Christian? Vote Republican!

Around lunch time, I received word of an ad that the Augusta County GOP is running in today’s The News Leader.  I read an article about the ad online, but needed to see it for myself.  Therefore, after I finished eating I hopped in my car and drove to a gas station in Weyers Cave to pick up a copy of the paper.  Inserted in the middle, I found this image.

ScanWhen I heard of this ad, my first reaction was extreme anger.  I find using the lines “Preserve our Christian Heritage! Vote Republican” amazingly offensive as it seems to say that if you are a Christian and you care about maintaining a moral society then you must vote Republican.  Having worked for a number of Republican candidates and the party itself, I can assure you that not every Republican official and candidate has an interest in “preserving our Christian heritage”.

In addition, the ad seems to imply that if you are Christian then you ought to join your Christian brothers and sisters in voting for all of the Republican candidates.  As a Christian as well as an independent candidate in the 2014 elections, I would have been absolutely furious if the local Republican Party or one of their candidates pulled such a stunt, using religion to try to score cheap political points.  After all, being a Republican doesn’t necessarily mean that you follow the example of Christ.  In the same way, belonging to another political party or being non-affiliated doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a Christian.  This ad is unfair at best and a pandering falsehood at worst.

No, the Republican Party does not have a monopoly on morality and the Christian faith.  For them to suggest otherwise shows that the Augusta County GOP leadership has very poor judgment.

Here’s another perspective.  Are you agnostic, atheist, Hindu, Jewish, or Muslim?  Apparently, according to this ad, you aren’t welcome in the Augusta County GOP.

I therefore condemn this ad and call upon the various Republican candidates representing Augusta County to likewise repudiate it.  How shameless can you get?

Ben Carson’s Religion

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Some polls have indicated that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has opened up a lead in Iowa.  In related news, recently Donald Trump decided to attack Carson over his faith, highlighting that he is a Seventh Day Adventist and thus questioning if Seventh Day Adventists are actually Christians.

It is true that some people consider Seventh Day Adventists to be a cult and thus not “true” Christianity.  Part of this opinion stems from the early days of the church when William Miller incorrectly predicted the end of the world in 1844.  In addition, they have several doctrines, such as the keeping of the traditional Jewish Sabbath, that set them apart from other groups.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, declares that he is a Presbyterian.  However, church records indicate that his involvement with that group is limited.

These attacks are nothing new.  For example, in 2012, some people attacked Barack Obama for being a secret Muslim.  Others derided Mitt Romney for being a Mormon.  Given their unique theological beliefs, there are many who don’t consider the Latter Days Saints to be Christian.  One of my friends declared that it is “better to vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.”  However, that issue is a topic for another day.

Back in 1960, the same fears were voiced against Jack Kennedy, with worries that given he was a Catholic, he would be an agent of the Pope.  Switching to more local politicians, given the religious makeup of the 6th district of Virginia, I’m surprised that no one has made a campaign issue of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s faith, given that he is a Christian Scientist, which again some people think isn’t real Christianity.  Even Ben Carson recently weighed in on the subject of religion declaring that a Muslim should not be president.

Personally, I think these kind of attacks miss the point.  Last I checked, we are looking to elect a president, not a pastor or priest.  We are looking for someone to save our nation, not save our souls.  The government and the church aren’t directly tied together and I think it would be very problematic for our faith if the government decided to get any more involved in religious matters.  They have done enough damage already!  The simple truth is that we have a wide variety of religious beliefs in this country and if we all decided to elect politicians who shared our theological viewpoints it would be impossible.  And yet some people (typically those on the right side of the political spectrum) try to make this matter a central issue.

Yes, religious faith is an important part of a person’s character, but what church, synagogue, mosque, or temple he or she chooses to be a part of, if any, does not necessarily indicate the depth or quality of his or her faith.  After all, there are plenty of so-called Christians who don’t practice what they supposedly believe.  As the book of James says:

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  James 2:20-26 NLT

So, don’t simply judge anyone, whether he is a candidate for political office or not, based upon stated religious affiliation.  Remember that some practice what they believe while others don’t.  After all, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16 NLT.  A rosebush may look nice, but it is full of thorns and doesn’t provide much for useful consumption.

