What is a Republican?

Lately, I’m been mulling over a question in my mind.  What is a Republican?  Having been part of the Republican Party since the age of 15, I thought I knew.

Now, we all know that there is never complete uniformity in any group, but I was under the impression that Republicans stood for a basic set of principles.  That they advocated a relatively small government, one that kept taxes low and let individuals more or less live their lives without too much government interference except if he or she sought to injure his or her neighbor.

Here, let me share with you the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia:

“We Believe:

“That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,

“That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,

“That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,

“That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,

“That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,

“That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.”

Several weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Greene County Republican Party and they opened their meeting by reciting this creed.  I must confess, I cannot recall the last time that I had been to a Republican Party gathering where the creed was read or even acknowledged.

But do all Republicans actually adhere to the principles of limited government conservatism as is found in the creed?  The answer is clearly no.  After all, it was a Republican legislature and Republican Governor McDonnell who passed the 2013 transportation tax bill, dubbed the largest tax increase in Virginia history.  And quite a few of those same Republicans helped pass what was previously known as the largest tax increase under the governorship of Democrat Mark Warner.  Why is it that whenever Republicans take control of the Virginia Senate they choose a leader who has supported these tax increases?  If the GOP was serious about limiting the size of government, don’t you think they would nominate someone other than Senator Norment?

Switching gears to the federal government, which party brought us increased federal government control in education through No Child Left Behind?  Republicans.  Expanded federal involvement in medicine through Medicare Part D?  Again it was Republicans.  What about giving us the civil liberties threatening Patriot Act, or the NSA, TSA, or NDAA?  The GOP controlled Congress and presidency.  And which president got this country embroiled in a Middle East conflict in Iraq which has had lasting repercussions to this day and could result in the formation of a horribly brutal and repressive Islamic state?  Why, it is none other than former President George W. Bush, and yes, I’m sure you know that he is a Republican.  And neither John McCain with his hyperaggressive militarism and disregard for civil rights or Mitt Romney and his RomneyCare would have been any better.

It seems to me, that in general Republicans are far more interesting in holding power than they are electing people that hold any sort of principle.  Personally, I find that sad.  And when grassroots Republicans try to stand on principle, as they did in the 6th district when they unanimously insisted that our representative, Bob Goodlatte, not vote for John Boehner as Speaker of the House, they are ignored.  Some people thought it tantamount to heresy when I suggested to the 2014 Republican Senate nominee Ed Gillespie that he ought to advocate eliminating unconstitutional federal programs in his platform.  In case you are wondering, he isn’t doing so.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party in my home of Harrisonburg is similarly a mess.  In recent times they seem to value a blind adherence to the party rather than a common set of political principles.  Believe what you want, but support the GOP, even if they nominate candidates to whom you have a moral objection.  Is it any wonder then that no Republican has been able to win the city of Harrisonburg when facing a Democratic opponent since 2010?

Although one of the most heavily Republican counties in the state of Virginia, the Augusta County Republican Party seems to be in a continual state of civil war.  Certainly there are many factors involved: the struggle for power and personality conflicts.  However, I’m wondering if what is happening in Augusta isn’t just a never-ending struggle between those who feel electing Republicans is the party’s most important task, compared to those who believe that Republicans ought to nominate people who hold to a certain set of conservative principles as found in the party creed.

This past week, the GOP had a booth at the Rockingham County Fair.  In the past, volunteering there was my absolute favorite political activity, one I looked forward to every year since I was 15.  Given that I am running for office as an independent, was booted from the GOP in the early part of this year, and that I have philosophical differences with some of the Republican nominees, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I did not volunteer for them this year.

6th district Republican Chairman Wendell Walker made an appearance and posted this picture on his Facebook page with the following comment:  10583997_10204312722326836_3587689603352275332_n“Spent time in Rockingham at the county fair, campaigning for Ed Gillespie, Bob Goodlatte, and Harrisonburg city’s next councilwoman, Dede Dalton.”

The problem?  Well, if you know the woman on the left, can read the shirt she is wearing, or can see the signs behind them, you will note her name is D.D. Dawson, not Dede Dalton.  One does have to wonder, does Chairman Walker know anything about Ms. Dawson and her political principles?  Or is the party label all that matters?  Having had several conversations with her myself, I can say there is more to Ms. Dawson than the fact that she is the Republican Party nominee.  I don’t bring this point up to disparage either Ms. Dawson or Mr. Walker, but to further illustrate the dis-functionality of the Republican Party locally, statewide, and nationally.

