The First Libertarian

Scan 46Earlier today, I had the chance to meet with Stuart Bain in Salem.  As some of you may know, back in 2010, Mr. Bain was the Libertarian candidate for the 6th congressional district in Virginia.  Coincidentally, during our lunch, longtime legislator and 2012 Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode also met a group in the restaurant.

I remember first speaking to Stuart Bain one evening after a meeting of the Harrisonburg Tea Party during his campaign.  Never having met a Libertarian candidate before, I was curious to learn more about him.  I remember viewing Libertarians in a negative light at that time; that they were all little more than a version of amoral Republicans who, if they got their way, would legalize all kinds of harmful drugs and destroy the moral underpinnings of our nation, ultimately leading to the decay of our society.

Trying to strike up a dialogue, I introduced myself as a former employee of Dr. Ron Paul.  In response, Stuart Bain asked me if I supported Bob Goodlatte and I told him that I did.  He found my response exceedingly peculiar.  He asked if I favored a limited, constitutional government; of course I said yes.  He asked if I supported the Patriot Act; I’m sure you know the answer was no.  What about the ballooning national debt?  I told him it was awful.  He then informed me that Bob Goodlatte stood in stark contrast to Ron Paul’s positions on these issues.  At the time, I remember being puzzled.  Representative Bob Goodlatte had been in office since before my time in high school and I guess I simply assumed that he was one of the good guys, that his philosophy and mine were in sync.  Assumptions can be dangerous.

Yes, George W. Bush had been a disaster on many issues, but eager to prove that my representative was worthy of the time and support I had given him over the years, upon the suggestion of Stuart Bain, I did my research.  I’m sure you can guess what happened.  The more I read, the more I realized that Bain was right, that Representative Goodlatte didn’t do a particularly good job following many of what I thought were Republican principles.  Over the course of the election I had the opportunity to listen to Stuart Bain a few more times, including in a debate hosted by James Madison University.  At that event, I looked forward to asking Representative Goodlatte about these issues during the question and answer period, but he neither appeared nor apparently even took the time to respond to the invitation.  I thought that move was extremely discourteous to both JMU and to the voters of the 6th district and expressed my displeasure on this blog.

Stuart Bain didn’t seem to fit my preconceived Libertarian mold.  Could there actually be more than one kind of Libertarian?  He stood for much more than drug legalization; for example, he supported Dr. Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act, an exceedingly important issue for a long-time pro-life activist like myself.  Much like the motto of this blog, he advocated a policy of “personal responsibility and liberty“.  Now did we agree on every issue?  Of course not, but comparing Bain with Goodlatte was like night and day.  Therefore, the 2010 election presented a considerable problem.  It was obvious who the best candidate was, but as a 15-year activist in the Republican Party, I didn’t feel I could say anything in support of Stuart Bain even though I sorely wished to do so.  I picked up one of his bumper stickers but I never felt comfortable placing it on my car.

For the record, the city of Salem (Bain’s home) was removed from the 6th congressional district after the 2010 election, so any hope of a future Bain-Goodlatte rematch was dashed.

Getting back to the present, after the election Stuart Bain joined the GOP and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Salem.  As a result, some Libertarians view Mr. Bain with disdain, believing that he abandoned them.  Conversely, some Republicans think of me in the same light, given my support of Robert Sarvis in 2013 and removal from that party in early 2014.  Even though I know some activists will denounce this statement, although we should unite as much as possible, I believe we ought to celebrate the accomplishments of our liberty-minded brothers and sisters in whatever party they believe best serves the movement or even if these actions are done completely outside of a political party.

Remember, good reader, that you never know how your actions will influence those around you.  For example, my attitudes shifted as a result of the 2010 election.  My vote for Stuart Bain in that year led to another Libertarian vote in 2012 and, as most of you know, in 2013 I finally felt comfortable to openly support a Libertarian, Robert Sarvis.

Although our paths have taken us in different directions, I’m glad to know that Mr. Bain is still fighting the fight for liberty.  So, today I write in salute of Stuart Bain, my first Libertarian vote.  Here’s to you!

Beware the Boxer Blimp

Earlier today, I was sent a link to perhaps one of the oddest campaign ads I’ve ever seen.  In it, due to her inflated sense of self-importance and hot air rhetoric, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) transforms into a blimp.

However, due to the extreme length of the piece, seven minutes, one does have to wonder if the piece is far too long to be effective.  After all, in 2010 Senator Boxer defeated Republican Carly Fiorina, whose campaign created the ad, by 10% or 1 million votes.  Of course, ninety-nine times out of a hundred one ad doesn’t make or break an effort.

