Negative Endorsements & Agreeing to Disagree

Although this might be a controversial statement to some activists, I firmly believe that not all endorsements are beneficial to a political campaign.

Image from the Dunbar campaign

For example, in this cycle in Virginia races, former Representative Ron Paul has endorsed Cynthia Dunbar for the 6th district in the House of Representatives and Nick Freitas for U.S. Senate.  I see these as positive endorsements given that not only is Dr. Paul my former boss,  I respect Ron Paul due to our shared principles and I believe he is an honorable man.  Over the years have I supported everyone he endorses?  No.  Nevertheless, I believe Paul’s endorsement is particularly positive.

For comparison, the present representative for the 6th district of Virginia, Bob Goodlatte, also has made endorsements (though none in this cycle as far as I know).  Given that we do not share much in the way of ideology when Representative Goodlatte endorses a candidate that fact makes it less likely, but certainly not an automatic disqualifier, that I will also support him or her.  His endorsement, in my mind, is negative.

Image from Jerry Falwell Jr’s Twitter page

Recently, the campaign of 6th district candidate Ben Cline announced that Jerry Falwell, Jr. has endorsed Cline.  As someone who both likes and respects Delegate Cline, I ended up speaking with a member of the Cline campaign regarding it.  Given Falwell’s unwavering support for Donald Trump despite the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s sexism, authoritarianism, and his flippant attitude toward religion, I believe that Mr. Falwell is leading otherwise good Christian men and women astray.  I wrote about the matter in late 2016 when I penned “The Fall of the Religious Right“.  Therefore, the staffer and I had a brief exchange about Mr. Falwell, respectfully disagreed about the value of his endorsement to the Cline campaign, and that was the end of the matter.

That dialogue, in my opinion, is how political disagreements ought to be discussed and resolved.  Obviously, no two people do nor ought to agree on every political matter.  That doesn’t mean that one side or the other is necessarily stupid or evil.  However, there are those who disagree.

Image from the Freitas campaign

Last week, the Nick Freitas campaign announced that former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has endorsed his candidacy.  As regular readers know, I have a great admiration for Mr. Freitas.  However, I don’t think much of Bob McDonnell.  Although I voted for him for attorney general in 2005 and governor in 2009, he demonstrated that he neither shared my political principles, by signing the largest tax increase in Virginia nor supported my values through his unethical conduct in the governor’s mansion, later revealed during his corruption trial and his conviction.   Although his sentence was later vacated (though he was not acquitted),  as Chief Justice Roberts wrote,“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that.  But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns.  It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.” As a result of his actions, whenever I hear of McDonnell, I am reminded of the image below.

Image from http://grumpycatrulesall.lolspots.com/

Therefore, when the Freitas campaign announced Bob McDonnell’s endorsement to a private group of which I am a part, I expressed my concern stating, “I’m not sure this is a positive.”  Although the first response was to offer a counterclaim, to which I explained why many Virginians might view McDonnell unfavorably (for the reasons listed above), the resulting conversation got rather nasty.

For example, here are some things that were said to me and about me:

“There are also some people who think bigfoot is real.”

“No, some opinions are quite literally BS.”

“The entire Supreme Court of the United States agree on very little, but they agree those people are morons.”

“‘I disagree with a few bills he signed into law.  Therefore, we should pervert the law and arrest him.’  How very libertarian…”

“Thankfully libertarians and us liberty lovers consider folks innocent until proven guilty.”

“There are some people who think the moon landings were faked.”

“‘I only want endorsements from pure libertarians.’ is my favorite political posturing.”