To tell you a little more about my own circumstances, for over a year I served on the Board of Directors for the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.  I’m glad to say that there have been victories for the moment, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.  But perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that so many liberty-minded people know what I’m saying to be true and they either can’t admit it, or they feel that there is no other alternative than trying to reform the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, that course of action often leaves us feeling ignored or maligned.  For one personal example, in late 2012 I submitted a RLC-VA petition to my local committee calling for the resignation of John Boehner.  But the group wouldn’t hear of it and it was tabled until the start of the next year and then dismissed.  They welcome our help…so long as we keep our views to ourselves.  Thus, when liberty-minded folks cast our ballots, we are often faced with the ordeal of having to “hold our noses” to vote for a Republican candidate that is diametrically opposed to our principles.

When I first met former Republican Robert Sarvis in mid 2013, he told me that the Republican Party is hostile to liberty.  I didn’t believe him at that time and I have to tell you that it was mainly because I didn’t want to believe him.  But as time pressed onward I began to realize that he was unfortunately right.  This is one reason why the Libertarian Party is seeing growth.  We aren’t leaving the Republican Party so much as we are coming to the realization that the Republican Party has already left us.

I must confess I do have the hope, some may call it a naive hope, that Republicans will stand on shared values, but as long as a sizable segment of the party cares only about power and insists on making participants sign loyalty oaths, not to principle, but rather to the party and her candidates, I know that my hope isn’t really realistic.  Although I opposed many positions held by former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA 11), I have to agree with one point he made in 2008, “Members instinctively understand that the Republican brand is in the trash can. I’ve often observed that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

So, how do we answer the question first posed, “What is a Republican?”  It is a question that I wrestled with when I wrote “Some Nights With the GOP” after the Republican losses in 2012.  All I can say is that I don’t know anymore;  there are great Republicans and there are terrible Republicans, but the label itself isn’t particularly meaningful.

Thank You Rep. Capito

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.  Image from her congressional website
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. Image from her congressional website

I must confess that Representative Shelly Moore Capito (R- WV 3) is not a person for whom I have a lot of praise.  In my research, it seems to me that, more often than not, she has consistently advocated policies that increase the size and scope of the federal government.  As such, she and I seem to have what might be considered a fundamental disagreement over the proper role of Washington D.C.

Nevertheless, today Rep. Capito did something some might consider remarkable.  This election cycle, Capito is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.  According to the Charleston Daily Mail, in accepting a debate with her Democratic opponent, Natalie Tennant, Capito “also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate.”  That means she believes John Buckley, the Libertarian candidate, and Bob Baber, the Mountain Party candidate ought to also have a place on the stage.

I firmly believe that when politicians do the right thing, they ought to be praised for it.  And so, today I say thank you to Representative Capito for helping to expand political dialogue in the state of West Virginia.  I hope the politicians from this side of the mountain will take note and learn from your example.

also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf
also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf
also requested every candidate who has qualified to be on the ballot for the election also be invited to participate in the debate. – See more at: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM01/140819521/1298#sthash.684hIDoo.dpuf

Liberty in Morristown, TN

10590577_10152333004466915_4788829315940574805_n
Charles Cook leading the group

This evening, I had the opportunity to meet with Campaign for Liberty of East Tennessee.  The group covers the counties of Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, & Jefferson Counties.

For those unfamiliar with the larger C4L organization, it was one of several pro-liberty groups that formed after the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign.  As I had never attended a regional gathering of Campaign for Liberty, as they don’t really have a presence in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I was intrigued by the prospect.

The meeting attracted twenty-one, including several city and county officials, as well as Tennessee State Representative Tilman Goins (R-Morristown).

The first topic discussed was the issue of the welfare state.   According to the data presented, the average welfare recipient in many states earned a surprising sum of money.  For example, someone in Virginia would make the equivalent of $11.11 per hour, assuming he or she was working a 40 hour week, considerably more than the minimum wage.  Given such an incentive, it would seem going on welfare would provide better financial security than some forms of employment.  In addition, the leader, Charles Cook, pointed to statistics which showed that Hispanics had a lower percentage of welfare recipients per capita than either whites or blacks.  Immigration, he argued, isn’t the major problem concerning jobs in the nation, but rather the continued expansion of welfare.

The second issue was an examination of campaign finance data from selected candidates and a PAC in the recent primaries.  Apparently, one PAC in particular donated considerable sums of money to its preferred candidates in this election.  In addition, one of the candidates seemed to have mislead voters regarding these funds.

