Thankful for RISE

With today being Thanksgiving, a number of my Facebook friends have listed who and what they are grateful for.  Well, I suppose that I should start off by saying thanks to Laura for assisting me in getting my current job several month ago, though I regret to say it will be ending shortly and I’m doing what I can to find the next.  I’m thankful for my friends, both political and non-political who helped me endure the campaign for city council and life in general.  I appreciate the members of my family who have been there for me over the years.  But today I’d especially like to thank my faith community at RISE.

This week is special to me for it marks two years since I first attended RISE.  Back then, one of my very important friends told me about the church that she was attending.  In truth, I stopped going to any church several years before this time due to a falling out with the church I grew up in.  Yes, I attended a few random churches on occasion, but nothing with any regularity.  Anyway, as this friend seemed to be in poor spirits the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2012, I decided to make a surprise visit to RISE in the hopes of cheering her up.  I showed up wearing a button-up shirt and a tie, customary for the churches I had attended in the past, but I’d say too formal for RISE.  Ah, just one of many memories.

Anyway, as the slogan of RISE goes, “receive love, give love, repeat”. I hope that we’ve done just that.

Over these last two years, I have certainly received considerable support from the folks at RISE and hope that I have, in turn, been of value to those who need it.  We’ve done many things together: went on a mission trip to Guatemala, ran a 5k, gleaned a local garden, enjoyed some delicious mac & cheese, helped feed 31,000, and much, much, more.

I don’t really know what has happened to my now former friend, the one who told me about RISE.  I’ve not seen her on any Sunday in 2014 and only shared a handful of words these last months.  I cannot say if she has found a new church home or, like I was before finding RISE, is alone in the spiritual wilderness.  Either way, from time to time I do pray for her.

Whether it is during this winter or at some point down the road, I’m looking forward to the opportunity of sharing the story of my spiritual journey with my faith community. Should that day come, I hope you’ll sit in to share the experience.

If you are looking for a new church home in the Harrisonburg area or are spiritually searching, I hope you’ll think about joining me some Sunday at 10 AM at the Court Square Theater.

Anyway, getting back to the main point, today is a day to give thanks to everyone who has been there in the most difficult of times.

So, thank you!

Hostile to Liberty?

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the woman who runs Dr. Paul’s Voices of Liberty.  During our conversation, we spoke of a handful of topics such as the first time each of us met Ron Paul, potential articles for the website, etc.

At one point, we somehow got on the matter of my expulsion from the Republican Party and she remarked how she thought that could make an interesting piece for the website.  And so, you can find that story here.

(Campaign) Fiscal Responsibility

A few moments ago, I received an email from the Ed Gillespie for Senate campaign.  Entitled “a last request”, the campaign makes one more pitch for funds asking, “Will you click here to contribute a suggested donation of $10 to help our campaign pay our final bills?”

Yes, campaigns are certainly expensive endeavors.  Each one seems to demand greater resources than the previous cycle.

Looking at it from my own personal experience, my run for city council always seemed to press me for more cash.  Did I want more money?  Of course!  With additional funding I could have done so much more, such as placing ads in the newspaper or on the radio or perhaps creating a few yard signs that some people seem to think are absolutely necessary.  But, at the end of the day, I allocated my resources the best I knew how and avoiding spending money I didn’t have.  My reasoning was that if a person is unable to exercise fiscal responsibility in his or her campaign, why should we entrust them with such power in local, state, or national government?

The Gillespie campaign came amazing close to victory and campaign deficit spending is certainly not unique to their effort.  Nevertheless, I’d recommend that campaigns exercise a little more discretion in their spending.  After all, who wants to send out an email after the election is over asking for money?  And who is willing to donate at this point, especially to a candidate that didn’t win?

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XVII)

After a two month hiatus, I (Joshua Huffman) have returned to 550 AM WSVA.  Together with Andy Schmookler we discuss the political issues of the day.

The big topics up for consideration today were: reflections about running for political office (as I ran for Harrisonburg City Council this year and Andy ran for House of Representatives in 2012) and thoughts about the surprisingly close U.S. Senate race between Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie, and Robert Sarvis.

In case you missed it, you can find the program here.

The Death of the Tea Party

Today I have the difficult task of writing the obituary for the tea party movement.  Where do I begin?

Well, the tea party movement was an interesting adventure in American politics.  Chapters grew up seemingly organically around the nation; there was no central organization or leadership.  In the early days, they opposed the big government policies and politicians in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, treating both with suspicion.

For the last several years, the tea party movement has been in decline.  Although supposedly non-partisan, almost all have slipped quietly (or not-so-quietly) into the fold of the Republican Party.

