Sell Out!

Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)
Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)

VC Note:  I wrote this piece on November 15, 2015, though I decided against publishing it until recently.

 

In the world of politics, a person is often faced with the decision to sell out one’s principles in order to further his or her own ambitions.  I dare say that every activist has faced this choice sooner or later and if you haven’t yet, that likely means that you are still quite new to the arena.

In 2014, while running for local office, I had the opportunity to sit-in on several of the meetings of the JMU College Republicans.  If you are new to this website, you might not know that student activism has been an interest of mine ever since I began my political journey as a high school student and so I try to encourage students any chance I get.  Unfortunately, I was told that my presence at the JMU CRs upset some of the local establishment Republicans, given that I wasn’t wed to their partisan banner anymore, and they were pressuring the CRs to get rid of me.  As a result, one evening a student came up to me and flatly said that I was no longer welcome at their gatherings.  However, if I were to tell you that the JMU CRs hosted an event honoring Bill Bolling during that semester, that likely tells you all you need to know about the values of that organization at that time.

Anyway, before my exclusion, I appreciated the chance to listen to several of their speakers.  One week it was Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County with whom I had a very positive interaction after the meeting.  However, it was a speech from my own state senator, Mark Obenshain, that sticks most strongly in my mind…even over a year later.  During his talk, he extolled several former JMU Republicans who went on to successful careers in politics, such as a few of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s past and current employees.  Unfortunately, each and every person he mentioned that night shared a common trait; they either sold out their principles or never really had any principles to begin with, and all were more than willing to step on anyone who gets between them and power.  I had more than my share of nasty run-ins with many of these folks.  Although these names were likely foreign to many of the students around me, I knew them all well and to hear this rogue’s gallery listed as a group young political activists ought to aspire to emulate was dismaying indeed.  It made me think.  Is selling out is the ticket to success?

Over my twenty years in politics, I have had a chance to meet a lot of liberty-minded activists.  Some have remained faithful to their ideals while others have not, choosing to support and work for candidates and politicians of dubious moral character who willingly jettison their principles when the leadership tells them to do so…or the price is right.  Some activists have been willing to use any tactic, without respect to morality, if they think it will achieve their goals, knowing that elected officials and party leadership will defend their actions.

As you might imagine, hearing cases of this corruption or watching it unfold firsthand has been profoundly disheartening.  Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Yes, having power is important.  Being able to support yourself in the political world is certainly important too.  But, at the end of the day, if the eager and wide-eyed novice you once were has been replaced by a callous, manipulative, and immoral professional, don’t you have to ask what was the point of getting involved in politics in the first place?  Isn’t it written, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”  (Mark 8:36 NLT).  It pains me to say that I’ve crossed paths with many individuals who have apparently sold their souls and, despite any superficial claims to be godly and attempts to cosy up to the religious right, face the very real danger of damnation.

So, my friends, whatever your political leanings, I urge you to remain grounded and faithful to your principles.  Never lie, cheat, or steal in order to gain glory, money, fame, or power nor should you ever knowingly follow anyone who acts in this fashion.  Shouldn’t we work to instill values such as honor, courage, honesty, and steadfastness in the next generation of activists?

But, then again, what do I know?  After all, there are many activists and politicians who have advanced much further than I have by stabbing others in the back, bowing down to the lobbyists, and deceiving the folks back home.  And, if you asked them behind closed doors, here’s the advice they would likely give:

The Rise of the Rocktown Libertarians

Photo of the August 2013 meeting by Lisa McCumsey

In the past, the Rocktown Libertarians have hosted a number of candidates seeking office.  In 2012 we had Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.  In 2013, there was Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor.  In 2014, there were many hopefuls: Robert Sarvis again, this time the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, Will Hammer, a Libertarian candidate for House of Representatives, Helen Shibut, a Libertarian candidate for Harrisonburg City Council and me, Joshua Huffman, an independent for Harrisonburg City Council.  In 2015, we had April Moore, a Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate as well as Will Hammer once more, this time as a Libertarian seeking a House of Delegates seat.  Then, in 2016, Chris Jones, the Mayor of Harrisonburg (a Democrat) stopped by as did Harry Griego, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.

2017 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year.  At the Rocktown Libertarians’ March meeting we will be hosting Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) to speak about this year’s General Assembly session which should be ending in just a few short days.  Then, in April, the Rocktown Libertarians will be joined by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to discuss ways to make ballot access more fair for all, including Libertarian Party candidates.  We’ll likely have other special guests as well, but they are still in the works.

Sounds like an interesting group, doesn’t it?

Well, if you’d like to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Virginia, work to promote liberty, and meet fellow activists of a variety of political affiliations, I hope you’ll consider attending an upcoming meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  We get together on the third Tuesday of every month starting about 6:30 PM at the O’Charley’s at 101 Burgess Road in Harrisonburg.  Come stop by, say hello, and enjoy some good food and good conversation!