Therefore, instead of picking politicians based upon church membership, it is far better to ask yourself which of these candidates share my political views and which do I trust to honor his or her word.  Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.  Good for him.  But where does he stand on the issues that matter most to you and me?

In Memory of Terrence Boulden

Photo from Terrence Boulden's Facebook page
Photo from Terrence Boulden’s Facebook page

This morning, I received some tragic news.  Terrence Boulden has died.  Although I don’t believe I ever met Mr. Boulden in person, I certainly considered him a colleague.  Like many of us, he was a part of the conservative Virginia blogosphere, and he was the driving force behind the Virginia Black Conservatives.

Although our group isn’t large, we are all driven by a desire to promote our shared (and sometimes opposing) political viewpoints.  And today we are diminished.  It is quite possible that Mr. Boulden is our first loss since I joined the movement back in 2008.

Life can be short, life can be uncertain.  Last night, Terrence posted an image cheering on the San Francisco 49ers who were playing football that evening…and just a few hours later he was gone.  It was sudden.  It was unexpected.

His passing inspires a moment of reflection and a few thoughts.

 

It is impossible to live without regrets.  Nevertheless…

Live your life with passion

Live your life with love

Live your life treating others as you would like them to treat you

Live in such a way so that all can see your faith through your words and deeds

Live so that when the day comes that you stand before God, he will declare you his good and faithful servant

 

My prayers today are with Terrence Boulden, his family, his friends, and all those who his life has touched.  Rest in peace, my fellow blogger.

A Cry for Party Unity?

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

This morning, I read a piece on Bearing Drift where Brian, the author, calls for party unity in the Republican Party.  Specifically, he points to the 29th House of Delegates district in Virginia where some supporters of Delegate Mark Berg have openly declared that they will be writing in Berg’s name as opposed to voting for the Republican who defeated him in the June primary.  The writer is upset that Delegate Berg has not publicly denounced this grassroots plan.  Chris Collins, the Republican candidate in the 29th is running unopposed in the general election.

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is all too common in the Republican Party these days.  Support the party no matter what!  It doesn’t matter what the candidate stands for, at the end of the day all Republicans must support him!

I think back to my expulsion from the local GOP over a year and a half ago.  And it’s true, although I was member of the Republican Party (and a former employee of the state party), I began to openly oppose Republicans who I felt didn’t represent my values.  When I was removed, I got into a discussion with one of the local leaders about the situation.  I said that we needed to support strong conservatives and libertarians who stood up for the Creed of the Virginia Republican Party.  She disagreed declaring that “a good Republican” was one “that supports all of the Republican candidates”.  What an unfortunate state of affairs.  Think about what is being said.  Where a candidate stands, what his or her principles and ethics are doesn’t really matter.  All Republicans are expected to support the Republican nominee…no matter what.

Yes, I supported Delegate Berg in the 2015 primary even though I didn’t live in the district and I took off part of the day to campaign for him at the polls.  In response, my state senator’s former legislative assistant, an entrenched establishment Republican, began attacking me on Facebook saying that it wasn’t right for me to help a candidate I believe in because I wasn’t a member of the party any longer.  That’s funny.  I thought we lived in a nation where we still enjoyed freedom of speech and freedom of association.  Do you think he would have complained if I had aided Berg’s establishment backed opponent?

What I’ve noticed is that the establishment calls for party unity when they want to get their hack of a candidate elected, but have no problem leaving principled people high and dry.  The driving motivation of some people is to elect members of their party and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what these people stand for.  In fact, it is better if they are ruled by their ambitions rather than ideology for these people will be more likely to avoid controversy because they will do whatever the party leadership in Richmond or Washington tells them to do.  They feel that they must keep the conservatives and libertarians quiet and under a tight leash or the leaders could be exposed as the frauds they are.  Party unity in the GOP is a joke.  A sad, pathetic joke.