Anyway, watch it and decide for yourself.

Thanks to Vicious Print for sharing.

Fairly High Turnout

Well, I’ve just returned from the polls.  Activity was pretty brisk with three of the six city council candidates in attendance and the rest represented by proxy.  Not surprisingly, none of the House of Representative candidates had any staffers or volunteers, although there were a group of younger Republicans handing out sample ballots.  Earlier today, the Harrisonburg Democratic Committee and the JMU Young Democrats were passing out leaflets encouraging passage of all three Constitutional amendments stating, “all three are widely supported, and none of them has any major opposition”.  I guess they don’t read the conservative blogosphere do they?  Anyway, while voting at about noon, I overheard that turnout at this polling place was already about 16%.  16%!  Although you may think such a number is small, to have 16% when less than half of the voting day is gone and in a race where we have no statewide or presidential candidates is a pretty high number.

Update:  Below are a few scenes from the Keister polling location in Harrisonburg, VA.  Enjoy!

Council Candidate Greg Coffman with Republicans

Why I’m Voting No

As I stated in a recent post, tomorrow voters across Virginia will have the chance to vote on three amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  After considerable thought, research, and a bit of debate among the members of The Jeffersoniad, I have decided to vote against all of them.

To refresh your memory, the first proposed amendment reads, “Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently disabled?”  Although I am of the opinion that the more localized government the better, I am leery of creating exemptions from property taxes.  I am concerned that once we start creating these blanket exemptions, they will continue to proliferate.  Property is property, regardless of the age, condition, or status of the person who happens to own it.  Once we set up these age or disability limitations, is it that big of a leap for someone in the General Assembly to move to create additional exemptions based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or something else?  As all citizens should be equal under the law, I cannot support this amendment.

For the same reasoning as the first amendment, I cannot support the second one either.  To remind you, it reads, “Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?” Again, I believe this amendment creates a slippery slope.  We should certainly honor and respect our veterans, but is tax exemption the answer?  So what about only partially disabled veterans?  They served our state and our nation.  Shouldn’t they be given some sort of benefits too?  And if we exempt some people from property taxes, will the General Assembly merely forgo the lost tax revenue?  Or will they raise some sort of new tax to cover the shortfall?  Lastly, should we compel widows and widowers to not remarry simply to reap tax incentives?  Again, I say no.

Finally we have, “Shall Section 8 of Article X of the constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund” from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?”  Although, on the surface, this amendment sounds good, I believe it will ultimately lead to higher taxes and an increased size of the government in Richmond.  Rob Schilling addresses this issue when he writes,

Increasing the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund” by 50% is a colossally bad idea. The state is not a bank, an investment, or a savings account; it should hold as little of the people’s money as is practical.

Funds retained by government are unavailable to the state’s economy and thus stifle economic activity both of businesses and individuals.

In addition, fattening the state’s “slush” fund encourages growth in the size and scope of state government, and it is a disincentive to vital cost cutting and budget reform/reduction measures.

Although I am aware that most of the members of the General Assembly will disagree, I cannot support any of these amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  To borrow another quote from Mr. Schilling, “Don’t be fooled by seemingly sympathetic subjects.  Progressive taxation and government largesse have not benefited America in the preceding century.  The 2010 ballot questions are bad news for liberty loving Virginians, and if passed, they will result in greater state control over our everyday lives.”  Now if you haven’t made up your mind on these issues I encourage you to do so before you go vote tomorrow.  Amending the Virginia Constitution is serious business.  I cannot support these proposed amendments and so I encourage you to act likewise and vote no on each and every amendment.

Update:  As discussed, other members of the Jeffersoniad have weighed in on the amendments.  Rick Sincere, Crystal Clear Conservative, Yankee Phil, Brian Kirwin of Bearing Drift, and Tom White of Virginia Right! recommend Virginia voters reject all three too.  However such thoughts are not uniform among conservative bloggers as the Right-Wing Liberal supports the first and third while opposing the second and JR Hoeft of Bearing Drift will vote for the first and second and is against the third.

A Bit O’ Tea

Earlier this evening, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Tea Party had a meeting in preparation for Election Day coming up next week.  Although I don’t have an exact count, it seemed to be pretty well attended.  Most interesting of all was guest speaker State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26).  He spoke to the crowd on a number of subjects: life in Botetourt County many years ago, the excesses of eminent domain, the corruption of V-DOT, and politicians who are fighting against the growing encroachment of the federal government.

