Why Not Vote Libertarian?

Joshua Huffman with 2012 Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson at the 2016 Virginia Libertarian Convention

VC Note:  On April 2nd, the Daily News Record (my local paper) published an opinion piece from Mr. Allen Clague III entitled “Be Careful in Voting Libertarian”.  In the article, Mr. Clague attempts to dissuade citizens from voting for Libertarian candidates by using some flimsy or just plain wrong reasons, such as the party and her candidates are secretly well funded by billionaires and their shadow groups.  After reading it, I felt it required a response.  Here is what I wrote which appeared in the April 16th edition of the paper.  The paper created the title for this piece.


After reading Mr. Allen Clague III’s open forum piece from April 2nd called “Be Careful in Voting Libertarian”, I thought it needed both some factual clarifications and a rebuttal.

First, I do not know of many people who would call Ted Cruz “a libertarian cloaked as a Republican.”  For example, his desire to see “if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out” presumably due to the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, coupled with his support for religious profiling of Muslims in America and his calls for the government to force Apple to unlock their iPhone are all decidedly unlibertarian positions.  And these are just a few examples.

Furthermore, as Republican Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) wrote in his endorsement of Ted Cruz, “Ted is not a libertarian and doesn’t claim to be.”  Therefore, I believe it is an error to associate Ted Cruz as a standard-bearer or even a foot soldier in the libertarian movement.

Second, I’ve never heard of a group called Citizens for Prosperity.  There was a group called Citizens for a Sound Economy, but it split in 2004 to create Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Although some people claim that Americans for Prosperity is a front for the Libertarian Party, in my experiences I have never seen them promote a single Libertarian candidate or official but have witnessed them helping Republican candidates and officeholders.

Now, to be fair to Mr. Clague, perhaps he didn’t write the headline associated with his piece.  After all, I have found that when I write for the Daily News Record my titles often change.   However, I agree that one should always be careful in voting, regardless of which candidate or political party you choose to support.  Unfortunately some voters don’t take the time to learn about their choices, instead blindly assuming that a party’s candidate follows a certain set of principles, which often is untrue.

Sure, there are some people who like to throw out the names of political bogeymen.  If you are on the left, the Koch brothers are evil masterminds bent on world control or if you are on the right, it is George Soros pulling the puppet strings of others.   Although it makes for an interesting story, each side assumes that these men wield an unbelievable amount of power and control over our political process.  It is easy to say that we have no say in what happens.  However, if you don’t like the way your city or county government is run then it is up to each of us to make a change.  Do you think your state or federal government representatives are corrupt?  Then mount a challenge to vote them out of office.  It’s really that simple.  If that means voting for a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent candidate, have at it.  Don’t toe a party line again and again simply because you’ve always voted that way.

What is Libertarianism if it isn’t a scheme to make the Koch brothers and their allies rich?  Well, unlike some other political philosophies, my understanding is that libertarianism advocates a very limited government, one that protects life, liberty, and property, while doing little else.  I do not believe that one should use the power of the government to take from our neighbors to enrich either our friends or ourselves.

Friends, don’t be scared away from voting for the best person in each election regardless of political affiliation.  Despite what some people may say, sometimes voting for Libertarians is the best option.  It certainly beats the lesser of two evils!  And, if you think that some secretive, well-funded group controls the Libertarian Party, I have some disappointing news for you.  After all, if they were, don’t you think we would have seen some extremely well funded Libertarian campaigns by now?  I’ve been involved in politics since I was a student at Harrisonburg High School in the mid to late 90s.  As soon as I get my first check from the Koch brothers the readers of the DNR will be the first to know!

Obenshain vs. Petersen on Party Registration

Senators Obenshain & Petersen from their respective Facebook pages
Senators Obenshain & Petersen from their respective Facebook pages

On Tuesday, SB 1060 came to the floor of the Virginia Senate.  Sponsored by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), this bill would bring the state voter registration by political party.  Doing so would create closed or semi-closed primaries where only declared members of a political party (and perhaps independents) could participate in a given party primary.