12105703_10153363121401051_4033843500359479141_nAlthough I certainly have policy disagreements with Dr. Ben Carson, I think he hits the nail on the head with his quote, “the problem with Washington is that we’ve all become Democrats and Republicans instead of Americans.  Everything is aimed at enhancing a political position instead of strengthening America.”

Make whatever jokes about the Libertarian Party you like, but recently the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida resigned instead of supporting a potentially fascist Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.  Are there many Republican Party leaders who would do likewise if placed in a similar situation?

At this point frankly, I don’t care if the Republicans or the Democrats control Congress.  Speaker John Boehner made it abundantly clear that he would sell-out the grassroots and punish principled legislators who tried to hold him to account.  Will his replacement be any better?  In addition, I don’t care which of the two parties wins control of the Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  What I do care about is electing men and women who will boldly and unreservedly stand up for my principles and who are more worried about advancing liberty and limiting the size and scope of government at all levels instead of pleasing the party bosses and maintaining their power base for as long as possible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If I lived in the 29th House of Delegates district, I would write in Delegate Mark Berg on November 3rd.  Then again, maybe I have the freedom to say such things because I’m a liberated former Republican.

One reason why this country is so screwed up is that politicos have forgotten that principles should guide political parties and not the other way around.  Want to know why outsiders are currently leading in the Republican presidential primaries?  It’s because honest, hard-working Americans are sick of this “party first” crap.  Given their current disdain for him, will the establishment remember this call for unity next year and rally behind Donald Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee?  I’m glad I have liberty to make that decision for myself.

Photos from Dukes Debate

IMG_3038Twice a year, the James Madison University SGA plays host to a tri-partisan political debate between the James Madison College Democrats, the College Republicans, and Madison Liberty.  One of these discussions takes place in the spring and the other in the fall.  Tonight was the 2015 autumn debate.

Here are a few photos from the event:

If you are interested in reading the audience commentary of the debate from the live Twitter feed, it can be found here.

Those Peculiar Anabaptists

While walking to church at RISE United Methodist Church this morning, I thought about yesterday’s events.  Walking often provides a good opportunity to reflect and I strongly encourage you to do so as well.  However, sometimes these walks can be unplanned, such as when you accidentally lock yourself out.  Anyway, as I thought about my visit to a Baptist church last night in Broadway, Virginia, to hear a gospel/bluegrass group, I realized that it had been quite a while since I last visited a Baptist church.  In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time that I had done so.

I thought back to my time in the church of my youth, which, at least for the moment, is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Specifically, I remembered the Book of Confessions, which, along with the Book of Order, governs the major theological and organizational structure of the denomination.  Many of you might think it odd that a rank and file member would read such a book, but I believe that knowledge is valuable and one should strive to learn something new everyday.  Anyway, as I recalled from reading that book a few years ago, the PCUSA didn’t have anything good to say about believer baptism and the Anabaptists.  Although scholars debate the extent of the influence, Baptists churches share some views and history with the Anabaptist movement.  And, there are direct successors to the Anabaptist movement, such as the Mennonites and the Amish.

anabaptistmartyr
One early “solution” to the Anabaptists

Once I got home, I found the Book of Confessions and looked up what was written about the Anabaptists.  You could hardly call the answer conciliatory.  For example, it includes the Second Helvetic Confession, which reads, “ANABAPTISTS.  We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that new-born infants of the faithful are to be baptized.”  It goes on to add, “…we condemn also the Anabaptists in the rest of their peculiar doctrines which they hold contrary to the Word of God.  We therefore are not Anabaptists and have nothing in common with them.”