10613072_10204123444679426_6712838461521736272_nAs one example, let’s consider the Hampton Roads Tea Party in Virginia.  On their Facebook page, they proudly declare that they are “A fiercely non-partisan group dedicated to the U.S. (and VA) Constitutions, free markets, community-based solutions, and creating a truth-fed fire for Liberty in future generations. Actus non Verbum (Actions not Words)!”

However, during the 2014 election cycle they posted numerous pieces urging their supporters to get behind Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, providing links to volunteer, and offered a Republican sample ballot created by a group called Friends of the Elephant.

HRTPToday, the Hampton Roads Tea Party took yet another step by encouraging members of their group to officially join the Republican Party of Virginia.  Because of these developments, one would be hard-pressed to call the group “non-partisan” any longer.

Now, this situation isn’t unique to Hampton Roads.  For example, in 2013, shortly before the Virginia Republican State Convention, the leader of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party announced that the group would support whichever candidates won that convention regardless of their political positions.  The next year, during the 2014 July 4th parade, one member created posters saying that everyone should vote Republican.  As I was helping them assemble the float, am a long-time member of the group, and was an independent candidate seeking local office, I was able to persuade them not to offer the citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham a message more or less shilling for a political party.

However, I suppose if we are going to look at the issue objectively, many tea parties these days are shells of their former selves, serving as little more than wings of their respective Republican units.  What a pity!  After all, wasn’t the original objective of the tea party to oppose the excesses of both the Democratic and Republican Parties?  Wasn’t the main purpose to adhere to constitutional limitations and fight against tax increases?

I remember back when I first started getting involved with our local tea party I noticed that the local Republican Party always sent a representative to every meeting, not sent to talk, but to observe what was going on.  But for the last several years they have not done so.  Why not?  Well, because there is no need; the tea party has become one of their closest allies.  As another example, the current leader of the Staunton Tea Party is married to the current leader of the Augusta County Republican Party.  The Republicans and tea party members have become pretty much indistinguishable.  And if the tea party’s mission now is strictly wed to the Republican Party mission, it has made itself both redundant and useless.  The tea party did not take over the Republican Party, the Republican Party took over the tea party.

Although there are likely tea parties that still adhere to the original mission, by in large I think it safe to say that the tea party movement has failed.  It had a good run, but the tea party is dead.

Politics at JMU

Today, students heading to the Commons at JMU were greeted by a warning sign.IMG_2696  Last seen in November of 2011, the Genocide Awareness Project hosted by the Center for Bio-ethical Reform had returned to Harrisonburg.  Like then, one major purpose of this group is to display graphic pictures of abortions to college students with the goal of altering perceptions on the issue.  As their thinking goes, it is far easier to support abortion until you come face-to-face with images of the practice.IMG_2700

IMG_2701Although spur of the moment, one student took issue with the display and staged a quiet counter protest nearby.

IMG_2697In addition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy also tabled at that location.  Offering students free hot chocolate and a more upbeat message, they attempted to draw attention toward their concerns; whether G.A.P. aided or hindered their activities is uncertain.

CBR will be moving on this evening but SSDP will return to the Commons again tomorrow afternoon, this time offering students lemonade.

Love it or hate it, it was another interesting day of politics on the campus of JMU.

Sarvis Steals Another One!

Ed Gillespie the day before the election
Ed Gillespie the day before the election in Staunton, VA

I’m sure that many of you were shocked by the closeness of the U.S. Senate race here in Virginia.  After all, who would have predicted that Democrat Mark Warner, who beat Republican Ed Gillespie by at least nine percentage points in every poll but one, would emerge victorious by only about half a percentage point?

Also in the race was Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.  Sarvis, as many will remember, ran last year for governor capturing 6.5% of the vote in a race where only about 2.5% separated the Republican and the Democrat.  As such, a number of Republican activists blamed Sarvis for that outcome, claiming that he siphoned enough votes from Ken Cuccinelli to allow Terry McAuliffe to claim victory.

Given that Libertarian Robert Sarvis won almost 2.5% of the vote in this election, some Republicans are claiming, once again, that Sarvis stole another election from them.

Robert Sarvis at a recent stop at JMU
Robert Sarvis at a recent stop at JMU

The theory behind this argument is that without Sarvis in the race, most of his supporters would instead choose the Republican candidate.  In 2013, exit polls showed that a greater percentage of Sarvis voters would have selected the Democrat over the Republican if he were not in the race.  After all, he captured more liberals than conservatives, more young than old, and more college graduates than graduates.  These are groups that typically trend toward the Democratic Party.

Although I haven’t seen the exits polls for 2014, I believe the opposite happened this time.  A larger percentage of typical Republican voters cast their ballots for Sarvis than the Democrats.  Almost all self-identified liberty-minded Republicans that I know either cast their ballots for Sarvis or simply left it blank.