A fair number of liberty-minded Republicans and Libertarians have taken to Facebook to oppose SB 1060; some of us have contacted Senator Obenshain’s office as well.  I listed my objections to this idea in a piece last week.  In addition, both Deb Fitzgerald, the Chairman of the Harrisonburg Democratic Party, and I offered our concerns in Wednesday’s issue of the Daily News Record.

On the Senate floor, Senator Obenshain was the lead proponent of the bill while Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) was the most vocal opponent.  Senator Obenshain declared that by passing party registration, Virginia would conform to a majority of other states.  In addition, doing so would grant political parties the power to “choose who gets to participate in that…process.” As Senator Petersen stated, “there are two winners from this bill.  One is the Republican Party, the other one is the Democratic Party.  The parties are going to get so much more power if this bill passes.  But let me tell you who is going to lose.  It’s going to be ordinary people that just want to participate in elections.”  As Senator Petersen goes on to say, those who are outside the two major parties (such as Libertarians), or others who desire to switch political parties could find themselves completely excluded from the process.  Unfortunately, the Republican Party of Virginia has already moved in this direction, reviving the much reviled loyalty oath and changing their party plan last year by expelling members who participate in the nomination process of other parties.  In addition, Senators John Watkins (R-Powhatan) and Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) also explained why they would not support party registration.

The vote that followed was exceedingly close, 19-21, following mostly along party lines.  Every Republican voted in favor except Senators Watkins and Walter Stosch (R-Henrico) who joined with the Democrats to defeat SB 1060.

HB 1518, Delegate Steve Landes’ (R-Augusta) party registration bill also died yesterday as the Privilege and Elections subcommittee failed to recommend reporting it to the floor of the House of Delegates.

Below is the full debate on SB 1060.  Thanks to Blue Virginia for posting this video to YouTube.

The Harrisonburg Budget

Letter to the editor submitted to the Daily News Record on May 14th and published on May 21st.

On Tuesday, a multitude of citizens spoke, listened, and watched as the Harrisonburg City Council debated the budget for 2014-2015.  At the end of the evening, I’m sure that many of us, like the older folks who spoke against the proposal, were disappointed with the result.   Unfortunately, the council decided to raise a multitude of taxes, including: the real estate tax, the personal property tax, the motor vehicle tax, and the water and sewer rates.

At a time when so many Harrisonburg residents struggle with fiscal uncertainty and an increasing number live on a fixed income, it is worrisome that the city decided to place such an increased burden on the people.  Yes, budgeting is a difficult process as many groups and agencies vie for dollars alongside critical responsibilities.  Nevertheless, like many of you, I wish that the council had instituted a few more cuts to keep taxes lower.

A Tilted Controversy

IMG_1873Recently, a war has been playing itself out in the opinion section of my local newspaper, The Daily News Record.  This conflict is waged over the opening of a new restaurant at the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg called The Tilted Kilt.

So what’s the big deal, you might ask?  Well, one of the unique features of this establishment concerns the appearance of their employees.  Their well-endowed all-female server staff wears short plaid kilts (though they look a bit more like mini-skirts than kilts), a matching top, which accentuates their physical features, and a tied shirt that leaves the midriff more or less completely exposed.

Many in the religious community, especially the Valley Family Forum, have strongly condemned the Tilted Kilt, declaring it to be blight on the Shenandoah Valley and a place that sexually exploits and objectifies their women servers as well as their male clientele.  Others, however, including one local church, see the Kilt in a positive aspect, as it is a place that offers new food choices as well as a variety of jobs to citizens.

Yesterday, along with a couple of friends, I visited this establishment to learn a bit more about the controversy first hand.  Given the animosity in the newspaper, I was a bit surprised that there were no angry protestors picketing outside.

Communicating with the wait staff was a bit of a challenge at first; given the abundance of cleavage, one did have to try hard not to stare.  However, as my cousin pointed out, is there too much difference between the Kilt attire and spending a day at the beach?  I ordered a cup of their chili.