Think about that idea for a moment.  “We condemn…the Anabaptists…and have nothing in common with them.”  Aren’t both Presbyterians and Anabaptists part of the larger Christian community?  Don’t they both desire to promote the message and teachings of Jesus to the world?  And yet here we have the Presbyterians openly denouncing the Anabaptists, declaring that they have nothing in common.

However, you shouldn’t think that this one mention is some outlier of the disdain the Presbyterians have for the Anabaptists.  Similar thoughts also show up elsewhere in the Second Helvetic Confession as well as in The Scots Confession.

Now, to be fair, although I grew up in a Presbyterian Church, I agree with the Baptists and the Mennonites on the issue of infant baptism.  I think that each person should be allowed to make the decision for him or herself whether or not to be baptized.  Baptism, in my mind, is an outward demonstration to the community of a believer’s faith in Jesus Christ.  I admit that I am disappointed that I was baptized when I was a child and thus was not given the opportunity to make this decision for myself freely.

Yes, there are a wide variety of Christian denominations, each with varying beliefs on issues of baptism, communion, structure and leadership of the church, and a whole host of other theological and organizational issues.  On many matters the Bible is either silent or has been interpreted in different ways by a variety of church leaders.  That’s one reason why there are so many denominations in Christianity today.

However, the Anabaptists aren’t alone in earning the Presbyterians’ condemnation in the Book of Confessions.  Included as well are: The Roman Catholic Church, Epicureans, Manichaeans, Marcionites, Pelagians, Jovinians, Stoics, Navatianos, Catharists, not to mention both the Jews and the Muslims.

It should be noted that in the preface of the Book of Confessions, the PCUSA adds, “Specific statements in 16th and 17th century confessions and catechisms in the Book of Confessions contain condemnations or derogatory characterizations of the Roman Catholic Church.”  However, these “condemnations and characterizations of the Catholic Church are not the position of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and are not applicable to current relationships between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Catholic Church.”  Nevertheless, I can find no mention of any retraction of the harsh language against the Anabaptists, others who oppose infant baptism, or any of the other listed groups.

Through my studies I have come to reject most of the Reformed Tradition that underpins Presbyterian doctrine.  However, is it useful to wholesale condemn those “peculiar” Anabaptists, those incorrect Presbyterians, or any other denomination?  Although I attend a Methodist church, I disagree with them on the issue of baptism.  Nevertheless, aren’t we all brothers and sisters in the larger body of Christ even when our theology divides us?  How is it helpful to the larger ideals of Christianity to have Christians displaying such rancor toward each other?  Should we be teaching hate over issues that the average Christian probably doesn’t think much about?  And what purpose does it serve to condemn the Jewish or the Muslims?  Is it possible to engage in any sort of meaningful dialogue using such language?  Or is it the desire of some church leaders to keep us in open hostility with each other?  Couldn’t we instead simply state that we have major theological disagreements without all of the condemnation?  One of my best friends growing up was a Mennonite.  Should I have had nothing to do with him or those who share his beliefs as the doctrines of my former church taught?

I don’t know.  Maybe I feel this way just because I don’t neatly fit into a mold; my own beliefs are a rather curious amalgamation of the churches I’ve attended and explored including: Brethren, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, and now Methodist, but I’d rather speak with and learn from others, including my Mennonite and Baptist friends, rather than condemn them and declare that I “have nothing in common with them”.  After all, none of us is perfect nor should any of us declare that we alone hold absolute knowledge.  People learn, grow, and change, but that process is much more difficult in an environment of condemnation as opposed to one of communication.  Are we following Christ’s example when we either literally or figuratively burn each other at the stake?

Let me close with a few thoughts from the Apostle Paul.

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other.  Let there be no divisions in the church.  Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.  For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.  Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.”  Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.”

Has Christ been divided into factions?  Was I, Paul, crucified for you?  Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul?  Of course not!

