The Conservative Kobayashi Maru

Photo by Steve Helber of the Associated Press

In two weeks, on June 13th, the Republican Party of Virginia will be holding a statewide open primary to determine their nominee for governor.  On the ballot will be three choices: former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Corey Stewart, and State Senator Frank Wagner.

Typically, at least one authentic conservative runs for the Republican nomination in statewide contests.  For example, in 2014, Shak Hill sought the GOP nod.  However, all of the choices for governor are poor this year.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a moment to go through each option.

Besides being the former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie has also been the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, a lobbyist for companies such as Enron,  a counselor to the Bush White House, and the 2014 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.  Seen by some as the consummate Republican insider, he is in many ways a milquetoast candidate, reciting typical Republican talking points while not providing many details of how he wishes to accomplish anything and avoiding saying anything controversial or of much substance.  According to reports, he has avoided attending a variety of candidate forums and events.  It seems he is coasting through the nomination process by trying to say as little as possible.  Even worse, when he served as RNC Chairman, he repudiated limited government conservativism.  According to National Review, “Gillespie basically said that the Republicans’ long-time war against big government has now ended.  Government won.”  and “the party’s new chairman, energetic and full of vigor, said in no uncertain terms that the days of Reaganesque Republican railings against the expansion of federal government are over.”  And, despite my repeated requests, the Gillespie campaign refuses to state where Mr. Gillespie stands on political freedom and third party rights, leading me to believe that he opposes them.

Next, we have Corey Stewart, certainly the most controversial of the three candidates.  Last year, he served as the Virginia chairman for the Donald Trump campaign until he was fired for insubordination.  No stranger to controversy, he has relentlessly attacked Ed Gillespie for not being sufficiently pro-Trump and for Mr. Gillespie’s refusal to take a stand on a number of issues.  As I’ve told some people, I think Mr. Stewart is the most dishonest person I have met in Virginia politics.  This opinion took form in 2011 when Mr. Stewart toured the state denouncing former Senator George Allen for being a poor conservative and a poor senator.  However, once Corey Stewart decided he was no longer interested in running for Senate, he endorsed his former rival.  That stunt earned him a flip flop from PolitiFact.   In addition, there was the 2013 campaign for lieutenant governor when Corey Stewart hired Senator Obenshain’s former campaign manager who was supposedly fired due to theft from a rival campaign who then tried to extort $85,000 from Pete Snyder in what has been colorfully called “The Richmond Screwjob“.  These incidents show that Mr. Stewart will do or say just about anything to gain political power and thus one cannot be sure if he is elected what his true intentions are.

Last, there is Frank Wagner, who has been in elected office since 1992, first serving several terms in the House of Delegates before joining the Virginia Senate in 2001.  Curiously, unlike his Republican opponents, Mr. Wagner is currently advocating raising taxes on Virginians.  In addition, he supported the largest tax increase in Virginia, when he voted for the 2013 transportation tax hike.  In 2015, he authored a bill to keep the earnings of Dominion Power, the state-supported energy monopoly, secret.  Amusingly, in early 2014 a Republican activist added me to a Facebook group called “Primary Frank Wagner” after Mr. Wagner supposedly employed a tactic known as slating to disenfranchise those who oppose him.   Frank Wagner supports higher taxes, government monopolies and more secrecy, and silencing opposition.  Are these conservative values?

Image from http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru

In Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Starfleet officers are presented with the Kobayashi Maru, an intentionally unwinnable scenario which serves to test the character of those who participate in it.  Unfortunately, this year, conservatives who participate in the Republican primary for governor face a similar dilemma. Which do you think will uphold the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia?  Dodgy, establishment Ed Gillespie? Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-his-mouth, populist Corey Stewart?  Or liberal, big government-loving Frank Wagner?  It’s a tough pick, isn’t it?  None of the three choices, Gillespie, Stewart, or Wagner, are desirable, and each has exhibited principles or character flaws which ought to disqualify all of them from the Republican nomination.  As one elected official who is supporting Ed Gillespie told me, it is unfortunate that there isn’t a better candidate to head the Republican ticket this year.  Are you looking for a consistently conservative candidate who is trustworthy and will work to reduce the size and scope of the state government?  If so, you better hope a third party or independent candidate makes the ballot because none of the three Republican candidates come anywhere close to that standard.

How will you react to this conservative Kobayashi Maru?  If I end up voting in the Republican primary, I’ll be leaving the ballot for governor blank as I think none of them are acceptable nor do I plan to vote for whoever wins the Republican nomination in the November general election.

