On Friday, January 2nd, I received a notice from my representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th), encouraging me to connect with him on Facebook. Although I followed him for many years, my enthusiasm for him has waned considerably and I’ve been actively supporting his challengers for the last several cycles.
Rather than pointing to a single issue, for there are many, let me instead offer some background and history.
There is no question that Representative Bob Goodlatte has been a mainstay in Shenandoah Valley politics. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, he has been serving in that capacity for twenty-two years. Most elections he has been without a Democratic challenger and he has faced an opponent from within his own party only once, Karen Kwiatkowski.
When I first became interested in politics in the mid 90’s, I supported Representative Goodlatte without question. After all, isn’t that what a “good Republican” ought to do? Once I graduated from college, seeking a position to make a difference in politics, my first interview was in his office, as I hoped to become his regional representative for Staunton. That didn’t come to pass but, several years later, I had another interview, this time to work for the House Agricultural Committee which Goodlatte chaired. That didn’t work out either.
Ah ha, you might say. You grew bitter about not getting a job then. Actually, that doesn’t really have anything to do with it. I’m actually grateful for any opportunity to get work in politics and certainly don’t hold that against him.
Well, is it something personal then? Again, not really. He has always been civil to me and I have done my best to be civil toward him. For example, this year he made it a point to say hello to me even while I wore the shirt of Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for the 6th district, and did so again a few months later while he was stumping for the Republican candidates for city council. I’ve donated my time for his liberty-minded opponents and he donated $500 to my establishment competition for Harrisonburg City Council.
So, what then?
Well, a small portion of it deals with the people in his employ. Although he does have some good staffers, several of his people over the years are downright unpleasant, egotistical, arrogant, power-hungry bullies whose one goal is to rise as far and as fast in the political ranks as possible, caring little what principle needs to be discarded or what person needs to be eliminated to achieve these goals. Yes, I’ve encountered people with these traits throughout my adventure in politics, but these kind of individuals seem to flock to Representative Goodlatte at a far higher than average rate.
But that’s only a small part of the problem. The far larger one deals with the fact that he and I have a radically different political philosophy. I believe in a small, constitutionally limited federal government while he doesn’t…not really. Although Representative Bob Goodlatte often uses great rhetoric, his votes and bills often don’t match.
The truth was hard for me to swallow at first. After all, watching previous political role models such as Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush either fall from grace or completely abandon their principles was hard to accept. Surely my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, was the good constitutional conservative that he claimed to be. Like the kid who asked Shoeless Joe Jackson on the steps of the courthouse, “say it ain’t so, Bob.” Unfortunately, the legislator I assumed Bob Goodlatte was didn’t match who he actually happened to be. Let me offer some examples to illustrate:
– For a good many years he has been advocating a balanced budget amendment but has voted to raise the debt at least seven times. Wonder why the country is over $18 trillion in debt? Representative Goodlatte has been part of that problem.
– He supported the 2014 continuing resolution commonly known as the CRomnibus. As Conservative Review states, “This 1700+ page, $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill granted President Obama full funding for 11 of 12 federal departments for the remainder of the fiscal year – without any congressional restrictions on his unilateral action on amnesty, Obamacare, and environmental regulations. Worse, this bill actually provided Obama with an additional $2.5 billion in funds to facilitate his executive amnesty.”
– Has both supported and opposed minimum wage increases (depending on which party holds the White House) despite the fact that Congress has no constitutional authority to set any sort of wage standards.
– A leading advocate to ban internet gambling even though that is yet another power not enumerated to the federal government.
– Was the deciding vote in favor of Medicare Part D, further embroiling the federal government in yet another area it has no legitimate control.
– Voted for George W. Bush’s meddling in education with No Child Left Behind which Republicans are finally starting to publicly admit was a mistake.
– Voted for George W. Bush’s military adventures in Iraq despite the fact that Iraq posed no military threat to the security of the United States. This conflict has cost trillions of dollars, and resulted in the needless deaths of a multitude of Americans and Iraqis. In addition, destabilizing the region has only increased the possibility of terrorism against the United States and her citizens.
– Cosponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and supporter of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) designed to strip away our freedoms on the internet.
– Voted for the Patriot Act. Although you can make an argument for it in the wake of the 9/11 hysteria, Representative Goodlatte has voted for it each and every time it comes up for renewal, gravely endangering the civil liberties of Americans.
– Voted for the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which created the TSA, needless hassle and harassment at the airport, and has failed to do much to deter or catch terrorists.
– Voted for the National Defense Authorization Act in recent years which, along with the Patriot Act, allows for indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects in violation of the 4th Amendment.
– Voted for the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014, which, in the words of Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3rd), “permits the U.S. government to acquire, retain, and disseminate nonpublic telephone or electronic communications to or from a U.S. person”.
– Voted to impeach President Clinton and, although now Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and admits that President Obama “is not enforcing the law“, he refuses to consider impeachment for Obama’s gross abuses of executive power.
I could go on to include his advocacy for big ag subsidies and his support for the ethanol mandate, choosing crony capitalism over the free market, but these are some of the more troubling issues of the day.
Just as important, Representative Goodlatte does not feel beholden to his constituents. At the 2012 6th District Republican Convention, he surprisingly called the 6th district GOP chairman, Wendell Walker “his boss”. Although his honesty was appreciated, I was horrified to learn “his boss” wasn’t the voters of the 6th district or even the Republicans of the 6th district. To hammer home this point, despite the fact that the 6th district Republican committee unanimously wrote a letter to demand Representative Goodlatte oppose John Boehner for Speaker of the House in the 2013 election, he ignored them and voted for Boehner anyway. In 2015, he once again cast his lot with John Boehner. Although his campaign shirt proclaims, “Bob Goodlatte, Working Hard for Us!” it should more accurately read, “Bob Goodlatte Does Whatever He Wants and Ignores Us!” After twenty-two years in office, he seems to be far more beholden to the power-brokers and lobbyists in Washington than the citizens he was supposedly sent to represent.
He or his people treat the 6th district of Virginia as his fiefdom, replacing party leaders who oppose him or trying to silence his critics (as was done to me when I was expelled from the Republican Party). Unfortunately, Goodlatte and/or his supporters have hurt quite a few of my friends and allies who, like me, believe that principle is more important than any single politician. As a result, an increasing number of them react by treating Representative Goodlatte with utter contempt.
Although the 6th district of Virginia is arguably the most conservative district in the state, one whose people support an extremely limited federal government, we have a representative who has proven time and time again that he does not share this point of view. Yes, it is a good thing that he encourages a public reading of the Constitution on the Congressional floor, but it is clear that he doesn’t seem to think that all of its provisions, especially the 9th and 10th Amendments, should be used to restrain the power of Washington.
Representative Goodlatte is a member of the Republican Party, but as I’ve illustrated through the issues listed above and The Washington Post agrees, he certainly shouldn’t be mistaken as either a conservative or libertarian.
I hope that Representative Goodlatte and I can continue to be civil toward each other and yes, compared to some legislators (Senator Shelly Moore Capito I’m looking at you), Goodlatte is better. However, although Goodlatte might be a decent enough fellow personally, if you like a federal government that grows bigger every year, strips away our civil liberties piece by piece, supports endless war, ignores the Constitution, rewards some businesses at the expense of everyone else, works to enslave us all with debt, employs some of the most unsavory of people, and promotes big government Republicans like John Boehner, then Representative Goodlatte should suit you just fine. Conversely, I oppose them all which puts the two of us at odds.
Believe it or not, I’d love to be proven wrong, that Representative Goodlatte is a strong advocate for liberty, that all the examples I’ve given don’t offer an accurate picture, and I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I don’t think this is the case. And so, I’ll continue to speak out against his votes. I don’t do this because it is good for my political career, on the contrary I’ve been informed that it is personally detrimental for me to stand against such a powerful figure in Shenandoah Valley politics and likely has cost me several jobs, but because principle should come before our own enrichment.
I’ll admit that I’d very much like to support my representative as I once did, but that will either require a change of principle by myself or Congressman Goodlatte…or a change of representative.