A Few Thoughts Before Voting Tomorrow

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Republican presidential race…a lot. And, after pondering the matter for quite some time, in my opinion the least desirable Republican candidate running for president is…Marco Rubio.

Image from Marco Rubio's Facebook page
Image from Marco Rubio’s Facebook page

Yes, I know many people will say it is Donald Trump. He certainly has said some offensive, sexist, and racist things and that kind of behavior is unacceptable to me. But, think about Marco Rubio. Trump’s derision of people’s physical appearance is abhorrent when Rubio acted the very same way this weekend? Come on! In Marco Rubio you have a man who hasn’t bothered to show up to work most days and yet still draws a paycheck for a full-time job. He has and continues to deprive Floridians of representation in the U.S. Senate and ought to have resigned his seat if he had no interest in serving so that someone responsible could have taken his place. Furthermore, on foreign policy he is without a doubt the worst candidate running. I think Rubio is the most likely to get us embroiled in another endless overseas war and heaven knows we have had enough of those already. To me Marco Rubio represents a return to many of the failed polices of George W. Bush, policies Republicans and Americans ought to have rejected but are still embraced by the Republican establishment who longs for greater power once more. Marco Rubio has even snagged the endorsement of Virginia’s least principled Republican Representative, Barbara Comstock.

Yes, I know many of my brothers and sisters in liberty are afraid of Donald Trump and I’m not saying that these concerns are unfounded. However, surrendering our principles because of these fears is no path forward.

I don’t care which candidate is the most likely to beat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination if he or she does not embrace the ideals of liberty. Yes, it is likely that if you vote for principle your candidate won’t win, but do you know what else is true? Odds are very good that your one vote won’t influence the outcome in the slightest. Can you name even one national or statewide election whose outcome hinged on a single vote? Although I’m sure there has to be one somewhere, I can’t think of an example. Therefore, why not vote for what you know is right rather than what can “win” or what is popular?

Chances are very good that Trump’s momentum is already too great and if he wins a majority of the states on Super Tuesday then he will be the Republican Party nominee. And that, people say, will destroy the Republican Party. The truth of the matter is that the Republican Party has been dying for decades as it sheds principles in the pursuit of power. What difference does it make if it suffers a quick and explosive death under Trump or a continued slow and painful decline under Rubio? For some of you this is a hard thing to come to grips with but if the GOP isn’t the party of limited government principles, as it claims to be, it is better off dead.

So whom should you support? Well, assuming I vote in the Republican Party primary tomorrow, it will be for Rand Paul. Yes, I know that he isn’t running any longer, but he is really the only candidate on the ballot who comes close to the principles of liberty and limited government, principles which many of us claim to hold but have now jettisoned due to fear. Acting out of fear has gotten us the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, the erosion of our civil liberties, and much more. How much more of an empire will we become abroad and how much more of a police state will we become at home before we finally declare that enough is enough?

Sure, the GOP may nominate a terrible candidate for president. But guess what? Just because he is the Republican nominee that doesn’t mean that you have to support him or even vote for him. In each election we ought to be voting for the best candidate, not voting against the worst. Remember that there is no ribbon or trophy awarded if you cast your vote for a terrible winner as opposed to voting for a principled loser other than the knowledge that you actively helped install someone horrid who now has power over you. This whole voting for the lesser of two evils nonsense has been making our country worse and worse and the quality of candidates continues to degrade as a result. Hold your head high and if you vote tomorrow then vote for someone you believe in. Don’t look back with regrets of another slightly less bad decision. I know I won’t.

Reflections From the Rockingham GOP Mass Meeting

Donna Moser
Donna Moser

Last night, the Rockingham County Republican Party held their mass meeting to elect a chairman for their committee as well as to elect delegates to the party’s 2016 6th district and state conventions.  It was a packed gathering with well over a hundred attendees.  Besides the county residents, attendees also included:  Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), Harry Griego (his Republican challenger), Scott Sayre (6th district chair candidate), Ralph Smith (6th district chair candidate), Wendall Walker (current 6th district chair), a variety of individuals seeking to be delegates and alternate delegates to the national convention, the chair of the Staunton Republican Party, the chair of the Waynesboro Republican Party, the chair of the Greene County Republican Party, and likely more individuals I did not recognize.