Personally, I thought it was a good sign to see a fairly sizable gathering of individuals, committed to principle, work together to make a positive impact on their community.  I especially appreciated the fact that quite a few of their elected officials seemed to care about the ideals of liberty.  Perhaps it is a model that can be used in other parts of the country…like a number of regions of Virginia.

News & Advance Does The Right Thing

Lynchburg’s newspaper, The News & Advance, recently posted a poll regarding the U.S. Senate race in Virginia.  In it, they asked respondents if they favored Democratic Senator Mark Warner, Republican Ed Gillespie, or none of the above.  The only problem, as readers of the blog already know, is that they failed to include the third candidate, Libertarian Robert Sarvis.

Now, if Sarvis’ name wasn’t actually listed on the ballot, then excluding him wouldn’t be any big deal.  However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the fact that Sarvis had to jump through the additional election hoop of collecting signatures from at least 10,000 registered Virginia voters, meant that his campaign was unfairly burdened.  And then, to top it all off, he is erased from debates and polls.

Well, as a result of this oversight, either intentional or unintentional, a number of folks, myself included, contacted The News & Advance.  Here is their reply:

Good morning,
You are absolutely correct that Mr. Sarvis should have been included. It was an honest mistake, not any deliberate act of exclusion. We have reset the poll results and added him to the choices.
Best,
Matt Busse
The News & Advance
Shortly thereafter, the paper changed their website to include all three of the candidates that will be listed on the November ballot.  If you would care to express your opinion on this race, you can do so at this link.
This isn’t so much a matter of political preference, but rather one of fairness.  I hope there would be an outcry if Mark Warner or Ed Gillespie were omitted too.
I was glad to see The News & Advance do the right thing.

Former GOP Candidate Joins Team Sarvis

1459223_579583588778245_530513368_nAs you may recall, in late 2013 Caleb Coulter ran for the Republican nod for a special election to the 11th district in the Virginia House of Delegates.  As a fellow Ron Paul supporter, I was extremely enthusiastic about the possibility of Caleb advocating our shared values in Richmond and therefore was glad to endorse him.  Unfortunately, he was disqualified from running and the Republican who ended up with the nomination did not do well.  However, I knew that we had not seen the last of Caleb; he would continue the fight for limited government and personal responsibility.

Well, several weeks ago I received word that Mr. Coulter has chosen to serve as the campaign manager for Robert Sarvis, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.  Tonight, I am finally able to share that news.

As someone who has worked for both Robert Sarvis and the cause of liberty, I wish Caleb well in this future endeavor and look forward to seeing his efforts in action.

For additional information, here is a piece from the Augusta Free Press.

November continues to get more interesting.

Curious Events in the 7th

Rep. Eric Cantor's official photo from his website
Rep. Eric Cantor’s official photo from his website

Today, Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) announced that he will be resigning his seat before the November election.  As such, he has asked the governor to hold a special election.  Cantor, as you likely know, was beaten in a fairly surprising upset by Dave Brat.

Reactions to this news have been mixed.  Some praise Cantor as doing so would allow whoever won the seat to take office immediately thus having a leg up in seniority over others elected on November 4th.  Others speak harshly of the former majority leader claiming that he is abandoning his constituents and “taking his ball and going home”.  And then there is the response from the Carr campaign.

James Carr is the Libertarian candidate for the House of Representatives in Cantor’s district.  His press release from a few moments ago reads, “There are few maneuvers in politics so blatantly contrary to the best interest of the voters as election manipulation.  I hope the public will take notice of and respond appropriately to this attempt to control their votes in November.” 

But why does Carr make such a claim?  Well, he adds, “The request for a special election to be held clearly is intended to remove me from that ballot.  If the governor grants a special election, not only will the winner be placed in office immediately and gain many of the benefits associated with Mr. Cantor’s seniority in congress, but the ballot qualification process will be reset as this would be a separate election which means I would have to qualify for this one as well.  This is intended to limit the likelihood of a voter choosing one candidate in the special election (which only applies to the remainder of 2014) and another in the general.”

If Carr’s statement is true, switching to a special election would certainly have a negative affect on our electoral process as it could exclude one of the qualified candidates.  To seek out the answer, I called the Virginia State Board of Elections.  They confirmed that if a special election is called, the previous signatures will be ignored for this race and Mr. Carr will have to go through the signature collection process again.

So what do you think?  Is Cantor’s resignation a positive, a negative, or something else?