Differentiating the Parties

10171024_10152772632113868_2118986644_nThis morning, the group Free & Equal shared this image on Facebook.

The sentiment offered in the picture seems to be increasingly held by more and more Americans…and it isn’t too difficult to understand why.

Many politicians say that the ballooning national debt is a serious problem…unless their party happens to be the one spending the money.

Many politicians say they oppose military conflict and nation building…unless the president happens to be of their party.

Many politicians say they are troubled by the erosion of our civil liberties through the NSA and TSA…unless, of course, they are the very ones advocating legislation or executive action chipping away at our freedoms.

For far too many activists and legislators, the only principle that they seem to follow with any consistency is that an action ought to be opposed when the other party does it, but praised when your own party does the exact same thing.  For these individuals, party has trumped both principle and logic.

Please don’t pretend you haven’t seen and heard it.  It is not difficult to comprehend that many of the policies Barack Obama ran on in 2008 have been cast aside in the same way President Bush did before him.

I doubt you remember it, but Mitt Romney crafted this ad back in 2008.

The line “when Republicans act like Democrats America loses” has resonated in my mind these last six years.  However, I also remember Romney’s 2012 foreign policy debate with Barack Obama when they both offered the exact same solutions to expand U.S. involvement overseas and fully embrace America serving as the world’s policeman.  It was like each was speaking in front of a mirror.

The simple fact is that when either the Republicans or the Democrats expand the size and scope of the government beyond the allowable limits of the Constitution, America loses.  These days, it seems like far too many politicians from both parties are recklessly charging in the same direction.

Is there a difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties?  Of course there is.  But this rank hypocrisy only seems to be getting worse in Washington D.C. and Richmond.

I know some voters have already reached this point, but what happens when a majority of us look at our Republican and Democratic options and shout, like Hilary Clinton exploring the causes of Benghazi, “what difference does it make?”

Joining Team Sarvis

Photo by Marc Montoni

Lately, many of you may have noticed that I have been writing a good deal about Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor of Virginia and are likely wondering why.  Well, although I believe Ken Cuccinelli has done many great things for our state during his time in public service, I also firmly believe that his campaign is proceeding in a terrible direction, one that has succeeded at not only alienating considerable numbers of traditional Republicans, but also undecided voters.  They are poisoning our politics and they are poisoning the GOP.  Now, unlike some Republican strategists, that doesn’t mean that I’d like to see Terry McAuliffe win.  My principles have not changed.  However, these developments have caused me to look in new directions and thus I have decided to lend my efforts to the cause of Robert Sarvis.

I’m sure that many of my Republican friends will be left scratching their heads at this news, confused, angered, or perhaps a little of both, so let me take a few moments to explain more fully how I came to this decision.

It all started about two months ago when I wrote an article expressing my deep disappointment in Ken Cuccinelli’s outright refusal to include Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis in the gubernatorial debates.  To me, political dialogue is one of the great hallmarks of our system of elections and while I support any effort to promote discourse, I equally oppose any attempt to stifle it.  I have seen too many candidates of a variety of political persuasions denied the chance to express their viewpoints, chances that they ought to have had.  For example, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Constitutionalist Virgil Goode, and Green Jill Stein were all excluded from the presidential debates in 2012, despite the fact that they were listed on the ballot in a majority of states.  Previously, Gary Johnson was also barred from a majority of the Republican debates, which, no doubt, played heavily in his decision to switch from the Republican to the Libertarian Party banner.  Earlier that year, my representative, Bob Goodlatte refused to debate his primary challenger, Karen Kwiatkowski.  Previously, in 2010, Bob Goodlatte snubbed the JMU debate group by not attending a debate with his two third party opponents, and, perhaps most importantly, back in 2007 & 2008, Ron Paul was repeatedly excluded from attending the GOP presidential debates by the mainstream media.  The simple fact is that if candidates do not have a level playing field, either as a result of media bias, party bias, or candidate bias, then a whole subset of views can easily be erased from political landscape, either inadvertently or maliciously.

As a result of this concern, I contacted the group Free & Equal in the hopes that they would be able to remedy this problem.  If you recall, Free & Equal hosted a third party debate between the various 2012 presidential contenders, an event that I applauded as it expanded political discussion.  Although it would be easy for me to simply sit on my blog and grouse on the injustice of excluding Robert Sarvis, I realized that I could do more, much more than simply write about this issue.  I have been directly involved in political campaigning for more than half of my life, since the age of 15, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge that I could use to help set this wrong right.  I have been trained by both the RNC and the Leadership Institute and have served multiple campaigns over the years.  Not only could I act, I felt that I had to act.  After all, if I had the ability to make a change and did not, I would be just as responsible as those squelching political dialogue.  But what should I do?

While I thought more about this matter for a few days, I reflected upon the tactics of the Cuccinelli campaign and was, quite frankly, appalled.  My inbox overflowed with press releases and they were all the same, lambasting Terry McAuliffe over some issue (both legitimate and trivial stuff) without offering any positive message about Ken Cuccinelli.  As I wrote on August 7th, “it is as if they are blindly throwing darts as fast as they can, hoping that at least one will hit the board.”  I contacted the Cuccinelli campaign several times with my complaints but was completely ignored.  I had reached a breaking point.  The excessive negativity of the Cuccinelli campaign coupled with their hypocritical complaints that Terry McAuliffe refused to debate while simultaneously working to exclude Robert Sarvis was completely unacceptable.

