The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXXV)

IMG_0339On Wednesday, May 4th, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on 550 AM, WSVA, for our monthly radio hour.  As the program took place the day after the Indiana primary and the withdrawal of Ted Cruz from the Republican nomination process, and the ongoing contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, it took center stage in our conversation.  In addition, I briefly discussed the Virginia Republican Convention which took place in Harrisonburg several days ago.

In case you missed today’s radio show, you can find it here.

Enjoy!

Feeling the Bern in Staunton

The Bernie Sanders campaign has done something that none of the other 2016 presidential candidates have done yet (to the best of my knowledge).  They have opened a campaign office in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, specifically in the city of Staunton.  Given that the Shenandoah Valley has unfortunately been treated as a second-class region in many election cycles, I decided to check it out for myself.

IMG_3148Although I couldn’t find their address online, a member of the Staunton City Council gave me their location.  And so, on Tuesday, I traveled down to Staunton along with Marc Montoni, the secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia.

Fortunately their office was easy to find with several signs out front and a multitude in their window as well.  Two friendly people greeted us: a man and a woman.  I spent quite a while speaking to her and discovered that she was a member of the local Augusta County Democratic Party.  I didn’t talk as much to the other fellow, but his accent indicated that he was likely originally from somewhere many miles away.  While we were there, Will Hammer, the 2014 Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 6th congressional district and a resident of Staunton, stopped by too.

I found that unlike most campaign offices, this one was created and is operated by volunteers and not paid staffers.  In addition, the Sanders campaign will soon be opening a more traditional office across the mountain in Charlottesville.  However, the Staunton office did have just about everything you’d find in most headquarters: a variety of signs, stickers (both lapel and bumper), position statements, and even a cardboard cutout of Senator Sanders which invited visitors to take selfies.  Alas, they had no buttons.  In the back, they had a schedule for events such as hosting a parade, debate watching, and phone calling.

As I mentioned to the volunteers, although I strongly disagree with many of Senator Sanders’ self-described socialist domestic policies, there are some positive aspects to him as well, such as his opposition to government spying with the liberty killing Patriot Act and not wishing to embroil the nation in additional overseas conflicts.

Would I prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton?  Probably.  For all his concerning issues, Sanders seems a heck of a lot more trustworthy than Clinton.  Will that translate to me voting in the Democratic primary?  Possibly.  With Senator Paul out of the race, quite a few liberty-minded folks no longer care who wins the GOP nomination.  Fortunately, until party registration passes, Virginians have the liberty to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries (though, in an effort to quell freedom of speech and association, as of 2014 the Virginia GOP will expel any of their members who are discovered to have voted in a Democratic nomination contest).

Regardless of how things shake out, it was good to interact with the volunteers at the Sanders headquarters because they didn’t act like the traditional political establishment and were people who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about their candidate, a feeling that has been hard for me to rekindle since the retirement of Dr. Ron Paul.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Staunton area and are interested in politics, stop by the Bernie Sanders office on Lewis Street and say hello.  Or you can find their group on Facebook.

 

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.

Thoughts Of The Democratic Debate

Image from CNN
Image from CNN

Last night, the Democratic Party held their first presidential debate.  Aired on CNN, the event lasted about two hours.  The five participants were: former Virginia US Senator Jim Webb, Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders, former First Lady, former New York US Senator, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island US Senator and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Some of the Democrats gathered at a local brewery in Harrisonburg to watch the debate.  Although I didn’t watch it live, I thought it would be useful to see it in its entirety and not merely snippets in order to be informed.

Here are my my thoughts:

I was very unimpressed by the front-runner, Hillary Clinton.  It is quite possible that she articulated some point on which she and I agreed, but, if so, I do not remember it.  Her declaration that she is running to be the first woman president sounded like needless pandering.  Yes, there is nothing wrong with a female president, but voting for a candidate strictly based upon gender is as foolish and myopic as voting for a candidate based upon race.  She repeatedly attacked the Republicans without offering specifics sounded like nothing more than an effort to score cheap points with the Democratic audience.  In addition, she used far more generalities than anyone else.  Even though she has the highest name ID, based upon her performance in the first debate, she would be my least desirable choice.

Likewise, Martin O’Malley failed to wow me at all, more or less sticking to traditional Democratic talking points.  However, he did make a good comparison in his closing statement about the difference between the Republican and Democratic debates thus far.

