On Friday at noon, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties held their monthly First Friday gathering at the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg. The featured speaker was Pete Snyder who is heading up the Republican victory program in Virginia for 2012.
The meeting itself was a fairly ordinary affair. About two-dozen or so local Republicans attended, most enjoyed lunch, while I just had several glasses of sweet tea. However, once just about everyone had dispersed, I paid my bill, sat on the bench near the entrance and wept.
As we live in a society which typically discourages most public forms of emotion, especially from men, it must have been a strange sight indeed for those around watching a thirty-one-year-old person cry for no discernable reason.
So what, may you ask, caused me to act in such a fashion? The answer is boiling anger, overwhelming frustration, and infinite sadness triggered by the actions of one local Republican.
I wept for the sake of the party. In the meeting, one person declared that our goal should be to elect “anyone but Obama”. Really? Has our party become so vapid and devoid of rational worth that we will gladly rally behind any man or woman regardless of merit simply because he or she is not Barack Obama? Heck, Hilary Clinton is not Obama; does that mean we should support her if she had an “R” by her name? And isn’t there is an ocean of difference between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich? Don’t principles mean anything anymore? And I started to fear that perhaps I was gravely mistaken to believe that they ever did. Yet if we cast aside principles, what’s left to separate the parties other than a meaningless animal mascot and a color?
I wept for the state of Virginia and the nation as a whole due to the fact that we have so many leaders of both parties that seem to care nothing or at least very little about the values of the people and the society that placed them in their position of power. Sure, we can criticize members of the other party who trample upon the Constitution, moral decency, or the rule of law, but calling out members of your own party who violate these ideals has become taboo. Therefore, I must mourn the loss of political dialogue and freedom that have given way to strict and unthinking party loyalty.
Although it may sound selfish, I wept for my future employment prospects and myself. As I’ve mentioned to many people over the last several months, there are few things that I desire more than the chance to make a decent living promoting my political principles among my fellow countrymen, the citizens of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. However, my rugged insistence of clinging to my values is likely seen as a liability. Who wants to hire a passionate paleo-conservative when malleable yes men are available? Which kind of person will likely cause less headaches? Unfortunately, most of the powerful and affluent politicians scoff at liberty-minded constitutional conservatives while those companies and people who do value us either have no money and can only offer volunteer opportunities or give little better than subsistence wages. Does the easiest, and perhaps only, way to succeed involve selling out? Again, I fear that blind allegiance to the party and its leaders trump standing up for the creeds that supposedly guide their actions.
Lastly, and more importantly, I wept for the demise of a former political ally, a person who supposedly once held the political principles that I cherish. To be fair, I had known for some time that this person had jettisoned our shared beliefs, but I now realized that there was no turning back, there is no hope for redemption. Conservative/libertarian principles have melted away and have been replaced with a zeal for the establishment. Now the ideological drift is simply too great; today we have about as much in common as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky does with someone like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Virginia Senator Steve Newman does with fellow Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment. We might both call ourselves Republican but we likely have as many areas of disagreement as agreement.
This knowledge is particularly disappointing, but it alone wouldn’t have been enough to spur such a reaction. However, after the Republican meeting was over, that same person savagely attacked me with an over the top tirade in front of a fellow activist. At that moment, that person represented to me everything that is wrong with politics today; a person ruled, apparently not by principle, but self-serving ambition that is willing to use anything or anyone as a stepping-stone to greater influence. Although I know that it only heightened tensions during the exchange, much like a scene from Fellowship of the Ring, I more or less inquired when did this person decide to “abandon reason for madness?” This particularly ugly combination of events frays any past political ties and makes the hope of any future cooperation unlikely at best.
So, if you happened to have entered the Wood Grill Buffet in Harrisonburg on Friday and saw someone crying on the bench, now you know why. I was overcome with grief and anger mourning the downfall of many things: the bastardization of my party, the way in which so many politicians continually deceive the public without recourse, the loss of a former ideological believer, the likely failure of my future, and the death of the principles which supposedly guided them all.
How would you feel if you discovered that so many of the activities and relationships you crafted over the past seventeen years might be meaningless? What if your great passion created nothing but corrupted politics and false friends, and the only thing you had to show for your effort was a pile of crumbly ashes? If so, you might say, as Lesley Gore wrote in her well-known song, “it’s my party…you would cry too if it happened to you”.