One of Freitas’ staffers called for restraint after initially making a negative comment, but it went unheeded; it seemed that the rest sensed blood in the water.  So, apparently, because I believe that Bob McDonnell that is sleazy and not someone I would want to associate with, according to some staffers and diehard supporters of Freitas that is a BS opinion of a moron akin to believing that Bigfoot is real, the moon landings were faked, and is also an example of political posturing.  Given that the last comment was made by an out of state staffer who I’ve never met, there was a part of me who really wanted to tell the guy to go **** himself.  Those who know me know that that this something that I’ve never said, but he made me so irate I didn’t know at that moment what else to do.  Afterward, the same staffer mentioned above contacted me to apologize for what had transpired but, by that point, the damage had already been done.

Good heavens!  After reading these comments you’d think that I was a bitter critic of Nick Freitas, not one of his ardent supporters!  And yet, despite having a different opinion of Bob McDonnell, so many of them treated me with utter contempt and disrespect.  If this kind of behavior is indicative of how they interact with their volunteers who have differing opinions, they won’t have to worry about running against Tim Kaine in November because they will have already lost the Republican primary in June, having driven away all of their supporters!

Yes, there are good people who think that Bob McDonnell is pretty scummy but there are also decent people who still support him.  I think the Freitas campaign touting his endorsement is a mistake, but I’d like to believe such an opinion, especially expressed in a closed Facebook group wouldn’t result in such nastiness.

As you might imagine, this exchange upset me quite a bit, for about the next 24 hours actually.  On Wednesday afternoon, while still feeling dejected, I spoke to one of my fellow grad students about what transpired, and he said it demonstrated the dangers of groupthink.  As someone who prided himself on cultivating and maintaining mutually rewarding volunteer relationships whenever I served on a campaign, to call the behavior I witnessed appalling is an understatement.  Although I still plan to vote for Freitas in June and encourage every other registered voter in Virginia to do likewise, I am sorely tempted to throw up my hands and refuse to lift a finger to help the campaign further.

Nick Freitas is a good and principled man and he ought to be represented by a good and principled campaign.  That is why I believe the Freitas campaign needs to do something to prevent this sort of thing from happening to someone else and they need to do it now.

As stated at the beginning of this piece, I firmly believe that there are endorsements that can help a campaign and others that hurt it.  Although we might disagree on who falls in which camp, I’d like to think we can be respectful when we have political disagreements and not result to throwing around insults and attacks.  Hopefully, the political climate hasn’t deteriorated so much that this sort of thinking isn’t realistic.  Let me end by borrowing part of a speech Delegate Freitas recently gave on the House floor that seems to have gone viral.  “If we want to have an open an honest debate, I am all for that.  Let’s do that.  But it does start with a certain degree of mutual respect.”

Replacing Goodlatte: Republican Candidates for the 6th Congressional

A Guest post by Kevin Stiles

Bob Goodlatte will not be the 6th Congressional district representative for the first time since 1992. Hardly news, but since I was two years old when he took office, this is a brave new world for me and many others. The 6th is considered one of the safest Republican seats in the country, and as such, it is very likely that the Republican convention decides who gets the seat. As of the time of writing, there are currently eight Republican candidates. However, given the candidate is selected by convention, I highly doubt the five least connected candidates: Ed Justo, Mike Desjadon, Elliot Pope, Doug Wright, and Kathryn Lewis really have a chance for a Congressional seat. Let us then consider the three main candidates:

Cynthia Dunbar

Photo from the Dunbar for Congress Facebook page

Cynthia Dunbar is probably the most well known outside of Virginia. Dunbar rose to prominence during her controversial tenure on the Texas Board of Education winning a seat in 2006 and serving from 2007 to 2010. While serving on the Board, Dunbar came under criticism for comments she made regarding religion and its place in education; government’s role in education; and pushing for textbooks on Mexican-American studies that were labeled Anti-Mexican. Dunbar continues to monitor the education situation in Texas and has worked closely with her mentor, David Barton. Dunbar recently ran against Suzanne Obenshain for National Committeewoman to the RNC from Virginia and won an upset in a narrow vote. Dunbar served as a professor of law at Liberty. Dunbar has claimed that Constitutional law can be superseded by religious affiliation and various interpretations of the Christian Bible. The form of the primary seems to favor her (see below). While Scott Sayre, 6th district chair for the RNC, hasn’t made it clear if he supports her, Deputy chair Matt Tederick has been publicly supportive of Dunbar. However, Dunbar’s political baggage could prove costly. Her radical stances on many issues may strike a chord with many Democratic voters, as the Dems continue to see larger than expected turnouts for off-year elections and special elections. Dunbar may prove the most vulnerable to what some are calling the “blue wave”  that may follow Trump’s victory in 2016.

