On Tuesday, March 15th, the Rocktown Libertarians will be holding their monthly meeting at O’Charley’s in Harrisonburg. The social gathering begins at 6 PM, but often attendees don’t arrive until about 6:30 or 7. This month, Harry Griego will be a guest at the gathering. Mr. Griego is challenging Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th district.
Looking back on my time growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, I realize that it is a very toxic place politically. Activists, politicians, and party leaders often reinforce the idea that those in a differing political party are the enemy and should always be treated as such. Much like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, each side has developed a hatred of the other and loyalty to their family or party which often supersedes reason, logic, principles, and even understanding.
As I wrote last year, I was encouraged when in 2011 the local Democratic party offered, and Republican sheriff candidate Bryan Hutcheson accepted, a speaking slot at their meeting. Unfortunately, the local Republican party bosses leaned on Hutcheson and he ended up declining the invitation.
When I ran for city council in 2014, I greatly appreciated the chance to speak to the JMU College Republicans alongside the Republican nominees. Unlike the other candidates, I didn’t focus too much on myself, but rather talked about the principles for which the Republican party supposedly stood. However, I was told that the local Republican Party leaders castigated the JMU CRs for allowing me the speaking slot and was later informed that I was no longer welcome even to attend their weekly public gatherings.
In 2013, when Senator Mark Obenshain ran for Attorney General of Virginia, I strongly and repeatedly encouraged his campaign to reach out to the Libertarians as there was no Libertarian candidate running for that office. However, they refused declaring that it would look bad for party unity for him to do so. I still wonder that if he did, would Obenshain have picked up 166 additional votes and thus would have been elected attorney general? In addition, if he were to make such a gesture, that would mean Senator Obenshain would be recognizing the right for the Libertarian Party to exist and to run candidates. In early 2015, I asked him about the matter and was both shocked and dismayed when my state senator informed me that he opposed the idea of any candidate, except for Republicans and Democrats, being listed on the ballot. Shortly thereafter, in mid 2015, April Moore, Senator Obenshain’s Democratic opponent, reached out to the Rocktown Libertarians and ended up speaking to them.
In late 2015, Nick Freitas, now the Republican Delegate for Virginia’s 30th district, was the featured speaker at JMU’s Madison Liberty group.
As you might imagine, I am very encouraged that Harry Griego will be speaking to the Rocktown Libertarians tomorrow night. Not only does it give Mr. Griego the chance to speak to some likely receptive voters, it sends a message to the Shenandoah Valley that the Libertarians have the same rights and privileges as both the Republican and Democratic Parties. In addition, I’ve been informed that some regional liberty-minded Republican leaders will be attending the event too. Despite what some may think, this isn’t an attempt to convert Libertarians to the Republican Party or Republicans to join the Libertarians (although given the decline of the GOP that might end up happening), but rather to spread dialogue, understanding, and discover issues of mutual importance. I suppose it is likely that some establishment Republicans will declare Mr. Griego’s visit as disloyalty to the Republican Party, but you should bear in mind that any elected official or candidate should be beholden to and reach out to all of his or her constituents, not simply the party bosses and big donors who keep him or her in power. We cannot reclaim our country so long as legislators are allowed to ignore large groups of voters and run on mere party labels and nothing of any substance. Is there any wonder why a supposed outsider like Donald Trump leads the Republican field for president?