Partisan Hypocrisy

On Friday afternoon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email entitled “Longer Than They’ve Been Alive.”  Here’s what it said:

Hey there –

Some things you can just count on. Fireworks on the 4th of July. Turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner. And if there’s an election being held, Tim Kaine is probably running for some political office.

Tim Kaine is giving two commencement addresses this weekend: Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sunday at Northern Virginia Community College. And to celebrate, the NRSC is debuting a new Snapchat filter, reminding 2017 graduates that Kaine’s political career has been going on longer than most of them have been alive! Over the past 23 years, Tim Kaine has run for every political office imaginable. City Council, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Senate, and Vice President. As these new college grads head out into the world, there’s always one thing they can count on – Tim Kaine will always be out there looking to collect a taxpayer funded salary!

So happy snapping! And be sure to send your pics to the NRSC on Snapchat (theNRSC) and Twitter (@NRSC)!

As the email mentions, it also includes the graphic that you see to your left, comparing the amount of time Tim Kaine has either held or run for office and the average age of a college graduate.

The message of the email is obvious.  Tim Kaine has been in politics a long time.  He is a career politician and, by phrasing it as “longer than they’ve been alive”, the NRSC is saying that being a career politician must be a bad thing.

Given that the NRSC is saying that Tim Kaine is a career politician and that that is a bad thing, I thought I should ask them if they have created a similar graphic about my representative, Bob Goodlatte, who has been in the House of Representatives even longer than Tim Kaine has held or run for any office.

Hello.  Do you have one of these for my congressman, Representative Bob Goodlatte, who has been in office since 1993 or 24 years?

Thanks!
No, in case you are wondering, I don’t actually expect the NRSC to reply to me.  However, if we rewind the clock, in early April the NRSC sent out another email attacking Tim Kaine.  This one centered on the confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  It read:

Hey there –

Failed Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine joined Chuck Schumer’s ill-fated filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch today, attempting to block an up or down vote for the Supreme Court nominee.

Kaine is guilty of the most egregious flip-flop on filibustering Supreme Court nominees (no small feat considering the blatant hypocrisy coming from Senate Democrats this week). During the 2016 campaign, Kaine said that Democrats would change the rules if Republicans attempted to filibuster Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, but now says if the minority party won’t agree, the President must change the nominee. We’re sure his change of heart has nothing to do with the fact that he lost the election.

“Tim Kaine is among the most transparent hypocrites in his conference,” said NRSC Spokesman Bob Salera. “By ignoring voters and attempting to deny a qualified Supreme Court nominee an up or down vote, Kaine is proving his only concern is staying on the good side of liberal activists ahead of the 2020 presidential primary.”

Given that the Senate Democrats attempted to block Mr. Gorsuch in a similar fashion to how the Senate Republicans blocked then President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Garland, I felt like I had to send them an email.

Good afternoon, Mr. Salera.

I agree that Mr. Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote by the Senate.  I’m wondering though, did you similarly call out Senate Republicans when they refused to have an up-or-down vote on Mr. Garland last year?
Thanks.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Salera actually replied to me.
Is your question whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee called out Republican Senators?
To which I answered:

I suppose you could say that, yes.  If not, would you consider such behavior to be hypocritical?  If not, why not?

Thanks!

It shouldn’t be too shocking that Mr. Salera didn’t respond to that message.  In fact, I didn’t get any more messages from the NRSC for several weeks which led me to assume that I had been removed from their email list.  However, later that month, the emails resumed.

Is holding one or more political offices for decades a bad thing?  If so, the NRSC should call out all politicians who have been there too long, regardless of party.  Are Senator Kaine and the Senate Democrats hypocritical for condemning the Republican blocking of Garland and then working to block Gorsuch?  And are the Senate Republicans and the NRSC hypocritical for preventing an up-or-down vote on Garland and then complaining when the Democrats tried to do likewise?

Personally, I find that this behavior of the NRSC and others of promoting partisanship regardless of principles to be grossly hypocritical.  However, in today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I’m sure that the NRSC reaches a lot of folks who don’t even realize that they are engaging in this kind of political doublespeak.  And, although I don’t subscribe to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I wouldn’t be surprised if they engaged in partisan hypocrisy too.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLVI)

On the morning of May 3rd, Andy Schmookler and I appeared for our 46th time on 550 AM, WSVA.  For the first time, neither of us were live in the studio today as Andy lives a good distance away and although I presently live in Harrisonburg, unfortunately, my car repairs are taking longer than anticipated.