Chaz Haywood

Photo from the Haywood for Congress Facebook page

Mr. Haywood is the current Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court. Mr. Haywood seems to be the establishment choice, having gotten the Obenshain endorsement, as well as the endorsement of Georgia Long (former 6th District RPV State Central Representative). Unfortunately, not much is known about Mr. Haywood. He hasn’t had a whole lot of public activity to really flesh out his positions beyond campaign platitudes. He served as a representative for both Mr. Goodlatte and former Governor George Allen. His website is full of well-worn phrases about “putting people first” and “standing with veterans.” Predictably, he plans to “stand with President Trump in his efforts to improve business and job growth, protecting our manufacturing jobs here and working to bring back jobs lost overseas.” However, substantive policy issues are noticeably lacking.

Ben Cline

Photo from the Cline for Congress Facebook page

Mr. Cline has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2002. This extensive political background gives Cline the most well-defined policy positions. He is co-chair of the Virginia Joint Legislative Caucus and House Chairman of the Conservative Caucus.  Cline has sponsored several more libertarian-leaning pieces of legislation such as the recent medical marijuana bill and his proposed limit on Law Enforcement drone usage. He also pushed for recorded votes in committees in the General Assembly. Cline has called for defending Confederate statues and has an A+ rating from the NRA, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League. He’s received low marks from the Sierra Club for his stance on the environment and mixed results from the Virginia Education Association. He has also received multiple endorsements from several Trump staffers such as the national field director Stuart Jolly and Mike Rubino, Trump’s Virginia State director. Cline earned the endorsements of Delegate Nick Freitas and Denver Riggleman as well.

The convention will be held May 19th at the JMU convocation center in Harrisonburg. At the moment the convention will be single ballot plurality, rather than a multi-ballot majority. This is subject to change, but this seems to favor Dunbar. Dunbar, seen as an outsider, could mirror Trump’s own rhetoric of “draining the swamp.” The plurality would mean she would not need to go through the strenuous process of deal-making that normally goes into finding a majority approved candidate. The convention process also lends itself to more conservative candidates. The 6th district is, by-and-large, Trump country. Predominantly Caucasian, with lower rates of higher education, large numbers of unemployed and underemployed blue-collar workers, and a sizeable evangelical population all seem to point towards an advantage for Dunbar. However, as we’ve seen in Alabama and other elections, the independents and conservatives that have traditionally voted for the GOP candidates are not turning out for radicals such as Dunbar. Additionally, they inspire Democrats to vote in near-record numbers. We do not know for certain if this trend will continue, and even if it does, the 6th is notoriously safe and the Democrats are fielding two new-comers to challenge for the seat. But the GOP should be wary before unleashing a firebrand like Dunbar.

Kevin Stiles is a resident of the Shenandoah Valley in Luray, VA. He attended Bridgewater College where he got a degree in History and Political Science.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode LIII)

Yesterday morning, Andy Schmookler and I took to the air on WSVA, 550 AM for our 53rd monthly installment to discuss local, state, and national politics.  A central focus was the U.S. Senate in Alabama which took place the day before.  In addition, we also spoke about the impending retirement of 6th district House of Representatives member Bob Goodlatte and the continuing investigation of collusion between the Russian government and Donald Trump.

As always, if you missed the program live, you can find it here.