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 NLT

Virginia21 Does The Right Thing

12079666_10206444770349449_6974739801766480757_nAt the end of September, the group Virginia21 announced that they would be holding a debate between the candidates for the 10th district in the Virginia Senate.  This event would be taking place at Virginia Commonwealth University on October 20th.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  After all, it would give voters a chance to learn about their choices.  However, the problem is that they had only invited the Democratic and Republican candidates and had excluded two other candidates who would also be appearing on the November ballot.

As such, I contacted Virginia21 to inform them of this oversight.  I was told that at that time they only planned to include the major party candidates, much like the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates does or how one candidate was left out of all of the debates in both the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race and the 2014 Virginia US Senate election.  After hearing this decision, I contacted a variety of folks, including one of the slighted candidates, as well as posting on a variety of Facebook groups in an attempt to right what I felt was an injustice.

About two weeks later, Virginia21 changed their Facebook event to announce that their debate would now be including all four of the candidates.  As such, their event will be featuring: Marleen Durfee (Independent), Dan Gecker (Democrat), Carl Loser (Libertarian), and Glen Sturtevant (Republican).  Therefore, I’m pleased to say if you live in the Richmond area, I strongly encourage you to attend this event.  It starts at 6 PM on October 20th and is in the VCU Student Commons Theater (907 Floyd Avenue, Richmond VA).  Although I’d like to see how it turns out, I have another political event going on in Harrisonburg that same evening and thus cannot attend.12118827_10156044836490167_4739567470314532131_n

Thanks to Virginia21 for doing the right thing by including everyone!

Thoughts Of The Democratic Debate

Image from CNN
Image from CNN

Last night, the Democratic Party held their first presidential debate.  Aired on CNN, the event lasted about two hours.  The five participants were: former Virginia US Senator Jim Webb, Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders, former First Lady, former New York US Senator, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island US Senator and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Some of the Democrats gathered at a local brewery in Harrisonburg to watch the debate.  Although I didn’t watch it live, I thought it would be useful to see it in its entirety and not merely snippets in order to be informed.

Here are my my thoughts:

I was very unimpressed by the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.  It is quite possible that she articulated some point on which she and I agreed, but, if so, I do not remember it.  Her declaration that she is running to be the first woman president sounded like needless pandering.  Yes, there is nothing wrong with a female president, but voting for a candidate strictly based upon gender is as foolish and myopic as voting for a candidate based upon race.  She repeatedly attacked the Republicans without offering specifics sounded like nothing more than an effort to score cheap points with the Democratic audience.  In addition, she used far more generalities than anyone else.  Even though she has the highest name ID, based upon her performance in the first debate, she would be my least desirable choice.

Likewise, Martin O’Malley failed to wow me at all, more or less sticking to traditional Democratic talking points.  However, he did make a good comparison in his closing statement about the difference between the Republican and Democratic debates thus far.

There was a time or two that I agreed Lincoln Chafee, especially when it came to foreign policy, but his defense of several of his early votes was pathetic; his excuse that he had just gotten into office sounded like he had no idea what he was doing and shouldn’t have run in the first place.  I didn’t care much for him when he was a liberal Republican and not much has changed.

I was glad to hear Senator Sanders standing up for our civil liberties against the overreaching power of the federal government when it came to matters of the NSA and the Patriot Act, as well as his arguments for a more reasonable foreign policy.  However, pushing for a domestic policy that advocates so much “free” stuff and raising the minimum wage indicated to me that he doesn’t have a sound understanding of economics and the free market.  College degrees for all, especially those who don’t even want one, makes them almost effectively worthless.

Lastly, although I didn’t agree with quite a lot Jim Webb said, I appreciated his views on foreign policy, gun rights, and trying to stand up for all citizens, regardless of the colour of their skin.  He may have not gotten the most time, but from a liberty perspective, he sounded like the best Democratic choice at this point.

Therefore, based solely upon this debate, I would presently rate the candidates as follows:  Webb, Sanders, Chafee, O’Malley, and Clinton at the bottom.  Assuming I didn’t vote in the Republican primary, which I am planning to do based, of course, upon who is in the race and who is leading, I would consider voting for Webb in the Democratic primary.  After all, I voted for Webb in the 2006 Virginia Democratic primary for U.S. Senate (but not in the general election) as I felt he was the best option in that race.

