their party.

Many politicians say they are troubled by the erosion of our civil liberties through the NSA and TSA…unless, of course, they are the very ones advocating legislation or executive action chipping away at our freedoms.

For far too many activists and legislators, the only principle that they seem to follow with any consistency is that an action ought to be opposed when the other party does it, but praised when your own party does the exact same thing.  For these individuals, party has trumped both principle and logic.

Please don’t pretend you haven’t seen and heard it.  It is not difficult to comprehend that many of the policies Barack Obama ran on in 2008 have been cast aside in the same way President Bush did before him.

I doubt you remember it, but Mitt Romney crafted this ad back in 2008.

The line “when Republicans act like Democrats America loses” has resonated in my mind these last six years.  However, I also remember Romney’s 2012 foreign policy debate with Barack Obama when they both offered the exact same solutions to expand U.S. involvement overseas and fully embrace America serving as the world’s policeman.  It was like each was speaking in front of a mirror.

The simple fact is that when either the Republicans or the Democrats expand the size and scope of the government beyond the allowable limits of the Constitution, America loses.  These days, it seems like far too many politicians from both parties are recklessly charging in the same direction.

Is there a difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties?  Of course there is.  But this rank hypocrisy only seems to be getting worse in Washington D.C. and Richmond.

I know some voters have already reached this point, but what happens when a majority of us look at our Republican and Democratic options and shout, like Hilary Clinton exploring the causes of Benghazi, “what difference does it make?”

The First Libertarian

Scan 46Earlier today, I had the chance to meet with Stuart Bain in Salem.  As some of you may know, back in 2010, Mr. Bain was the Libertarian candidate for the 6th congressional district in Virginia.  Coincidentally, during our lunch, longtime legislator and 2012 Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode also met a group in the restaurant.

I remember first speaking to Stuart Bain one evening after a meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party during his campaign.  Never having met a Libertarian candidate before, I was curious to learn more about him.  I remember viewing Libertarians in a negative light at that time; that they were all little more than a version of amoral Republicans who, if they got their way, would legalize all kinds of harmful drugs and destroy the moral underpinnings of our nation, ultimately leading to the decay of our society.

Trying to strike up a dialogue, I introduced myself as a former employee of Dr. Ron Paul.  In response, Stuart Bain asked me if I supported Bob Goodlatte and I told him that I did.  He found my response exceedingly peculiar.  He asked if I favored a limited, constitutional government; of course I said yes.  He asked if I supported the Patriot Act; I’m sure you know the answer was no.  What about the ballooning national debt?  I told him it was awful.  He then informed me that Bob Goodlatte stood in stark contrast to Ron Paul’s positions on these issues.  At the time, I remember being puzzled.  Representative Bob Goodlatte had been in office since before my time in high school and I guess I simply assumed that he was one of the good guys, that his philosophy and mine were in sync.  Assumptions can be dangerous.

Yes, George W. Bush had been a disaster on many issues, but eager to prove that my representative was worthy of the time and support I had given him over the years, upon the suggestion of Stuart Bain, I did my research.  I’m sure you can guess what happened.  The more I read, the more I realized that Bain was right, that Representative Goodlatte didn’t do a particularly good job following many of what I thought were Republican principles.  Over the course of the election I had the opportunity to listen to Stuart Bain a few more times, including in a debate hosted by James Madison University.  At that event, I looked forward to asking Representative Goodlatte about these issues during the question and answer period, but he neither appeared nor apparently even took the time to respond to the invitation.  I thought that move was extremely discourteous to both JMU and to the voters of the 6th district and expressed my displeasure on this blog.

Stuart Bain didn’t seem to fit my preconceived Libertarian mold.  Could there actually be more than one kind of Libertarian?  He stood for much more than drug legalization; for example, he supported Dr. Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act, an exceedingly important issue for a long-time pro-life activist like myself.  Much like the motto of this blog, he advocated a policy of “personal responsibility and liberty“.  Now did we agree on every issue?  Of course not, but comparing Bain with Goodlatte was like night and day.  Therefore, the 2010 election presented a considerable problem.  It was obvious who the best candidate was, but as a 15-year activist in the Republican Party, I didn’t feel I could say anything in support of Stuart Bain even though I sorely wished to do so.  I picked up one of his bumper stickers but I never felt comfortable placing it on my car.

For the record, the city of Salem (Bain’s home) was removed from the 6th congressional district after the 2010 election, so any hope of a future Bain-Goodlatte rematch was dashed.

Getting back to the present, after the election Stuart Bain joined the GOP and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Salem.  As a result, some Libertarians view Mr. Bain with disdain, believing that he abandoned them.  Conversely, some Republicans think of me in the same light, given my support of Robert Sarvis in 2013 and removal from that party in early 2014.  Even though I know some activists will denounce this statement, although we should unite as much as possible, I believe we ought to celebrate the accomplishments of our liberty-minded brothers and sisters in whatever party they believe best serves the movement or even if these actions are done completely outside of a political party.

Remember, good reader, that you never know how your actions will influence those around you.  For example, my attitudes shifted as a result of the 2010 election.  My vote for Stuart Bain in that year led to another Libertarian vote in 2012 and, as most of you know, in 2013 I finally felt comfortable to openly support a Libertarian, Robert Sarvis.

Although our paths have taken us in different directions, I’m glad to know that Mr. Bain is still fighting the fight for liberty.  So, today I write in salute of Stuart Bain, my first Libertarian vote.  Here’s to you!