SOAs mentioned, the main focus of the evening was the race for chair.  Donna Moser, the incumbent, was seeking re-election while Dan Cullers, the secretary, was also running.  I’ve known both of the candidates for many years as I met Donna through the local tea party and Dan through the 2012 Karen Kwiatkowski campaign.  Both had their list of supporters though Donna had the endorsement of both Senator Mark Obenshain and Suzanne Obenshain.  Curiously though, neither of the Obenshains attended the Rockingham mass meeting.  Given that they live in the Rockingham County and that Suzanne Obenshain is running for National Republican Committeewoman, it seemed quite peculiar that they were not there.  Although I assume that it was possible that the senator was tied up with business in the Virginia Senate, around that time Suzanne tweeted a photo of her speaking to a Republican gathering in Arlington.

Bob Goodlatte
Bob Goodlatte

Gazing around the room, a lot of the people wore stickers in support of Dan Cullers.  However, many of them had on lapel white stickers for Suzanne Obenshain and blue ones for Bob Goodlatte too.  As people entered the building Cole, one of the Goodlatte staffers and former staffer for the Obenshains, glad-handed people and declared that Dan Cullers was “their guy”.

In retrospect, there were far too many guest speakers for the event as they ended up extending the meeting time significantly.

When Donna Moser got up to give her speech for chair, either she or someone in the audience mentioned that the original plan was that Suzanne Obenshain would introduce her and give a few words of support on her behalf.  That news was terribly depressing.  If the Obenshains actually supported Donna, wouldn’t at least one of them have been there when they were most needed instead of in Arlington or Richmond?  Furthermore, wouldn’t the majority of the multitude of people wearing Obenshain stickers support Donna Moser, their supposed candidate, too?

When people finally started voting they were not allowed to vote in secret, which seemed just plain wrong.  However, after an angry complaint, declaring it “soviet style voting”, subsequent voters were allowed at least some small measure of privacy in casting their ballot.  During this time, I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Harry Griego.  From our first conversation, he seemed like a pretty solid guy.

While we waited for the votes to be counted, I got a drink of water.  On the way back to my seat, I walked past the room where they were counting the ballots.  I didn’t enter the room nor did I attempt to interrupt the proceedings in any way.  I just stood and watched for a few moments.  However, Cole, Goodlatte’s staffer saw me and insisted I leave.  Afterward, I spoke to one of the Republican leaders who said that Cole had no right to do what he did, but I have found that bullying and intimidation is a prized trait among Goodlatte staffers.

Newly elected chair, Dan Cullers flanked by members of the county party
Newly elected chair, Dan Cullers flanked by a few members of the county party

Although the vote totals were not revealed publicly, Dan Cullers was declared the winner.

I spoke to both Donna and Dan and wished them both well.  Once the attendees dispersed, Dan worked to put away tables and chairs.  I have to tell you that there is something refreshing about seeing the leader of a group staying behind to clean up and not simply leaving this undesirable work to subordinates.  Dan did this sort of thing before he was elected chair and so far his new power had not changed him.  I gladly volunteered to help and the two of us straightened up.

After the event was over, I spoke to another political activist about what I saw and thought about the evening.  This activist told me that if the Obenshains had actually been supporting Donna, she would have won.  I was still depressed, not by the outcome, but by the process.

Although there certainly were good folks in the crowd, that night I saw too many people who only cared about advancing themselves and their allies and don’t care at all about trivial things like principles and honor.  I left with the sense that others have been trying to use both Donna and Dan as pieces on some grand political chess board; I was reminded of the work, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society.

Now That the Paul Campaign Is Over…

Photo from Rand Paul's Facebook page
Photo from Rand Paul’s Facebook page

In early September of 2015, I wrote an article detailing my experiences and thoughts regarding Dr. Rand Paul and his campaign for president.  Although some fellow Paul supporters advised me to publish at that time, in the hopes of righting a foundering ship, others were concerned that it could hurt his chances.   At that time I was tremendously disappointed in his campaign, but as I still hoped Rand Paul would win the Republican nomination (or at least draw more people to the liberty movement), I decided to sit on the post.  Since then, unfortunately, I have heard that others have had experiences similar to my own.