Gillespie Excels in Staunton

On Thursday evening, the Ed Gillespie campaign held another gathering in the Shenandoah Valley, this time at the Holiday Inn right off of Interstate 81 in Staunton.  The advertised guest of the evening was Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky.  Curiously, the room was set up with a stage against the middle wall with three padded chairs and a couple of tables.  Unlike other events, I didn’t recognize a majority of the folks in the crowd.

The Commonwealth Attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, gave a welcome, Travis Witt, the former leader of the tea party federation, offered the prayer, and Augusta County Supervisor Marshall Pattie led the group in the pledge of allegiance.

Next, Pete Snyder, who many folks know from his 2013 run for lieutenant governor, took the stage.  After a few moments, Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin joined him.

 

Ed Gillespie and Matt Bevin with Greene County GOP Chairman Ed Yensho

The three of them spoke amongst themselves about Gillespie’s campaign for governor as well as Bevin’s experiences as governor of Kentucky.  Afterward, they took a series of pre-submitted questions from the audience.  While this was going on, I thought of a question I wanted to ask regarding political freedom and spoke with the staffer handling such things, but, unfortunately, weren’t able to take it.

In conclusion, Governor Bevin invited all of the attendees to put a Gillespie bumper sticker on their cars as well as get their photo taken with Mr. Gillespie to which Ed Gillespie suggested that the governor ought to join in as well.

Overall, the event was well attended for a Thursday evening as pretty much every seat was filled.  Governor Matt Bevin expressed strong support for Ed Gillespie which helps bolster Gillespie’s credibility.  Snyder, Gillespie, and Bevin all added some humorous moments to the gathering.  And, perhaps most importantly, unlike their last event in Harrisonburg, several people in the crowd had an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Compared to his 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, Ed Gillespie’s campaign for governor seems significantly improved, spending more time discussing substantive issues, and bringing impressive political figures, like Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin onboard.

Freedom Gulch #19

On the evening of February 7th, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I gathered online for Freedom Gulch’s 19th podcast. Topics during the hour included: Betsy DeVos and her confirmation as Secretary of Education, recent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos, Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park, an eye toward the 2017 elections here in Virginia, and more.

If you missed it live, you can find it here!

RPV Adds to God’s Law

I’d wager, whether religious or not, the average American knows at least something about the 10 Commandments, such as they were carved in stone and given to Moses or that they include instructions such as honor thy father and mother or thou shall not commit adultery.  As they are an important foundational basis for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, one can find monuments and references to them throughout the United States on both public and private property.  In 2007, I even found a plaque listing the commandments on a Taco Bell in eastern Tennessee.

But, apparently, the Republican Party of Virginia has decided to add to these 10 Commandments ordained by God.  On February 4th, RPV Chairman John Whitbeck penned an email where he created the 12th Commandment.  For those who don’t know, many years ago a Republican Party chairman in California wrote the 11th, “thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican”.

As Chairman Whitbeck says:

My friends, I am not going to copy the California Chairman and demand the 11th Commandment be followed by our candidates in 2017.  That’s been done before.  Instead, I am going to ask every Republican leader, District chair, unit chair, elected official and grassroots activist to demand our candidates follow the 11th Commandment.  Let them know that personal attacks, false innuendo and below the belt politics have no place in our Party.  If we do that, our nominees will emerge strong and with a united party behind them.  Too often, we fight the primary well into the general election.  We saw multiple examples of this in the last few years.  In some cases we won and in some we lost.  But in 2017 we are more likely to lose if we don’t follow the 11th Commandment.  So I ask each of you to hold our candidates accountable in this regard.

He goes on to add:

What I will do as your Party Chairman is call for an adherence to a 12th Commandment.  It is a solemn duty I believe is incumbent upon all Republicans.  Quite simply, the 12th Commandment should be “thou shalt support the Republican nominee.”

Whitbeck explains his rationale:

The last few years we have seen good Republicans, even members of our local Units, openly support Independent and third party candidates far too often.  While we all appreciate people standing on principal [sic], how is it principled to support someone who has no chance of winning and handing elections over to the Democrats?

Listen to what Mr. Whitbeck is saying here.  At the end of the day, principles don’t matter.  What matters is electing Republicans and defeating Democrats.  Imagine what he might have said if he lived during biblical times.  Sure, you might think that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are terrible and immoral people who constantly violate God’s law, but if they are Republicans, we must never speak ill of them and we must always support them no matter what they say or do.  Or, yes, as pro-lifers we don’t approve King Herod’s plan to kill all male infants in Bethlehem, but if he came to power under the Republican banner, all Republican activists must not call him out on this.  Would modern day conservative Christians have the courage to denounce these ill-fit leaders or would they stand with Chairman Whitbeck and support Republicans who might stand against every principle they claim to care about simply because “we don’t want the Democrats to win, do we?”