Nevertheless, I encourage you to watch the debate and decide for yourself.

Gun Show Straw Poll

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

This weekend, the Rockingham County Fairgrounds played host to a gun show, an event that takes place there several times a year.  It is one of the larger gun shows, or perhaps even the largest gun show in the region.  At this event, the Massanutten Patriots (formerly known as the Harrisonburg Tea Party) held a straw poll for the 2016 Presidential election.  The methodology was quite simple.  As attendees would walk by their table, they would be asked which of the candidates (of any party) they would support assuming the election were held today.  Rather than given a laundry list of choices, respondents were expected to offer their own.  Although some were undecided, that option was excluded from the outcome of this poll.

Unlike other straw polls, this one doesn’t gauge political activists but rather average Americans who have at least somewhat of an affinity for firearms.  Like other straw polls, this one wasn’t scientific either.

Anyway, here are the results:

Donald Trump: 43%

Ben Carson: 18%

Ted Cruz: 15%

Marco Rubio: 8%

Hillary Clinton: 3%

Jeb Bush: 2%

Carly Fiorina: 2%

Mike Huckabee: 2%

Bobby Jindal: 2%

John Kaisch: 2%

Chris Christie: 1%

Bernie Sanders: 1%

Total votes: 93

Given that gun owners are typically far more conservative than liberal and more Republican than Democrat, it wasn’t shocking that a majority chose Republicans.  Then again, there are Democratic gun owners too, so there was bound to be a couple of responses for the Dems.  However, I have to say that I found the results at least somewhat surprising.  Yes, Donald Trump is leading in national polls, but I assumed his numbers wouldn’t be nearly this high.  When I asked some of the respondents why they supported Trump, a common answer was that they liked that he spoke his mind and wasn’t beholden to any particular special interest.

Another unexpected result was Rand Paul.  If you scan the tally, you will notice that Paul and a few of the other declared candidates aren’t listed.  That is because not a single person named him as their choice.  Although Paul is a favorite among Republican liberty activists, winning the Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll in New Hampshire, he seems to be either unknown or not favored among the gun-owning citizens of the greater Shenandoah Valley.  As was pretty much the case for his father’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, so far the Rand Paul campaign has had no official presence in this part of Virginia.  Then again, none of the candidates have had official representation here with the notable exception of the Carson campaign.  One of his staffers was collecting signatures to get Dr. Carson on the ballot outside the gun show and attended the last First Friday meeting of the local GOP.

Although Donald Trump and some of his supporters think that the media is treating him unfairly, and I guess that it is possible that they are, the fact that he is still the most mentioned candidate does much to keep him in the public mind.  As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  Assuming there is at least some measure of favorable or at least neutral press coverage, that maxim holds true in politics.

So, it seems that Trump has actual real supporters among gun owners and is not simply astroturfing.  The question is though, will he continue to maintain his lead until the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire?

Republicans & Capulets

Image from 20th Century Fox's Romeo + Juliet
Image from 20th Century Fox’s Romeo + Juliet

Last Friday, Republicans from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County gathered for their monthly First Friday meeting at the Woodgrill Buffet.  The featured speaker was Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) who is facing a Democratic challenger (April Moore from Shenandoah County) in November.  Given the make up of the district he represents, that election is not expected to be terribly close.

Instead of spending much time talking about his race, he mentioned how Republicans across the state need to work to ensure that the GOP continues to hold the Virginia Senate.  Presently, the Republicans enjoy a 21-19 majority in that body and all 40 seats are up for election this November.  Most of the seats are either uncontested or heavily favored for one party or the other.  However, Senator Obenshain identified three seats that could tip the balance of power: The 21st in the Roanoke area, the 10th in parts of Richmond and the surrounding counties, and the 29th in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  If the GOP wins just one of these contests, then, assuming no surprises, the party will retain control of the Virginia Senate.