Now that his campaign is over, I thought it important to share my dealings in the hopes that doing so will help shed at least some light on what went wrong so that future candidates and campaigns seeking the liberty mantle can avoid acting likewise.

September 8th, 2015

Like many of you, deciding whom to support for president in 2016 has been a difficult decision.  Although I worked for Dr. Ron Paul, I did have some important reservations about his son.  His support for the reelection of the unprincipled Senator Mitch McConnell over his conservative challenger in 2014 and his newly changed position on drone strikes are two important examples.  However, after Rand Paul’s spirited stance in defense of our civil liberties in late May and early June, I decided to seek a position with his campaign on June 3rd.  Shortly thereafter I engaged in a series of email exchanges with one of the fellows on the campaign.  After a couple weeks, he asked if I could assist with the petition drive to get Rand Paul on the ballot here in Virginia, which I agreed to do.

And then, as has been the case on so many campaigns, I waited.  About once a week or so, I would call them, hoping for some kind of update.  In late July, this same staffer sent me another email asking if I would be willing to spend the weekend volunteering for the campaign in Northern Virginia.  I responded that although I would like to, I couldn’t afford to travel around the state for free.  At that point, he did not communicate with me further.

After two months, it seemed that my waiting had finally paid off.  On August 4th, I received an email from their Field Director, Dave Ramirez, stating, “I hope you’re doing well. Sorry I’m circling back on this just now. Just wanted to connect with you in regards to the campaign. If you’re still interested, is there a day and time to connect over the phone?”  Within an hour, I responded saying that just about anytime would be good for me.  I also left a couple of messages with the national office in case he didn’t get my email.

By August 18th, I realized that even though the campaign had asked me to help in collecting signature to get Rand Paul on the ballot, they still had not sent me the proper forms to do so.  In Virginia, they need to collect 5,000 signatures, a fairly high threshold.  Therefore, I made a few calls to some of my fellow liberty-minded folks in the state and, shortly thereafter, I had the form.

Then, on August 21st, the staff told me that they would contact me on either that Friday or the early part of the next week.  Finally my waiting had come to an end…or so I thought.  However, Friday came and went…as did Monday.  On Tuesday, shortly before close of business, I contacted them again.  I was told that they would now contact me on Wednesday, August 26th.  Fine, I thought.  Wednesday came and went.  There was no phone call, no email, there was nothing.  Did they intentionally mislead me?

As you might imagine, at this point I was rather annoyed that the Rand Paul campaign did not honor any of their own self-imposed deadlines or at least have the courtesy to explain what the holdup was.  I certainly didn’t want to bug them, but after those target dates slipped away I began calling them regularly in the hopes that I might get someone, anyone, on the phone.  And, from time to time, I was able to speak to someone.  Most days I called several times until I could actually talk to a real, live person.  However, each and every time it was some different staffer and he or she always told that either Mr. Ramirez was out of the office or in a meeting.  For several of them I would take several minutes to explain the situation.  Surely they would have the decency to get back in touch, right?  Last week, I spoke with a fellow who identified himself as part of their legal team, but he promised would relay my message.

I was at a loss as to what to do.  I reached out to a group called Virginia for Rand Paul.  Although they were more than happy to speak with me about volunteer opportunities, they ignored my request for assistance in reaching the national campaign.  I tried emailing the first guy and Dave, but neither answered me.  Over this most recent weekend, I received the Twitter handle for several of the Paul staffers and decided to tweet to them in the hopes someone would respond.  One did on Sunday and he asked for my email address.  However, as of Tuesday, there was no additional follow-up.

On September 8th, I was determined that that day would be the day I would finally get my conversation.  However, things took an interesting and unfortunate turn.  I called their office in the morning, right around 9 AM, when I assumed that they were opening and no one answered.  I didn’t see much point in leaving a recorded message, as doing so hadn’t worked so far.  I tried again about an hour later with the same result.  Right after lunch I called again.  Still no one.  Would the Paul campaign finally honor their word?  Then, at 1:50 PM, I finally reached someone.  The person on the other end of the line asked me if I was Joshua.  I told her that I was.  At that point, I was expecting her to say that she would transfer my call to Mr. Ramirez or perhaps she would apologize for all of the waiting that they had put me through.  Instead, she told me something exceedingly shocking…that if I called their office again they would contact the police and acquire a cease and desist order.  A threat?!  I tried to explain myself, but she interjected by adding that they would call me if they wished to speak to me and then hung-up before I could get a word in edgewise.

