No Republicans for Harrisonburg?

img_0646-1In recent elections for the Harrisonburg City Council, both the Republican and Democratic Parties have fielded a full slate of candidates for office.  Most years independents run as well, and, for the first and so far only time, in 2014 the Libertarian Party had a candidate too.

However, 2016 is proving to be an odd year.  Three council seats are up for election and the window for candidates to file is now closed.  Two sitting members, Kai Degner (a Democrat) and Abe Shearer (an independent) are not running for re-election, while a third member, Richard Baugh (a Democrat) is seeking office again.  As is typical, the Democratic Party has three candidates for these three seats, Deanna Reed and Paul Somers join Mr. Baugh.  George Hirschmann is running as an independent.  However, in a previously unheard of move, the Harrisonburg Republican Party has nominated zero candidates for city council.

I cannot recall the last time the Republican Party didn’t nominate at least one candidate for city council, let alone a full slate of two to three candidates.  It does beg the question, has the Harrisonburg Republican Party given up?

Back in 2003 and 2004, I lived in the city of Charlottesville.  During that time, they held an election for city council, but curiously none of the Republican candidates ever made mention of their Republican label.  If I recall correctly, in the ensuing election the Democratic candidates won easily.  Throughout that election the mood of Charlottesville Republicans was one of inevitable defeat, as you might imagine it was a very depressing scene.  Has this same realization hit the Harrisonburg Republicans?  After all, only one Republican candidate has won in Harrisonburg when facing a Democratic opponent since the 2009 elections.

I am reasonably certain that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will not win the city of Harrisonburg.  Therefore, running under the same banner of Trump will likely drag Republican city council candidates down in much the same way that Mitt Romney hurt the 2012 Republican city council candidates.  If we saw a bunch of independents in this cycle, that reasoning could very well explain the lack of Republican candidates.  However, as mentioned, there is only one independent this time.  Conversely, has the Harrisonburg Republican Party jettisoned any and all semblance of political principles so that no self-respecting conservative or libertarian would consider taking up their mantle?  Although I believe that the Harrisonburg Republican Party doesn’t really have any interest in advancing the ideals of limiting government, that still doesn’t explain why there are only four candidates running for the three seats.

Unfortunately, I believe that Harrisonburg is transitioning into a single-party city, much like the Byrd machine of last century.  Although not insurmountable…at least yet, I would argue that affiliation with the Democratic Party gives a candidate an instant advantage.  Given the growing voting JMU student population and the far more effective Democratic college outreach than Republican, coupled with a weak, ineffective, and often surrendering Republican leadership at the Congressional level, and that the GOP at the local, state, and national level have nominated some candidates over the years that are virtually indistinguishable from their Democratic opponents when it comes to policy has created an climate where the Democratic Party now thrives and the Republicans have found themselves on the brink of extinction.

Some people theorize that 2016 might spell the end of the Republican Party as a major, national political party in the United States.  Much like the demise of the Whigs in the 1850s, a new or existing political party will rise up to take its place.  Well, whether it survives nationally or not, does the lack of Republican candidates in the 2016 elections for city council coupled with a Facebook page which hasn’t been updated in over six months and a dead link to their seemingly defunct website mean that the Republican Party is no longer a factor in Harrisonburg politics?

Ben Carson’s Religion

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Some polls have indicated that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has opened up a lead in Iowa.  In related news, recently Donald Trump decided to attack Carson over his faith, highlighting that he is a Seventh Day Adventist and thus questioning if Seventh Day Adventists are actually Christians.

It is true that some people consider Seventh Day Adventists to be a cult and thus not “true” Christianity.  Part of this opinion stems from the early days of the church when William Miller incorrectly predicted the end of the world in 1844.  In addition, they have several doctrines, such as the keeping of the traditional Jewish Sabbath, that set them apart from other groups.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, declares that he is a Presbyterian.  However, church records indicate that his involvement with that group is limited.

These attacks are nothing new.  For example, in 2012, some people attacked Barack Obama for being a secret Muslim.  Others derided Mitt Romney for being a Mormon.  Given their unique theological beliefs, there are many who don’t consider the Latter Days Saints to be Christian.  One of my friends declared that it is “better to vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.”  However, that issue is a topic for another day.

Back in 1960, the same fears were voiced against Jack Kennedy, with worries that given he was a Catholic, he would be an agent of the Pope.  Switching to more local politicians, given the religious makeup of the 6th district of Virginia, I’m surprised that no one has made a campaign issue of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s faith, given that he is a Christian Scientist, which again some people think isn’t real Christianity.  Even Ben Carson recently weighed in on the subject of religion declaring that a Muslim should not be president.

Personally, I think these kind of attacks miss the point.  Last I checked, we are looking to elect a president, not a pastor or priest.  We are looking for someone to save our nation, not save our souls.  The government and the church aren’t directly tied together and I think it would be very problematic for our faith if the government decided to get any more involved in religious matters.  They have done enough damage already!  The simple truth is that we have a wide variety of religious beliefs in this country and if we all decided to elect politicians who shared our theological viewpoints it would be impossible.  And yet some people (typically those on the right side of the political spectrum) try to make this matter a central issue.

Yes, religious faith is an important part of a person’s character, but what church, synagogue, mosque, or temple he or she chooses to be a part of, if any, does not necessarily indicate the depth or quality of his or her faith.  After all, there are plenty of so-called Christians who don’t practice what they supposedly believe.  As the book of James says:

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  James 2:20-26 NLT

So, don’t simply judge anyone, whether he is a candidate for political office or not, based upon stated religious affiliation.  Remember that some practice what they believe while others don’t.  After all, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16 NLT.  A rosebush may look nice, but it is full of thorns and doesn’t provide much for useful consumption.