Personally, I believe his presence helps establish an important link between the Tea Parties and those in power.  Although some politicians try to ignore the Tea Party movement and hope it will go away, others like Senator Obenshain and former Governor Allen are  trying to work with the group.  I do not believe that the growing dissatisfaction with “politics as usual” is going to disappear anytime soon.  Some leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties have sold out the founding principles of this nation and have unconstitutionally usurped power or abandoned their duties.  Therefore, members of the Tea Party argue that it is high time that these leaders were removed from power.

Like the Ron Paul Revolution before it, there are still a few conspiracy theories afoot.  For example, tonight one person suggested that either the Rothschilds or the Bilderbergers dominate the Federal Reserve.  Regardless of the validity or absurdity of such a claim, there are more important issues to consider.  Overall, I believe that a majority of folks are fairly levelheaded and simply want their country and their government back from the bureaucrats and career politicians who now ride roughshod over the Constitution.  Although it may be easy to dismiss these groups, we do so at our peril.  Despite a few bizarre rumors, I believe that these people, not the GOP proper, will have the greatest impact in the coming years, provided they are properly trained, informed, and organized.  They should not be quickly folded into the Republican Party, but rather act as a gadfly, insisting both the left and the right follow traditional American principles.  What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and in numbers.

Like the GOP and the Democrats, the Tea Party too will be handing out information at the polls on Tuesday.  I don’t believe that they intend to distribute materials in favor of any particular candidate, but rather a statement of their principles and details regarding their meetings.  Then again, given the surprise appearance of Stuart Bain near the end of the gathering, maybe we will see some of his literature at the polling places too.

My advice to you is, if you are a conservative then you should get involved with your local Tea Party.  They could use your help and we, in turn, need more allies in the fight ahead.  My great hope is that they can help curb the abuses of the liberals and get the GOP back on the straight and narrow path.

Vanke’s Poll

Jeff Vanke

During the 6th district debate yesterday evening, candidate Jeff Vanke was looking to convince the crowd that he could beat Bob Goodlatte in the race for U.S. House of Representatives.  After all, it is a simple fact that a good number of people will not vote for a candidate that they know will lose, a trend often referred to as the wasted vote.  To prove his electablity, he presented the audience with poll results that showed Vanke in a virtual even election with Goodlatte.  In this poll, Goodlatte garnered 46% of the vote, Vanke 42%, and Bain 4%.  According to the data, he had about 1,000 random respondents spread across 14 cities and counties in the 6th district.  Sounds promising for Vanke huh?  The problem with the poll however, as Vanke freely admits, is that it is a push poll.

Although I have discussed push polls earlier on this blog, I feel I should refresh your memory.  The primary purpose of push polls are to highlight negative attributes of one candidate either to determine what sort of attacks will be successful against that candidate or to create a strong negative reaction in the minds of voters.  Given their wording, push polls are not a useful tool for determining the outcome of an election as voters are not similarly “pushed” by the generally straightforward nature of the ballot.  For the record, Vanke’s poll reads as follows:

There’s no Democrat in this race, but there is a choice.  Independent Jeff Vanke has drafted a balanced Federal budget, and he’s running for Congress because no one there has done it.  Eighteen-year incumbent Bob Goodlatte has taken more than $1 million in agribusiness political donations, and he has charged each of us over $2000 in extra taxes to pay for agribusiness subsidies.  Independent Jeff Vanke thinks we can do better.

If the election were held today, who would you vote for?  For Independent Jeff Vanke, press 1.  For the incumbent, Republican Bob Goodlatte, press 2.  For Libertarian Stuart Bain, press 3…

Of course if you demean one candidate and elevate another right before you ask for whom a person will vote, obviously the answer will be skewed in favor of the second candidate.  To use a common (and unsubstantiated) example, what if I told you that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen?  Would you be more likely to vote for Barack Obama or a Republican candidate?  Obviously the results would favor the Republican to far greater extent than they would if the respondent had not been told of Obama’s supposed nationality.

Now, I hope you don’t think I’m being overly hostile toward Mr. Vanke.  After all, I believe it takes considerable courage to run for office and I applaud Mr. Vanke for being a very active participant in our election process.  He’s also right in one important respect.  I strongly believe that we need a balanced budget and we need one now.  It is horribly unfair for the present generation to saddle future generations with past debt.