I must say that I am floored by this response…a loss for words.  As a fellow Rand Paul supporter told me after I relayed the story to him (and please pardon the language), “Yeah we can’t have that shit, this election could still be won but we appear to have a bunch of sycophants in charge.”  Prior to this time I was collecting signatures to get Dr. Paul on the ballot, but now?  How can I continue?

I have to wonder.  Who is running the Paul campaign?  Are they so dishonorable or lazy that their word means nothing?  Are they so incompetent, shortsighted, or unprofessional that they treat all of their supporters with such disdain?  Does the campaign have even the slightest interest in winning?  Do they have any hope to spread the liberty movement like my former boss and Rand Paul’s father, Dr. Ron Paul, did?  Or is the campaign nothing but a farce, run by people who don’t care about our shared principles, are deceiving the liberty movement, and perfectly willing to take our time and money and offer nothing substantive in return like a 1980s style televangelist?  Is there any wonder why recent polls have shown that Rand Paul’s support has been cut in half…or more?

All I can say is that I am profoundly disappointed with the Paul campaign.  I don’t know what is wrong with them.  Who in the world has Dr. Rand Paul chosen to surround himself with?

February 15, 2016

Getting back to the present day, my anger and frustration began to dissipate after a few weeks of fuming.  But, as no one likes to be led on, either professionally or personally, I didn’t help the Rand Paul campaign any further.

Still, it was shocking that Paul did so relatively poorly in Iowa.  After all, his campaign touted that they had made over a million phone calls in the state and had over a thousand precinct captains.  In 2012, Ron Paul finished a close third, winning many counties, and ended up with the lion’s share of the delegates (22).  However, at the end of the day the Rand Paul campaign only managed to get a disappointing 8,481 votes or 4.5%, winning zero counties, finishing fifth in the crowded field, and capturing only one delegate.  Nevertheless, one would assume he would have fared considerably better in the next contest of “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire.  I don’t think many of us could have predicted that Rand Paul would drop out after the first state.

Unfortunately, as I wrote as early as 2014, I think Rand Paul surrounded himself with some disreputable people who routinely offered him poor advice such as: in order to win a greater following you need to cozy up to the establishment, jettison some of your libertarian principles, and it would help to publicly denounce your father, Ron Paul.  I would argue that anyone who suggests such ideas isn’t really an ally of the liberty movement.  Yes, it is important to say things with tact and to be mindful of your audience, of course, but if you dilute or pervert the message, if your campaign deceives your supporters, or if you have left the liberty movement weaker than when you have found it, then you have forgotten your most important purpose.

hqdefaultRecently, we’ve heard that some of Rand Paul’s top staffers have gone to work for establishment candidates.  His campaign manager has shifted to Marco Rubio and one of his senior advisors works for John Kasich.  My question is, how can you ever hope to “Defeat the Washington Machine” if many of your key employees will gladly prop up the Washington Machine assuming the price is right?  When your campaign is run by people who don’t support the overall message of liberty or you prop up a corrupt Senate Majority Leader, then it should come as no surprise when your loyal, long-time followers melt away like snow in a spring thaw.  I think Dr. Rand Paul realized this fact, and pivoted back to his roots in some of the recent debates, but by then it was too late to recapture the momentum of his father’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Looking back on the 2016 Paul campaign, it is important to remember Morton Blackwell’s Laws of The Public Policy Process including:

11. In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you’re dead.
15. Don’t treat good guys like you treat bad guys.
26. Personnel is policy.
31. Don’t fully trust anyone until he has stuck with a good cause which he saw was losing.
34. You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends.
And, perhaps most importantly
36. Keep a secure home base.

