Thoughts of Iowa

Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.

First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP.  Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:

Candidate          Votes      Percentage    Delegates

Ted Cruz             51,666    28%                8

Donald Trump   45,427   24%                7

Marco Rubio      43,165    23%                7

Ben Carson         17,395    9%                  3

Rand Paul           8,481      4%                  1

Jeb Bush             5,238      3%                  1

Photo from Ted Cruz's Facebook page
Photo from Ted Cruz’s Facebook page

Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened.  Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates.  Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night.  Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed.  Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers.  Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam.  Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar.  And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot!  As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.

Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook.  “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee.  As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.”  In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives.  Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising.  Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus.  And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.

Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates.  The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks.  After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%.  Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.

Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.

Candidate              Percentage    Delegates

Hillary Clinton     50                    26

Bernie Sanders     50                    21

Martin O’Malley   0                      0

Photo from Hillary Clinton's Facebook page
Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page

Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote.  However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won.  As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.

Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds.  Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed.  While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.

Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley.  It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties.  It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.

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?

A Cry for Party Unity?

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

This morning, I read a piece on Bearing Drift where Brian, the author, calls for party unity in the Republican Party.  Specifically, he points to the 29th House of Delegates district in Virginia where some supporters of Delegate Mark Berg have openly declared that they will be writing in Berg’s name as opposed to voting for the Republican who defeated him in the June primary.  The writer is upset that Delegate Berg has not publicly denounced this grassroots plan.  Chris Collins, the Republican candidate in the 29th is running unopposed in the general election.

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is all too common in the Republican Party these days.  Support the party no matter what!  It doesn’t matter what the candidate stands for, at the end of the day all Republicans must support him!

I think back to my expulsion from the local GOP over a year and a half ago.  And it’s true, although I was member of the Republican Party (and a former employee of the state party), I began to openly oppose Republicans who I felt didn’t represent my values.  When I was removed, I got into a discussion with one of the local leaders about the situation.  I said that we needed to support strong conservatives and libertarians who stood up for the Creed of the Virginia Republican Party.  She disagreed declaring that “a good Republican” was one “that supports all of the Republican candidates”.  What an unfortunate state of affairs.  Think about what is being said.  Where a candidate stands, what his or her principles and ethics are doesn’t really matter.  All Republicans are expected to support the Republican nominee…no matter what.

Yes, I supported Delegate Berg in the 2015 primary even though I didn’t live in the district and I took off part of the day to campaign for him at the polls.  In response, my state senator’s former legislative assistant, an entrenched establishment Republican, began attacking me on Facebook saying that it wasn’t right for me to help a candidate I believe in because I wasn’t a member of the party any longer.  That’s funny.  I thought we lived in a nation where we still enjoyed freedom of speech and freedom of association.  Do you think he would have complained if I had aided Berg’s establishment backed opponent?

What I’ve noticed is that the establishment calls for party unity when they want to get their hack of a candidate elected, but have no problem leaving principled people high and dry.  The driving motivation of some people is to elect members of their party and, unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what these people stand for.  In fact, it is better if they are ruled by their ambitions rather than ideology for these people will be more likely to avoid controversy because they will do whatever the party leadership in Richmond or Washington tells them to do.  They feel that they must keep the conservatives and libertarians quiet and under a tight leash or the leaders could be exposed as the frauds they are.  Party unity in the GOP is a joke.  A sad, pathetic joke.

12105703_10153363121401051_4033843500359479141_nAlthough I certainly have policy disagreements with Dr. Ben Carson, I think he hits the nail on the head with his quote, “the problem with Washington is that we’ve all become Democrats and Republicans instead of Americans.  Everything is aimed at enhancing a political position instead of strengthening America.”

Make whatever jokes about the Libertarian Party you like, but recently the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida resigned instead of supporting a potentially fascist Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.  Are there many Republican Party leaders who would do likewise if placed in a similar situation?