Therefore, instead of picking politicians based upon church membership, it is far better to ask yourself which of these candidates share my political views and which do I trust to honor his or her word.  Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.  Good for him.  But where does he stand on the issues that matter most to you and me?

Where Rand is Wrong

Photo from the AP and Manuel Balce Ceneta
Photo from the AP and Manuel Balce Ceneta

In the first Republican debate of the 2016 season, Senator Rand Paul and Donald Trump got into a mini-debate of their own after Donald Trump refused to guarantee that he would support the eventual nominee of the GOP.  Although this maybe the only time I utter these words, I agree with Mr. Trump…on this point.

The Republican Party hasn’t been particularly adept at advancing the principles of limited government nor taking to task their elected officials who repeatedly and often flagrantly violate these supposed values.  Even worse, both in D.C. and in Richmond, they often reward the most unscrupulous politicians with positions of leadership.

If we rewind the clock to the 2008 and 2012 elections, there is no question that the GOP treated several of their candidates unfairly.  In 2008, Senator Rand Paul’s father was often excluded from the process and ended up endorsing the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin, in the general election.  In 2012, the Republicans shunned former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and so he left the party and ran as the Libertarian Party nominee.

If the party nominates a candidate who stands in stark contrast to a person’s values, then no one should feel compelled to support him or her.  No one.  And yes, even though I think Trump is just playing the Republican audience, he shouldn’t be forced to blindly support the Republican nominee either.

Senator Paul is right to criticize Trump for being on both sides of almost every major issue.  However, at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina he was wrong to say “Ross Perot gave us Bill Clinton” or “are you ready for Donald Trump to give us Hillary Clinton?”.   President George HW Bush lost to Clinton because he misled the American people when he pledged that there would be “no new taxes”.  The voters who cast their ballot for Perot in 1992 aren’t owned by the GOP and so they couldn’t be stolen by Perot.  Using that same logic, did Ralph Nader steal the election from Democrat Al Gore in 2000?  Wouldn’t most Republicans have considered this theft a positive development?  In the same way, if Donald Trump ends up running as a third party candidate and Hillary Clinton is elected, that doesn’t mean that Trump stole the election but rather the GOP did a poor job advocating its message, rallying their base, convincing undecided voters and/or likely nominated a poor candidate to be their standard bearer.

If the Republicans lose in 2016 as they did in 2008 and 2012, maybe, just maybe it is because they had a bad candidate, ran a poor campaign, or both.  I don’t blame Trump for not blindly pledging support for the GOP nominee no matter who he or she is or what he or she stands for.  At this point, I have no plans to support a few of the Republican candidates if they make the general election ballot and many of my liberty-minded brothers and sisters have said likewise.  As one example, so far Donald Trump hasn’t convinced me that he is worthy of the support of conservatives or libertarians.

Principles are and must be more important than unquestioned party loyalty.  I hope all the candidates, including Rand Paul and Donald Trump, remember this point.

Virginia Republicans Need A Primary!

The renewed talk of convention versus a primary here in Virginia for the 2016 Republican Presidential contest seems to be the hot topic at the moment, taking up space on a variety of Virginia blogs.  Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to offer my thoughts.

As the title of this piece indicates, why not hold a primary next year?  After all, as others have already pointed out, the Republican Party of Virginia doesn’t have the sufficient funds to pay for a convention right now.  Rather than taking the fiscally responsible path of having a political party pay for its own nomination contest, isn’t it far better to soak the Virginia taxpayers, many if not most of whom have absolutely no interest in determining who the Republican Party nominates?

Now, now, I know what some of you will say, “the Republican Party is the party of limited government and keeping taxes and spending low”.  However, given that the Republican leadership in the General Assembly supported the two largest tax increases in Virginia history (Governor Mark Warner’s tax hike followed by Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation tax plan), will anyone really notice if the GOP sticks the citizens with the bill once again?

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, elected Republican officials often shun conventions and instead select primaries.  Representative Bob Goodlatte chose a primary in 2012 because there was a worry that he might lose in a convention if the party faithful could hold him accountable.  In 2015 and 2007, Virginia Senator Emmett Hanger did the exact same thing.  Friends, if the GOP picks a convention, there is a good chance that those already in office won’t win and, as the people exist to serve their legislators, it would be utterly disastrous for us to lose our 20+ year incumbents.  Can you imagine the hassle of having to remember the names and political positions of our new leaders every two or four years?  Why, most of us don’t pay near enough attention to politics to handle that kind of responsibility!  It is far better to stay the course.  When we elect a candidate once, assuming he or she gets the stamp of approval from the leadership in Richmond and/or Washington, we should elect him or her for life!

Now, that’s not to say that primaries always produce the best outcome.  After all, last year Dave Brat defeated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Republican candidates actually running on the Republican creed!  Who could fathom such a thing?  Why didn’t voters choose the name and face they knew rather than someone (shudder) that actually promotes conservative values?  Nevertheless, just because of this one unfortunate situation, one shouldn’t discount primaries entirely.  After all, they usually produce candidates that don’t give two cents about the values of the grassroots and are more interested in working with the Republican power bosses.  Who could forget such inspiring leaders selected by primaries?  We need more leaders like John McCain and Mitt Romney! Nevertheless, it is hard to understand why voters in the general election reject the sort of establishment, moderate Republicans that primaries produce.

Friends, the arguments are simple.  It is ridiculous to think that Republicans should have to pay for their own nominating contests.  In addition, primaries usually allow well-funded incumbents to stay in office, forget about their principles, and continue to ignore the wishes of the men and women who helped to get them elected in the first place.  Aren’t they the type of leaders we need?  With those thoughts in mind, why should the Republican Party of Virginia consider any other nomination method?

Virginia Republicans need a primary in 2016!