After the meal, I took a bit of time to speak with our waitress regarding her experiences.  Perhaps defying stereotypes, she was fairly well educated, a college graduate.  Although she too expected an angry barrage of folks outside the restaurant when it first opened, she stated that protests have been pretty minimal thus far.

So, what do you think about the Tilted Kilt in the culturally conservative Shenandoah Valley?  Is it a boon or a burden?  Is it simply another restaurant trying a new tactic to earn a buck or is it degrading to its employees and customers?

Either way, if you do ever plan on stopping in either to gauge the controversy for yourself or for a bite to eat, I’d recommend against the chili; a few too many onions and not quite enough spice for my tastes.

Dour Cuccinelli

Whenever the Daily News Record contains an article about our Attorney General, it contains a rather dour-looking picture of him much like this one.

(Picture credited to Steve Helber of the AP)

I believe that if you knew nothing of Ken Cuccinelli, you would instantly dislike him solely based upon the above picture.  Here is a rather stern man who is almost scowling.  It is almost as if the picture says, “Oh no.  Hide anything fun. Here comes Captain Killjoy!”  Now I know that some of our liberal colleges likely view or would like to paint Attorney General Cuccinelli in such a light, but I believe that such a caricature is erroneous and shortsighted.  One must remember that one of our Attorney General’s primary duties is to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth.  Although doing so may make him unpopular in certain circles that is the task he is assigned to do and just because he does his job zealously we should not condemn him for doing so.

Going back to our recent newspaper article, not only does it feature a less amicable picture of Ken Cuccinelli, the article is entitled, “Clinics Fear Closure”.  Your gut reaction might be, “not our clinics!  We need those!”  When one reads the article however, fear gives way to reason.  What Cuccinelli is suggesting is that abortion clinics in the state should be subject to the same medical scrutiny that hospitals undergo.  Is this concept so fearful?  Shouldn’t all clinics and medical facilities be subject to the same standards?  If some facilities in Virginia are unable or unwilling to obey at least some minimal standard, then shouldn’t they be shut down?  Should the Hippocratic oath be completely ignored in today’s day and age?

Although some members of our community have sought to demonize or vilify Ken Cuccinelli, I know it stems from his willingness to fight for Virginia values and liberty.  Unfortunately, most politicians have learned it is easiest to do nothing.  After all, being ineffective ruffles no feathers and does not upset the status quo.  Fortunately, our Attorney General is not such a leader.  Sure, he is often a serious man, but it is not a somberness the average Virginian should fear.  My concern is that if you only rely on surface scans of sources like the DNR you likely don’t know the real Ken Cuccinelli.

The Primary Cost

In today’s issue of The Daily News Record, Jeff Mellott’s Primary Price Tag:  $32,000 discusses the cost of the recent Democratic primary and it isn’t pretty.  In Harrisonburg and Rockingham County alone, the bill to local taxpayers was around $32,000.  Now I know that there are certainly a lot of fixed costs with holding such a contest, nevertheless, given the low voters turnout, the average cost per voter in Harrisonburg was $9.38, while the cost in Rockingham was even higher…$17.50!  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have paid $9.38 to vote in the Democratic primary, much less $17.50.  However, given that this bill is widely dispersed among the taxpayers, no one complains.  On the other hand, a convention costs non-participating voters nothing.  But, Joshua, you say, you spent well over $100 to join fellow Republicans in Richmond.  Wouldn’t you have preferred to pay less?  Sure I would have, but, then again, I care enough about the future of the RPV to make such an expenditure.  Should I force my friends and neighbors to defray that cost?

I believe that the high cost to turnout ratio, coupled with the relatively low voter interest (4.2% turnout in the city and 3% in the county) and potential crossover voting, make a strong argument in favor of nominating conventions (like the Republicans did) as opposed to primaries (like the Democrats did).  After all, who should foot the bill for party nominations?  Should it be the party faithful who willing give up both their time and money to participate in these functions?  Or should it be the average Virginia taxpayer, most of who don’t give 2¢ about whom the parties nominate?

So fellow Virginian, just speaking in terms of money, what should it be, the primary or the convention?  The choice is clear.