There was a time or two that I agreed Lincoln Chafee, especially when it came to foreign policy, but his defense of several of his early votes was pathetic; his excuse that he had just gotten into office sounded like he had no idea what he was doing and shouldn’t have run in the first place.  I didn’t care much for him when he was a liberal Republican and not much has changed.

I was glad to hear Senator Sanders standing up for our civil liberties against the overreaching power of the federal government when it came to matters of the NSA and the Patriot Act, as well as his arguments for a more reasonable foreign policy.  However, pushing for a domestic policy that advocates so much “free” stuff and raising the minimum wage indicated to me that he doesn’t have a sound understanding of economics and the free market.  College degrees for all, especially those who don’t even want one, makes them almost effectively worthless.

Lastly, although I didn’t agree with quite a lot Jim Webb said, I appreciated his views on foreign policy, gun rights, and trying to stand up for all citizens, regardless of the colour of their skin.  He may have not gotten the most time, but from a liberty perspective, he sounded like the best Democratic choice at this point.

Therefore, based solely upon this debate, I would presently rate the candidates as follows:  Webb, Sanders, Chafee, O’Malley, and Clinton at the bottom.  Assuming I didn’t vote in the Republican primary, which I am planning to do based, of course, upon who is in the race and who is leading, I would consider voting for Webb in the Democratic primary.  After all, I voted for Webb in the 2006 Virginia Democratic primary for U.S. Senate (but not in the general election) as I felt he was the best option in that race.

Nevertheless, I encourage you to watch the debate and decide for yourself.

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?

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XXV)

IMG_0243This morning, I returned to the radio on 550 AM WSVA and was glad to have Andy Schmookler join me in studio once again.

The main focus of the day was the 2016 Presidential race.  We spoke about the various politicians currently vying for both the Republican and Democratic nominations.  On the Democratic side, the main candidates were Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton with a small sampling of Jim Webb.  Switching over to the Republicans, Donald Trump took center stage and there was some discussion of Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and even a little Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Jim Gilmore thrown into the mix.  Although I would have liked to mention Gary Johnson and the Libertarians, we are still waiting for his official announcement.

In addition, we also discussed the problematic issue of gerrymandering in Virginia.

If you missed our twenty-fifth installment, you can find it here.

Sanders in Charlottesville

IMG_2901Yesterday evening, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) came to Charlottesville, Virginia to speak about the U.S. budget.  Although the venue, a local church, had seating for about a hundred in their sanctuary, over eight hundred people RSVPed yes on the Facebook event page.  Given that Senator Sanders recently announced his plan to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, the idea of such a large crowd wasn’t particularly surprising.  When I arrived, about forty minutes before the event began, a sizable line had already formed.

While the first hundred in line were able to sit in the sanctuary where the talk was being given, the next twenty were allowed to sit in folding chairs in the hallway just outside, and about fifty more were ushered into the basement where they could listen through a PA system.  However, there were about fifty or so more people who milled about outside the church, unable to find a seat inside.

IMG_2898When Senator Sanders arrived, he spoke to those who weren’t able to get into the church for about ten minutes.

Once inside, the program began with a handful of individuals speaking about their various problems related to the need for better healthcare, unemployment concerns, or the high cost of college education.  For about the next forty-five minutes, Senator Sanders delved into a variety of topics such as: big money in politics and elections, climate change, and corporatism.  As he put it, “our job is to uplift the poor people of the world, not sink the working people in this country”.  For each problem, he seemed to advocate the same solution, expanding government power.  To aid the poor, he believes that the proper solution is to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.  To solve the influence of big money in politics, he thinks that elections ought to be publicly funded.  And to expand educational opportunities, the government ought to fully fund the costs of college as is done in several European nations.

Being a self-identified socialist, none of the ideas he presented yesterday were particularly surprising.  Although the event was billed as a discussion on the budget, he spent only the last several minutes of his speech explaining his worries with the Republican crafted budget.  However, given the variety of topics, I wished that he would have discussed a few of the areas where he and I have some measure of agreement, such as protecting civil liberties and ending America’s role as the policeman of the world.

Nevertheless, I believe it critically important to the health of the political dialogue in our country to listen to a variety of points of view, especially to those with whom you believe you have little common ground.  Therefore, I’m glad that Senator Bernie Sanders stopped in to Charlottesville yesterday; I just wish they would have selected a building at least triple the size so that no one would have had to have been turned away.