A Toast to Bob Goodlatte

Today, Virginians across the 6th district have received excellent news.  Bob Goodlatte, the area’s legislator in the House of Representatives since 1993, will not be seeking reelection.

Since moving out of state and beginning my Ph.D. work, I have not had a drop of alcohol.  But tonight, after more than seven years of false starts and rumors, hoping and waiting for this news, I thought a celebration is most certainly in order.

Here’s a toast to the end.

Here’s to the end of your more than two-decade-long reign.

You have claimed to be a limited government conservative, but your record in Washington speaks otherwise.

You speak of liberty and limited government and then write and vote for bills which curtail freedom and enlarge the state.

You have left a legacy of debt which will no doubt cripple our nation for generations to come.

You have expanded government programs to suit your needs and the desires of your donors.

You have ruled the Shenandoah Valley with an iron fist, crushing those who question your edicts.

You have meddled in political affairs throughout the 6th, installing or attempting to install elected officials and party chairmen, not based upon good political principles, but rather loyalty to you and your minions.

You have sought to smash the careers of fine people in the Shenandoah Valley who refuse to kiss your ring.

In these last few years, you have ignored and purposely dodged your bosses, the people of the 6th district.

You have hired some of the most unsavory of characters, giving both power and protection to those of low morals.

Soon, so very soon, it will finally end.

So may your successor be just and fair.

May he or she promote liberty, honor, and honesty in all facets of public service.

May he or she reverse many of the policies you helped enact and actually defend the Constitution you swore an oath to protect.

May the people of the 6th shout “never again” when they think of your time in office.

And may your legacy be forgotten.

Tonight, I raise my glass to you, Representative Bob Goodlatte.

Finally, at long last, the end is in sight.

Partisan Hypocrisy

On Friday afternoon, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email entitled “Longer Than They’ve Been Alive.”  Here’s what it said:

Hey there –

Some things you can just count on. Fireworks on the 4th of July. Turkey at Thanksgiving Dinner. And if there’s an election being held, Tim Kaine is probably running for some political office.

Tim Kaine is giving two commencement addresses this weekend: Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sunday at Northern Virginia Community College. And to celebrate, the NRSC is debuting a new Snapchat filter, reminding 2017 graduates that Kaine’s political career has been going on longer than most of them have been alive! Over the past 23 years, Tim Kaine has run for every political office imaginable. City Council, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, Senate, and Vice President. As these new college grads head out into the world, there’s always one thing they can count on – Tim Kaine will always be out there looking to collect a taxpayer funded salary!

So happy snapping! And be sure to send your pics to the NRSC on Snapchat (theNRSC) and Twitter (@NRSC)!

As the email mentions, it also includes the graphic that you see to your left, comparing the amount of time Tim Kaine has either held or run for office and the average age of a college graduate.

The message of the email is obvious.  Tim Kaine has been in politics a long time.  He is a career politician and, by phrasing it as “longer than they’ve been alive”, the NRSC is saying that being a career politician must be a bad thing.

Given that the NRSC is saying that Tim Kaine is a career politician and that that is a bad thing, I thought I should ask them if they have created a similar graphic about my representative, Bob Goodlatte, who has been in the House of Representatives even longer than Tim Kaine has held or run for any office.

Hello.  Do you have one of these for my congressman, Representative Bob Goodlatte, who has been in office since 1993 or 24 years?

Thanks!
No, in case you are wondering, I don’t actually expect the NRSC to reply to me.  However, if we rewind the clock, in early April the NRSC sent out another email attacking Tim Kaine.  This one centered on the confirmation hearing of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.  It read:

Hey there –

Failed Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine joined Chuck Schumer’s ill-fated filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch today, attempting to block an up or down vote for the Supreme Court nominee.

Kaine is guilty of the most egregious flip-flop on filibustering Supreme Court nominees (no small feat considering the blatant hypocrisy coming from Senate Democrats this week). During the 2016 campaign, Kaine said that Democrats would change the rules if Republicans attempted to filibuster Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees, but now says if the minority party won’t agree, the President must change the nominee. We’re sure his change of heart has nothing to do with the fact that he lost the election.

“Tim Kaine is among the most transparent hypocrites in his conference,” said NRSC Spokesman Bob Salera. “By ignoring voters and attempting to deny a qualified Supreme Court nominee an up or down vote, Kaine is proving his only concern is staying on the good side of liberal activists ahead of the 2020 presidential primary.”

Given that the Senate Democrats attempted to block Mr. Gorsuch in a similar fashion to how the Senate Republicans blocked then President Obama’s appointment of Mr. Garland, I felt like I had to send them an email.

Good afternoon, Mr. Salera.

I agree that Mr. Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote by the Senate.  I’m wondering though, did you similarly call out Senate Republicans when they refused to have an up-or-down vote on Mr. Garland last year?
Thanks.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Salera actually replied to me.
Is your question whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee called out Republican Senators?
To which I answered:

I suppose you could say that, yes.  If not, would you consider such behavior to be hypocritical?  If not, why not?

Thanks!

It shouldn’t be too shocking that Mr. Salera didn’t respond to that message.  In fact, I didn’t get any more messages from the NRSC for several weeks which led me to assume that I had been removed from their email list.  However, later that month, the emails resumed.

Is holding one or more political offices for decades a bad thing?  If so, the NRSC should call out all politicians who have been there too long, regardless of party.  Are Senator Kaine and the Senate Democrats hypocritical for condemning the Republican blocking of Garland and then working to block Gorsuch?  And are the Senate Republicans and the NRSC hypocritical for preventing an up-or-down vote on Garland and then complaining when the Democrats tried to do likewise?

Personally, I find that this behavior of the NRSC and others of promoting partisanship regardless of principles to be grossly hypocritical.  However, in today’s hyperpartisan political environment, I’m sure that the NRSC reaches a lot of folks who don’t even realize that they are engaging in this kind of political doublespeak.  And, although I don’t subscribe to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I wouldn’t be surprised if they engaged in partisan hypocrisy too.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLVI)

On the morning of May 3rd, Andy Schmookler and I appeared for our 46th time on 550 AM, WSVA.  For the first time, neither of us were live in the studio today as Andy lives a good distance away and although I presently live in Harrisonburg, unfortunately, my car repairs are taking longer than anticipated.

Today, we spoke about Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and his lack of accessibility to the average person in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as President Donald Trump, his various proposals, and whether what he is doing is constitutional.  We also briefly touched on the recent Democratic primary for the 26th district House of Delegates race.

Our next show will be at 9 AM on June 14th, the day after the Republican and Democratic primaries.

In case you missed the show live, you can find it here.

WSVA EARLY MORNINGS , 5/03/17 -TALKIN’ POLITICS WITH JOSH & ANDY

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLV)

On the morning of Wednesday, April 4th, Andy Schmookler and Joshua Huffman appeared on 550 AM, WSVA for our monthly radio hour.

The main topic of the day was Neil Gorsuch and his appointment to the Supreme Court.  As the confirmation vote draws near, more Democratic Senators, including Virginia’s own Tim Kaine, have announced they will not support Mr. Gorsuch.  Will he be confirmed?  Is this payback for what happened to Merrick Garland last year?  Will Senate Republican use the nuclear option?

The next subject we briefly tackled concerned a speech that Andy Schmookler gave outside of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office the previous day. At that time, he challenged Goodlatte to a debate or for him to investigate the possible unethical and illegal actions taken by President Trump both before and after he was elected.

If you missed the show this morning, you can find it here.

Sell Out!

Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)
Image from the film, The Sellout (1952)

VC Note:  I wrote this piece on November 15, 2015, though I decided against publishing it until recently.