“Ah ha!” The Republican establishment shouts.  “So you admit that Sarvis stole the 2014 election!”

My answer is no.

Stealing something implies that you have taken something that doesn’t belong to you.  I would argue that no candidate or party has an automatic right to any person’s vote regardless of their previous voting history or ideology.  Votes are always earned and must be re-earned each and every election; they never should be taken for granted.  We aren’t political slaves!

Let’s rewind the clock to the 2002 U.S. Senate election in Virginia.  That was John Warner’s last election.  You remember John Warner, don’t you?  He was the long-serving Republican Senator from Virginia who recently endorsed Democrat Mark Warner for Senate.  As a result, some people now consider him a traitor.  But this recent revelation conveniently overlooks the fact that he rarely fought for the supposedly Republican principles of restraining the power of the federal government.  In addition, he supported gun control and abortion, two positions in stark contrast to a majority of Virginia Republicans.    And then there is Warner’s proclivity to oppose the “Republican team” as he did when he denounced Ollie North in 1994 and Mike Farris in 1993.

Even though John Warner and I shared the same political party back then, I could not bring myself to vote for him and thus left that portion of the ballot blank.  Did sticking to my principles make me a “bad Republican”?

As stated, this year many conservatives and libertarians who consider themselves Republicans did not feel that Ed Gillespie shared their principles and thus either cast their vote for Sarvis, wrote in Shak Hill, or didn’t vote at all.  Who can blame them?  After all, the last time I spoke to Ed Gillespie, I asked him which unconstitutional federal agencies would he work to eliminate, his response was that he would “check with his advisers and get back in touch with me”.  For someone who believes the federal government has grown too large, that answer was unacceptable and showed, much like Warner over a decade earlier, that he and I disagreed on the most important and fundamental principles of our constitutional republic.  Like 2002, if I didn’t have an acceptable option, I simply would not have voted for any of the candidates for Senate.

So, yes.  If Robert Sarvis had not been in the race, Gillespie might have ended up winning.  But regardless of my opinion of Sarvis, I’m glad that voters had a third choice so they didn’t have to simply vote for the lesser of two evils.  The Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties, as well as independents have as much of a right to run candidates as the Republicans and Democrats.  And, if voters believe that their candidates are better than one or both of the major party candidates, then perhaps they ought to solve this problem by running better candidates.  Or, given that Sarvis used to be a Republican, perhaps they ought to work harder to grow the party and stick with their supposed principles as opposed to driving folks away or simply kicking people out of the party as they did in my case.

Just don’t complain that the election was “stolen”.

Gillespie Stumps In Staunton

IMG_2693A guest post by Drew Massengill

Tweed jackets and seasonal sweaters began to fill up the side dining room of Rowe’s Family Restaurant. The windblown and rose-cheeked cautiously chose their seats, ensuring they were near others with whom they were sufficiently familiar. They came from all over. Some wanted to see, and others wanted to be seen. Some came to voice their opinion, while some had yet to form one.

“He’s running a smidge late. Just mingle amongst yourselves.”

Like all politicians, Ed Gillespie was running the ubiquitous twenty minutes behind schedule. An older man mused why he and his wife even showed up; they had voted early, fearing an imminent death might cost them the chance to cast their ballot for the man they hoped could wrest control of the Senate from the iron grip of Mark Warner.

Gillespie wasn’t the only one to benefit from the impressive turnout of the Republican base in Augusta County and beyond. Blue blazers and bow ties swirled around the room as state representatives and Republican personalities took advantage of the lull to make connections and garner support for their own political ambitions.

Conversations quickly ceased and gave way to applause once the Senate hopeful walked into the room. The crowd had grown tired of its pie and pleasantries. They were ready to hear from the man on whom many have placed their hope for a Red Virginia.

Capitalizing on the momentum of his well-received entrance, Gillespie started rousing the troops. Amidst the typical campaign boilerplate, there was bit of call and response. Like a preacher of old-time religion, his fervor and confidence seamlessly spread amongst the crowd until whoops of assent echoed through the restaurant. Cheering and rounds of applause followed each vague promise of policy change as if it was tribute to the modern State of the Union.

Sensing the end of the speech, the crowd entered into rhythmic clapping and offered a standing ovation. And, as quickly as it began, Mr. Gillespie’s time in Staunton was finished. A customary “God bless the United States of America”, some glad-handing, and he was gone.

Trailing by near double-digits in every major poll, Ed Gillespie’s enthusiasm and energy defy reality. He ostensibly believes that, though out-spent, his supporters have out-worked Warner’s campaign machine. In a little over twenty-four hours, we will find out if all that hard work will have paid off.