So, back to the question of the day, will Vanke get 42% of the vote next week as his poll suggests?  Don’t count on it.  The last time two independent candidates challenged Goodlatte, combined they only captured about 24% of the vote.  Here’s where I’d jokingly make a ridiculous wager against Vanke getting anywhere close to 42% but, given Representative Goodlatte’s efforts to curb internet gambling and my ignorance regarding these laws, I’ll refrain.  Regardless if you live in the 6th district of Virginia, or someplace very far away, I encourage you to learn about the candidates running and make and informed choice.  Yes, voting is a civic duty, but it must be done rationally and clearly.  Otherwise you may be fooled by the next push poll that comes along.

Debate Sans Goodlatte

On Monday, I got a brief email from the local Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  It told me that the candidates for the 6th district House of Representatives Seat were having a debate.  Being the political animal that I am, I made certain to be free during that time so that I could participate.  Here was my chance to listen to all three candidates for office and ask them about specific issues.  I thought that the notice was written rather strangely.  It read, “At 7:30 PM, Tuesday, the 26th, Stuart Bain, Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th district will be debating his opponents in the Memorial Hall Auditorium at James Madison University.”  Although I know that Representative Goodlatte did not return the Tea Party’s candidate survey, it seemed a bit strange to me that they did not mention the sitting Congressman by name in the debate announcement, but rather used the term “Bain’s opponent”.  Therefore, shortly before the debate, I called Representative Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office to make certain that he would be attending the event.  Unfortunately, I was informed that he was not going to be there.  Despite this considerable disappointment, I still showed up.

Vanke on the left, Bain on the right

Overall, I thought the debate itself went pretty well.  Both Jeff Vanke and Stuart Bain tackled a number of issues ranging from balancing the federal budget, immigration, and various disagreements they have with Congressman Goodlatte’s positions.  As one of many questions from the audience, I appreciated the opportunity to ask the candidates about their positions regarding the war on terrorism. Before I conclude, I want to thank JMU and acknowledge their efforts in hosting the event.  For more coverage on the specifics of the debate, you can visit both hburgnews and whsv.

As I’ve stated many times in the past, in order for our form of government to survive, we must have an informed electorate.  Toward that end, before you vote on Tuesday I encourage you to visit the websites of all three candidates to learn more about them.  As the debate was supposed to highlight, you can choose between the Republican Goodlatte, the Libertarian Bain, or the Independent Vanke.  You should vote, but you should vote smart.

A Secretive Frank Detractor

Continuing our series on local politics and elections, I saw another sign today that sparked my interest.  While traveling down Port Republic Road in Harrisonburg, I came across an encampment of yard signs fluttering in the breeze.  Several were in support of Coffman for Council, others were for Baxter for school board, but a few were different.  Rather than encouraging citizens to vote for a candidate, it tells folks to vote against Carolyn Frank.

Strangely, as you can see, they do not bear the paid for and authorized tag line that other political signs display.  When I saw more of the signs on Neff Avenue as well, I stopped a local business to learn a bit more.  Although on their shopping center property, the business knew nothing of the signs.  They did not authorize them and did not know who placed them there.  Obviously some person or persons have a very strong dislike of Frank in order to go to such lengths as spending their own money for the signs.

Two questions linger, who and why.  Who made the signs?  Why does their creator find Carolyn Frank so objectionable?  I found this same question and a rather lengthy discussion on a recent article on hburgnews.com.  Apparently, a local developer by the name of Bruce Forbes created them.  Their discussion informs us that Mr. Forbes is someone who tries to buy and control politicians.  He assisted in Frank’s election efforts several years ago and turned against her when she wasn’t loyal to his designs.  Getting back to the signs themselves, although admittedly my knowledge of regarding laws for local elections are a bit shaky, I would expect that, like other political signs, they must bear the “paid for” tag line.  If that is indeed an unmet requirement, then the city should remove them as quickly as possible.

If Carolyn Frank, Bruce Forbes, any of their supporters or detractors, or anyone else who has some knowledge of this subject cares to comment further, I’m sure we would be interested in learning more.

A Funny Thing About Local Elections

Besides electing members to the House of Representatives and voting on Constitutional amendments to the Virginia Constitution in a couple of weeks, many cities and counties in Virginia will be holding local elections too.  In Harrisonburg, for example, we will be electing members to the city council and the school board.  What has always confused me about local elections is that political parties, citizens, and even candidates themselves never really take campaigning for these offices too seriously.  Sure, they put up yard signs, send out a single mailer, and might even try to knock on your door once, but that’s about it.  Although I won’t claim I’ve observed them all, I will admit that I’ve never seen a professionally run campaign for a city office here in Harrisonburg.  Where is the fundraising…or the volunteers…or the campaign manager?  Now I know what some candidates will say, that they don’t have the funds to run a full-scale campaign, but I believe it can be done fairly easily.  Unfortunately, tradition is tough to overcome.  For that simple reason, so many people ignore city and county elections and think that they are a joke.