 

In the world of politics, a person is often faced with the decision to sell out one’s principles in order to further his or her own ambitions.  I dare say that every activist has faced this choice sooner or later and if you haven’t yet, that likely means that you are still quite new to the arena.

In 2014, while running for local office, I had the opportunity to sit-in on several of the meetings of the JMU College Republicans.  If you are new to this website, you might not know that student activism has been an interest of mine ever since I began my political journey as a high school student and so I try to encourage students any chance I get.  Unfortunately, I was told that my presence at the JMU CRs upset some of the local establishment Republicans, given that I wasn’t wed to their partisan banner anymore, and they were pressuring the CRs to get rid of me.  As a result, one evening a student came up to me and flatly said that I was no longer welcome at their gatherings.  However, if I were to tell you that the JMU CRs hosted an event honoring Bill Bolling during that semester, that likely tells you all you need to know about the values of that organization at that time.

Anyway, before my exclusion, I appreciated the chance to listen to several of their speakers.  One week it was Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge County with whom I had a very positive interaction after the meeting.  However, it was a speech from my own state senator, Mark Obenshain, that sticks most strongly in my mind…even over a year later.  During his talk, he extolled several former JMU Republicans who went on to successful careers in politics, such as a few of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s past and current employees.  Unfortunately, each and every person he mentioned that night shared a common trait; they either sold out their principles or never really had any principles to begin with, and all were more than willing to step on anyone who gets between them and power.  I had more than my share of nasty run-ins with many of these folks.  Although these names were likely foreign to many of the students around me, I knew them all well and to hear this rogue’s gallery listed as a group young political activists ought to aspire to emulate was dismaying indeed.  It made me think.  Is selling out is the ticket to success?

Over my twenty years in politics, I have had a chance to meet a lot of liberty-minded activists.  Some have remained faithful to their ideals while others have not, choosing to support and work for candidates and politicians of dubious moral character who willingly jettison their principles when the leadership tells them to do so…or the price is right.  Some activists have been willing to use any tactic, without respect to morality, if they think it will achieve their goals, knowing that elected officials and party leadership will defend their actions.

As you might imagine, hearing cases of this corruption or watching it unfold firsthand has been profoundly disheartening.  Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Yes, having power is important.  Being able to support yourself in the political world is certainly important too.  But, at the end of the day, if the eager and wide-eyed novice you once were has been replaced by a callous, manipulative, and immoral professional, don’t you have to ask what was the point of getting involved in politics in the first place?  Isn’t it written, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”  (Mark 8:36 NLT).  It pains me to say that I’ve crossed paths with many individuals who have apparently sold their souls and, despite any superficial claims to be godly and attempts to cosy up to the religious right, face the very real danger of damnation.

So, my friends, whatever your political leanings, I urge you to remain grounded and faithful to your principles.  Never lie, cheat, or steal in order to gain glory, money, fame, or power nor should you ever knowingly follow anyone who acts in this fashion.  Shouldn’t we work to instill values such as honor, courage, honesty, and steadfastness in the next generation of activists?

But, then again, what do I know?  After all, there are many activists and politicians who have advanced much further than I have by stabbing others in the back, bowing down to the lobbyists, and deceiving the folks back home.  And, if you asked them behind closed doors, here’s the advice they would likely give:

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode XLII)

On the morning of Wednesday, January 4th, Andy Schmookler and I had our 42nd political radio hour on 550 AM WSVA.  Although I never time it, the show seemed a bit shorter than usual, perhaps starting later and/or with more commercial breaks.

The main topics of the day included: the end of the Obama presidency, his legacy, and the start of the Trump presidency.  We also briefly considered whether and to what extent the Russians may have played in the recent elections.  We planned to discuss Representative Bob Goodlatte’s attempt to dismantle of the independent House ethics committee and the resulting blowback from the public and President-elect Trump but unfortunately didn’t have sufficient time.

As usual, if you missed today’s show, you can find it here.