Therefore, I contacted Robert Sarvis to see if and how I might be able to serve his campaign.  Although the vast majority of my campaign experience has revolved around grassroots organizing, I was told that the campaign’s greatest need was in fundraising.  Fundraising is certainly not my forte and only something in which I dabbled in previous campaigns, but, as it is what they needed, that task is what I agreed to do.  As the campaign progresses, I hope I will have the opportunity to serve in other ways as well.

When the leader of the Lynchburg Libertarians heard that I had joined the Sarvis campaign, she was quite curious why I, a conservative within the Republican Party, would do so.  Although I’ve explained my two major reasons for this decision, there are a handful of others, which I’ll briefly touch in no particular order of importance:

First, I constantly feel a strong desire to promote the ideals of liberty and my political principles. Ideally, I express these principles through my employment, and working for the Sarvis campaign allows me to do so once more.

Second, I am a person who appreciates being valued.  I regret to say that although I’ve devoted considerable time and energy to my party and its candidates over the last eighteen years, those currently leading the various campaigns and the party have done a pretty darn good job of ignoring me for quite some time now, in much the same way as Robert Sarvis has been ignored (though that seems to be changing!).  Although I’ve only been with the Sarvis campaign briefly, I will admit it is nice to be reminded that my efforts are respected, not simply taken for granted.

Third, I am still on the lookout for a fellow liberty-minded woman with whom I can share the great adventures of life.  It is possible that through this effort I will find this person.

Fourth, as I’ve gotten to know Robert Sarvis through our discussions online and in person, I must say that I am quite impressed by his knowledge, experience, passion, and dedication to the principles of a limited state and federal government. He offers a vision that is quite appealing to libertarians and conservatives.  He is a voice that must be heard.

As I said at the beginning, politically and personally, I still like Ken Cuccinelli quite a bit.  After all, he was the only statewide candidate I endorsed in 2009 and should he win this year, I believe that he will serve Virginia well.  However, we are setting the stage for something that will transcend the outcome in November and that thought worries me greatly.  The Cuccinelli and McAuliffe campaigns are charting a course that will likely damage political dialogue in this state for years to come.  I have been seeking to build bridges and find common ground between like-minded folks, be they Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or a multitude of other political affiliations, while they both seem to promote an “us against them”, scorched earth mentality.  Over the last several weeks, I have spoken to several fellow conservatives and libertarians who have silently pealed away from the Cuccinelli campaign for many of the same reasons and, assuming the campaign continues to degenerate, I expect more to follow in the days to come.  We must resist living in a political world dominated by hatred and fear.  It is time for a new direction and I feel honored by the opportunity to assist the Sarvis campaign in their effort.

So, do you agree with me that political dialogue needs to be expanded?  Are you sick of the extreme negativity?  Do you believe that citizens throughout this great Commonwealth need to know about of all of their choices, that they should have the opportunity to discover Robert Sarvis?  And, if your answer to any of these questions is yes, will you to head on over to the campaign website and donate $100, $50, $20, or whatever you feel is appropriate?  After all, as I’ve mentioned, funding is still the campaign’s greatest need.  After doing so, please send me an email or leave a comment below so that the campaign will know that I’m out there doing what I can to fundraise on their behalf.

Let us continue to advance liberty in all things!

The Gubernatorial Debate

IMG_1089Recently, Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli has been promoting the idea of a series of debates between himself and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.  The Cuccinelli campaign has suggested fifteen debates across the commonwealth in a variety of locations including one in the Shenandoah Valley, in the city of Harrisonburg.

However, so far the McAuliffe campaign has not accepted this idea.  As a result, the Cuccinelli camp has run a series of ads on Facebook and elsewhere insisting that Virginians deserve a multitude of opportunities to hear from and learn about their choices for governor in November.

Now, I absolutely agree that debates serve as an important tool in campaigning and a handful of lively contests are exceedingly valuable.  For that reason, I wrote against my own representative back in 2010 when he refused to attend a debate sponsored by James Madison University.  Should McAuliffe agree to at least a few debates?  Yes, a thousand times, yes!

Unfortunately in this situation, Cuccinelli has fallen into the same trap as Representative Goodlatte did three years prior; the debate ought to be used as a forum to allow all candidates that will appear on the ballot to express his or her opinions.  Goodlatte would not debate back in 2010 because he only faced third party opposition.  Cuccinelli wants to debate in 2013 but according to fellow blogger Rick Sincere, plans to exclude at least one other candidate, Libertarian Party nominee Rob Sarvis.  This news is deeply disappointing.

This whole situation has echoes back to the national stage.  After Ross Perot’s performance during the presidential elections, Republican and Democratic operatives got together to make certain that independent and third party candidates would be excluded from future debates.  They created a monopoly among their parties.  After the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, and Justice Parties weren’t invited to take part in the 2012 Presidential debates, an organization called Free & Equal hosted a debate where all of the candidates, along with the two major party candidates, were invited to participate.  Not surprisingly, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney chose to attend.

I applaud the Cuccinelli campaign in their effort to bring the candidates to a vast number of citizens across Virginia.  However, to exclude any eligible candidate based upon his or her party (or lack thereof) is unacceptable.  Debates are a great thing, but to be legitimate, they must allow all of candidates the chance to express their opinions.