What baffles me is what sort of arrogance and irreverence would compel Chairman Whitbeck to “demand” his 12th Commandment?  Does anyone else see the sacrilege of placing loyalty to the Republican Party of Virginia and her candidates on the same plane as God’s commandments?  Are commandments such as “thou shall not murder” and “thou shall have no other gods before me” equal in importance as “thou shall support the Republicans no matter what” and “thou shall never vote thy conscience”?

Although it may be true that as Chairman Whitbeck says, “If you add the Libertarian candidate’s vote totals to that of our nominees in 2013 and 2014, we would be living out the last year of Governor Cuccinelli’s term and the third year of Senator Gillespie’s,” I know many, good, liberty-minded folks (myself included) who would not have voted for Ed Gillespie in 2014 even if the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis weren’t on the ballot.  Why wouldn’t some Republicans support Ed Gillespie in spite of his being the party nominee?  The answer is simple; he didn’t share their most important values.

I guess this latest affront from the Republican Party of Virginia shouldn’t be surprising given that although they retracted it in the spring of 2016, the RPV posted on Facebook that “Not voting to stop Hillary borders on treason.”  The current party leadership has helped transform the Republican Party of Virginia into an organization that is unconcerned with their creed, liberty, and conservative principles.  Instead, the only two important pillars of the “Republican faith” are winning at all costs and unquestioned loyalty.  As demonstrated in the quoted email, the chairman even dares to elevate himself to a modern day prophet of God by issuing new commandments.  They believe that anyone who holds an opinion that deviates from the GOP (God’s Own Party) and does not prostrate him or herself before their leaders and nominees, must be declared a heretic or a traitor and cast into utter darkness.

I’d like to see some socially conservative group call out John Whitbeck and the RPV for this blasphemous attempt to add to God’s law, but I expect that there will be no outrage and no call to action.  After all, the most important thing at the end of the day is to be a “Republican first”; decency is burdensome and all other principles are secondary to prevent a future Governor Northam or Governor Perriello, right?

Perriello Comes to Harrisonburg

On Friday of last week, I received word that former Representative Tom Perriello would be in Harrisonburg on Saturday morning, February 4th.  Mr. Perriello is one of two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to be Virginia’s next governor.  Although I knew the time and location of the event, the Lucy Simms Center, I had no other details.

When I arrived, I discovered that it was a forum hosted by Virginia Organizing.  However, one surprising element was that it was a gathering designed specifically for deaf individuals.  As such, much on the discussion took place through sign language.  Mr. Perriello brought an interpreter with him.  Although she seemed to have no difficulty translating his words into sign language, she had a bit of trouble explaining what some of the attendees were saying.  Then again, given that much of the conversation focused on technical terms relating to the deaf community, it was understandable.  In fact, even after translation, some of the terms were still foreign to me.  Fortunately, there was another interpreter in the audience so they worked together; one translated Mr. Perriello’s comments into American sign language while the other converted the sign language into English. However, it was difficult to follow chunks of the conversation.

The event highlighted quite a few areas where deaf people face obstacles, many of which the average Virginian is likely unaware of.  But, whether intentional or not, one of the major points I drew from the gathering was that Tom Perriello seemed to advocate greater government power as a solution to many of the issues and concerns of the deaf community, although that seemed to be the message Virginia Organizing was promoting as well.

Before leaving, demonstrating his knowledge of sign language, Perriello made signs for the various letters of the alphabet.

I appreciate that Mr. Perriello visited Harrisonburg.  The next time he comes, I’d like to learn more about where he stands on a number of important issues such as fiscal restraint, restricting the growth of government, eliminating needless laws and bureaucracy, and expanding personal and political freedom here in the Commonwealth.

Dunaway at First Friday

Today, Rita Dunaway was the featured speaker at the First Friday gathering in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  She spoke in favor of the Convention of States project, a group which is working to convince state legislatures across the country to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution under the provisions of Article V.  Several years ago, Ms. Dunaway spoke at First Friday on this topic.

For those who haven’t heard her speak on the subject, I recorded her speech on my phone.  However, shortly into the question and answer period I received a phone call which cut off the recording.  In addition, as the restaurant was somewhat noisy, you may need to turn up your volume in order to hear it properly.

Enjoy!

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLIII)

On Wednesday, February 1st, I made my monthly appearance on 550 AM, WSVA.  However, as Andy Schmookler was out of state, I was joined in studio by another Andy, Andy Harbick.  Andy Harbick is a local businessman and we both attend RISE United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg.

Our political discussion centered mainly on the actions of President Donald Trump, such as his recent pick for the Supreme Court, his cabinet positions, and various other actions.  In addition, as Virginia will be holding elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates in November, we briefly touched upon the 2017 elections.

As always, if you missed the show live, you can find it here.

Thanks again to Andy Harbick for filling in!  And, for the Andy Schmookler fans out there, he should be returning to the show next month.