Senator Obenshain then went on to explain that it would be terrible if Democrats won the Senate for then they would control the various senate committees.  As one example, he mentioned the agriculture committee, currently headed by Senator Emmett Hanger of Augusta County.  Should the Democrats win, he declared that Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax City would be the new head.  He didn’t really explain why that would be such a bad thing other than these points: Petersen isn’t from the Shenandoah Valley, he is a Democrat, and he is from Fairfax.  Oh the horror of allowing a northern Virginia Democrat (one who opposed the 2013 Republican Transportation Tax hike) to lead the agriculture committee!  However, besides the overarching rallying cry to beat the Democrats, there wasn’t much in the way of policy differentiation discussed.

The next morning, as I reflected on the previous day, I was reminded of a Shakespearean play and, assuming you have any familiarity with the subject, read the title of this article, or, more likely, saw the film with Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ve figured out that that play was Romeo & Juliet.  In case you don’t remember the plot from high school English, in this story there are two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. We are told from the prologue that they are “both alike in dignity” and that they have some “ancient grudge” against each other that is never really explored or explained in the work.  As such, the reader has no real idea if either family is motivated by some important ideal other than gaining power over the other.  Was there any reason for the hatred?  It is quite likely that none of the characters in the play truly comprehend the point of the struggle either.  Nevertheless, the Montagues, Capulets, and their assorted friends and allies sacrifice quite a lot as they do battle against each other.

Unfortunately, Verona becomes a much worse place for the average citizen as a result of this constant feuding between the two families.  As Prince Escalus, the leader of the town, states in Act I, Scene I, “Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word, by thee, old Capulet, and Montague, have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets; and made Verona’s ancient citizens cast-by their grave beseeming ornaments, to wield old partisans, in hands as old, cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate”.

In Act III, Scene I, Tybalt Capulet challenges Romeo Montague to a duel due to a perceived insult against his family.  However, by this point Romeo is smitten by Juliet Capulet, sees no reason to quarrel further, and so refuses to fight her kinsman.  Romeo’s friend Mercutio, although not aligned with either house by blood, considers it dishonorable for Romeo to refuse the challenge.  Romeo attempts to stop the scuffle that follows, but is unsuccessful as Tybalt slays Mercutio.  Although he sought peace, this act rouses Romeo to fight and kill Tybalt.  As Mercutio dies, he curses not only the Capulets who directly cause his demise, but the Montagues as well.

After Romeo is ordered into exile as a result of his deed, Capulet attempts to marry his daughter to one of the leading political figures of the town, despite her protests to the contrary.  Neither, Juliet’s mother nor her father care about her wishes.  Only at the end of the play, when Capulet’s daughter and Montague’s son have fallen, do the two families finally agree to end their seemingly pointless feud.

Could this story from the 1590s mirror our political situation today?  Have many of the Republican and Democrats, much like the Montagues and Capulets, forgotten why they first fought each other, only continuing the battle in order to accumulate power for themselves and their party?  Are the two factions primarily motivated by conservative and liberal values or are these issues merely used as window dressing to convince the grassroots into following them in whatever crusade the leaders deem necessary?  Do the powers that be consider our wishes and desires irrelevant, much like Romeo and Juliet were treated in their world?  If, like Mercutio, you made a supreme sacrifice in the service of a house, would your deed be honored?  Or would you be viewed as a relatively worthless pawn offered on the altar of power?  Perhaps, in his final moments, Mercutio finally realized the folly of the discord between the Montagues and Capulets and how meaningless his death was which was why he declared “a plague on both your houses”.  Could the same thought be applied to our two major political parties, too?11055250_1016461601745975_6011593409906575073_n

To help answer this question, on Saturday a former chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party shared this image of a t-shirt on Facebook.  What do you think his opinion is on the subject?