In our last city council elections, we had three Democratic candidates, three Republicans, and two Independents vying for three seats.  Keep in mind that this election took place during the McCain vs. Obama election.  So guess who won?  All three Democrats did.  As far as I could tell, Tracy Evans, who is currently the Chairman of the Harrisonburg GOP, had the best-run campaign, but, with all due respect, it was still insufficient when compared to more traditional ones.  Unfortunately, it is likely that all three Republicans relied on the McCain campaign for support rather than running a separate and independent operation.  Given that the McCain campaign only garnered 41% of the vote in the city, the council candidates were defeated too.  In general, it seems as if city council and school board candidates place their trust in their own renown and fortune to win elections.  If the political winds are favorable, like in 2004, the Republicans will win.  If fortune turns against them, like in 2008, they will be destroyed.  Since the local elections are now tied with the state and national elections rather than being the traditional May event, it is even more important for candidates to set themselves apart from the state and national currents.  On the flip side, given the high negatives of Obama and the Democratic led Congress, if neither the Democrats nor the Republicans run a hard fought campaign, I would expect the Republicans to win at least one, if not both, of the seats on council this year.

City council and school board races are important for two reasons:  1. Some of these leaders go on to higher office.  2. Because of their relatively small constituency, they are supposed to be the easiest to contact and be closest to the people.   Do I want a conservative city?  Certainly, just like I want a conservative state and a conservative country.  When it is all said and done, elections rise and fall based upon candidates and their campaigns.  Given the low turnout and interest in these races, even a modest campaign can easily swing a couple hundred votes which can mean the difference between a loss and a win.  So candidates, if you are serious about winning, ask the loyal base for our money, ask for our time, and ask for our vote.  It’s that simple.  And get a decent campaign going for crying out loud.  Now I’ll freely admit that I could be wrong about Harrisonburg local elections, given that I’ve never really been fully engaged in one, but from what I’ve observed, as well as the fact that I’ve never been asked to really help out either, I truly doubt it.  State and national elections are very important, yes, but we cannot continue to allow local elections to simmer unwatched on a back burner.  They are real campaigns for real offices and must be treated as such.  In closing, I’m well aware that some liberals read this blog, and if they take this message to heart and conservatives do not, don’t blame me.  If Republicans continue to insist on running a joke of a campaign, then, like in 2008, Harrisonburg will soon receive a Democratic punch line.  I doubt many of us find that prospect a laughing matter.

More Than Just Candidates

Although I was unaware until very recently, here in Virginia we will be voting for more than just candidates on next month’s ballot.  We have three, count ’em three, potential amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  Although I doubt many of us have read the Virginia Constitution, a great pity, I encourage you to check out this important document.  It can be found on the internet here.  In order to make the right decision concerning these three amendments, you need to know what each do.  Here to explain is my State Senator, Mark Obenshain.

Many voters will be surprised to see three Virginia Constitutional Amendments on the ballot when they vote in three weeks (or earlier if voting by absentee ballot).  I write this to provide a quick overview of the three constitutional ballot questions you will see when you vote.

All three amendments address taxation and revenue issues, and all three have passed the General Assembly two consecutive years (with nearly unanimous votes), as is required by the Constitution of Virginia, and they now go before the voters for final approval.

The first ballot question reads as follows: “Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently disabled?”

Currently, localities are only authorized to make exemptions for those who bear an “extraordinary tax burden,” or with the express approval of the General Assembly, which occasionally passes legislation authorizing specific localities to afford local property tax relief to senior citizens or the disabled. This amendment, if approved, would allow local governments to make the decision on their own, without going to the General Assembly for approval.

The second ballot question asks: “Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?”

If approved, this amendment would require a statewide exemption from local property taxes for the primary residence of any 100% disabled veteran, provided that the veteran’s disability is service-related. A surviving spouse could continue to claim the exemption so long as the same home remains his or her primary residence, and s/he does not remarry.

Finally, the third ballot question says: “Shall Section 8 of Article X of the constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund” from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?”

In other words, should we expand the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund,” to which state government contributes in good years to provide resources for lean years? Currently, the maximum size of the Fund – which is almost empty at present – is 10% of the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues from income and sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years; this amendment would up the maximum allowable amount to 15%.

If you have any questions about these three ballot items, please do not hesitate to let me know – and please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd!

Thank you Senator Obenshain with your words of insight.  Hopefully all Virginians, myself included, take the time to read and learn about these amendments to determine which, if any, are right for us.