Today, we spoke about Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and his lack of accessibility to the average person in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as President Donald Trump, his various proposals, and whether what he is doing is constitutional.  We also briefly touched on the recent Democratic primary for the 26th district House of Delegates race.

Our next show will be at 9 AM on June 14th, the day after the Republican and Democratic primaries.

In case you missed the show live, you can find it here.

WSVA EARLY MORNINGS , 5/03/17 -TALKIN’ POLITICS WITH JOSH & ANDY

Freedom Gulch #22

Last night, Will Hammer, Andy Bakker, and I got together online for the twenty-second Freedom Gulch podcast.  The conversation mainly focused on Donald Trump and his failures to uphold the Constitution as well as the 2017 elections here in Virginia, including the Libertarian Party of Virginia convention, which is coming up this Saturday.

If you missed it live, you can catch the podcast below.

The Gillespie Runaround

Before I get into the meat of this article, let me preface this piece saying that I neither voted for nor supported Ed Gillespie when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.  Early in his last campaign, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Gillespie and asked him, if elected, what specific agencies or departments in the federal government would he work to eliminate if he were elected to the Senate.  He couldn’t give me an answer when I asked him in person, so I emailed his campaign seeking a response.  Despite my repeated inquiries, I never received any reply.  Given this experience, along with what else I discovered about him, I did not believe that Mr. Gillespie shared my philosophy on the proper role of government.

This year, Ed Gillespie is running to be the governor of Virginia.  Rather than simply dismissing his campaign out of hand based upon his previous attempt, I thought in fairness I ought to try again to learn about him and his ideas for Virginia.  In February, I attended a well-run event in Staunton and, although I didn’t get to ask my question in person, afterward I spoke with several of his staffers about my desire for greater political freedom and more open and fair elections in Virginia.  Based upon their suggestions I emailed my questions to them.  A week passed with no response…and then another.  I reached out to them again and was greeted with silence.  In this way a month passed.  Only after I wrote about their failure to communicate did the Gillespie campaign finally reply to me.

For about an hour or so I spoke with one of his staffers on the phone.   He apologized for the delay and declared it to be unconscionable. However, during this conversation, I didn’t get any sort of tangible answers to any of my questions. Instead, he encouraged me to send them specific pieces of legislation that I feel would advance political freedom in our Commonwealth.  Although frustrated, I did as the staffer asked and sent them text and links for several possible laws asking if Mr. Gillespie would support or oppose these pieces of legislation.  They included: making ballot access requirements equal for all candidates regardless of party affiliation, lowering signature requirements, making it easier for other political parties to be recognized, and doing away with legislation that some candidates be listed first on the ballot simply due to their party ties.  The idea is to adopt free market principles in Virginia’s political system.   And, as was the case previously, the campaign did not respond.  Now, almost two more months have passed without any sort of communication.  As they say…fool me once…I assure you that I shall not try a third time.  I cannot help but feel as if they have wasted my time.

I do have to wonder, is this how the Ed Gillespie campaign operates?  Do they have no intention of answering open and honest questions about their campaign?  Do they enjoy giving voters the runaround, confident that they have already secured the Republican nomination and the general election victory and thus have no need to be truthful or upfront about what their candidate stands for?

As a former campaign staffer myself for several election cycles, the way a campaign acts can either elevate or degrade a candidate.  So far, the Gillespie campaign has behaved shamefully.  If they would like a bit of free advice, I would recommend hiring a new political director, one that actually believes in honoring his word.

Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to speak, one-on-one, with several statewide candidates such as Jeannemarie Davis, Pete Snyder, and Ken Cuccinelli.  In fact, I would argue that all ten Republican campaigns that year were more open and responsive than the Gillespie campaign has been in 2017.  Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, I cannot get a straight answer from the Gillespie campaign which leads me to believe that they are being led by deceivers and cowards, running a campaign that doesn’t deserve to win.

So far, Mr. Gillespie and his campaign have been quite vague on their platform and what he hopes to accomplish if he is elected.  However, I can tell you, not even considering policy positions and based on nothing more than my experiences these last several months, that if the Republican primary were held today, I would not cast a vote for Ed Gillespie.  Nor would I cast a vote for him in the general election this year or in any future year.

It is my sincere hope that in the months that remain the Gillespie campaign will do a much better job of responsive and timely answers when it comes to reasonable inquiries.  Otherwise, I expect that many conservatives and libertarians that I know who often vote for the Republican candidate will reject him as they did in 2014.  And, in that case, I assure you I won’t shed a tear when Mr. Gillespie loses this election.