Sure, things may seem down right now, but the good news is that the drumbeat of liberty marches on.  It is perfectly reasonable to feel depressed about the outcome of the Rand Paul campaign, but always remember that the movement is much greater than a single candidate or campaign.  Rand Paul 2016 may be over, but the fight for liberty continues.  We cannot surrender; we still have important work to do.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXII)

IMG_0196Welcome to the thirty-second episode of WSVA’s Early Mornings featuring Andy Schmookler & Joshua Huffman.  Although the podcasts of the program from August 2015 to January 2016 haven’t made it online, I wanted to share today’s program, given that it is available once again.

Our discussion this morning focused upon the recent New Hampshire Presidential Primary, the Iowa Caucus, the future of the Democratic Party, and predictions for the nominations.

You can find the link here.  Enjoy!

Feeling the Bern in Staunton

The Bernie Sanders campaign has done something that none of the other 2016 presidential candidates have done yet (to the best of my knowledge).  They have opened a campaign office in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, specifically in the city of Staunton.  Given that the Shenandoah Valley has unfortunately been treated as a second-class region in many election cycles, I decided to check it out for myself.

IMG_3148Although I couldn’t find their address online, a member of the Staunton City Council gave me their location.  And so, on Tuesday, I traveled down to Staunton along with Marc Montoni, the secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.

Fortunately their office was easy to find with several signs out front and a multitude in their window as well.  Two friendly people greeted us: a man and a woman.  I spent quite a while speaking to her and discovered that she was a member of the local Augusta County Democratic Party.  I didn’t talk as much to the other fellow, but his accent indicated that he was likely originally from somewhere many miles away.  While we were there, Will Hammer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th congressional district and a resident of Staunton, stopped by too.

I found that unlike most campaign offices, this one was created and is operated by volunteers and not paid staffers.  In addition, the Sanders campaign will soon be opening a more traditional office across the mountain in Charlottesville.  However, the Staunton office did have just about everything you’d find in most headquarters: a variety of signs, stickers (both lapel and bumper), position statements, and even a cardboard cutout of Senator Sanders which invited visitors to take selfies.  Alas, they had no buttons.  In the back, they had a schedule for events such as hosting a parade, debate watching, and phone calling.

As I mentioned to the volunteers, although I strongly disagree with many of Senator Sanders’ self-described socialist domestic policies, there are some positive aspects to him as well, such as his opposition to government spying with the liberty killing Patriot Act and not wishing to embroil the nation in additional overseas conflicts.

Would I prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton?  Probably.  For all his concerning issues, Sanders seems a heck of a lot more trustworthy than Clinton.  Will that translate to me voting in the Democratic primary?  Possibly.  With Senator Paul out of the race, quite a few liberty-minded folks no longer care who wins the GOP nomination.  Fortunately, until party registration passes, Virginians have the liberty to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries (though, in an effort to quell freedom of speech and association, as of 2014 the Virginia GOP will expel any of their members who are discovered to have voted in a Democratic nomination contest).

Regardless of how things shake out, it was good to interact with the volunteers at the Sanders headquarters because they didn’t act like the traditional political establishment and were people who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their candidate, a feeling that has been hard for me to rekindle since the retirement of Dr. Ron Paul.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Staunton area and are interested in politics, stop by the Bernie Sanders office on Lewis Street and say hello.  Or you can find their group on Facebook.

 

Thoughts of Iowa

Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.

First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP.  Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:

Candidate          Votes      Percentage    Delegates

Ted Cruz             51,666    28%                8

Donald Trump   45,427   24%                7

Marco Rubio      43,165    23%                7

Ben Carson         17,395    9%                  3

Rand Paul           8,481      4%                  1

Jeb Bush             5,238      3%                  1

Photo from Ted Cruz's Facebook page
Photo from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page

Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened.  Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates.  Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night.  Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed.  Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers.  Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar.  And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot!  As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.

Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook.  “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee.  As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.”  In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives.  Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus.  And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.

Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates.  The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks.  After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%.  Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.

Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.

Candidate              Percentage    Delegates

Hillary Clinton     50                    26

Bernie Sanders     50                    21

Martin O’Malley   0                      0

Photo from Hillary Clinton's Facebook page
Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page

Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote.  However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won.  As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.

Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds.  Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed.  While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.

Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley.  It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties.  It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.