At this point frankly, I don’t care if the Republicans or the Democrats control Congress.  Speaker John Boehner made it abundantly clear that he would sell-out the grassroots and punish principled legislators who tried to hold him to account.  Will his replacement be any better?  In addition, I don’t care which of the two parties wins control of the Virginia Senate in the 2015 elections.  What I do care about is electing men and women who will boldly and unreservedly stand up for my principles and who are more worried about advancing liberty and limiting the size and scope of government at all levels instead of pleasing the party bosses and maintaining their power base for as long as possible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  If I lived in the 29th House of Delegates district, I would write in Delegate Mark Berg on November 3rd.  Then again, maybe I have the freedom to say such things because I’m a liberated former Republican.

One reason why this country is so screwed up is that politicos have forgotten that principles should guide political parties and not the other way around.  Want to know why outsiders are currently leading in the Republican presidential primaries?  It’s because honest, hard-working Americans are sick of this “party first” crap.  Given their current disdain for him, will the establishment remember this call for unity next year and rally behind Donald Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee?  I’m glad I have liberty to make that decision for myself.

Gun Show Straw Poll

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

This weekend, the Rockingham County Fairgrounds played host to a gun show, an event that takes place there several times a year.  It is one of the larger gun shows, or perhaps even the largest gun show in the region.  At this event, the Massanutten Patriots (formerly known as the Harrisonburg Tea Party) held a straw poll for the 2016 Presidential election.  The methodology was quite simple.  As attendees would walk by their table, they would be asked which of the candidates (of any party) they would support assuming the election were held today.  Rather than given a laundry list of choices, respondents were expected to offer their own.  Although some were undecided, that option was excluded from the outcome of this poll.

Unlike other straw polls, this one doesn’t gauge political activists but rather average Americans who have at least somewhat of an affinity for firearms.  Like other straw polls, this one wasn’t scientific either.

Anyway, here are the results:

Donald Trump: 43%

Ben Carson: 18%

Ted Cruz: 15%

Marco Rubio: 8%

Hillary Clinton: 3%

Jeb Bush: 2%

Carly Fiorina: 2%

Mike Huckabee: 2%

Bobby Jindal: 2%

John Kaisch: 2%

Chris Christie: 1%

Bernie Sanders: 1%

Total votes: 93

Given that gun owners are typically far more conservative than liberal and more Republican than Democrat, it wasn’t shocking that a majority chose Republicans.  Then again, there are Democratic gun owners too, so there was bound to be a couple of responses for the Dems.  However, I have to say that I found the results at least somewhat surprising.  Yes, Donald Trump is leading in national polls, but I assumed his numbers wouldn’t be nearly this high.  When I asked some of the respondents why they supported Trump, a common answer was that they liked that he spoke his mind and wasn’t beholden to any particular special interest.

Another unexpected result was Rand Paul.  If you scan the tally, you will notice that Paul and a few of the other declared candidates aren’t listed.  That is because not a single person named him as their choice.  Although Paul is a favorite among Republican liberty activists, winning the Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll in New Hampshire, he seems to be either unknown or not favored among the gun-owning citizens of the greater Shenandoah Valley.  As was pretty much the case for his father’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, so far the Rand Paul campaign has had no official presence in this part of Virginia.  Then again, none of the candidates have had official representation here with the notable exception of the Carson campaign.  One of his staffers was collecting signatures to get Dr. Carson on the ballot outside the gun show and attended the last First Friday meeting of the local GOP.

Although Donald Trump and some of his supporters think that the media is treating him unfairly, and I guess that it is possible that they are, the fact that he is still the most mentioned candidate does much to keep him in the public mind.  As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  Assuming there is at least some measure of favorable or at least neutral press coverage, that maxim holds true in politics.

So, it seems that Trump has actual real supporters among gun owners and is not simply astroturfing.  The question is though, will he continue to maintain his lead until the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire?