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.”

The Fall of the Religious Right

Image from Jerry Falwell Jr's Twitter page
Image from Jerry Falwell Jr’s Twitter page

One of the more peculiar aspects of this election season is the fact that many evangelical leaders of the Christian right seem to stand steadfastly behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump regardless of the overwhelming evidence that he is a bigot, a racist, and a misogynist.  Then again, many of us surmised as much when he first announced his candidacy declaring that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists.  In addition, although paying lip service to Christianity, Trump’s speeches and comments clearly demonstrate a very shallow knowledge of the Bible and gloss over or outright contradict the important tenets of the religion.

So, why do some important Christian leaders continue to stick with Trump?  After all, back in the 1990s, many of these very same people condemned Bill Clinton for his moral indiscretions such as his adultery, mistreatment of women, and his deception regarding the whole affair.  And now, after all of the evidence, both past and present, isn’t it abundantly clear that Donald Trump shares Clinton’s questionable (or downright immoral) moral character?  When you look at it objectively, what is the real difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump?  And yet some ignore, forgive, or even defend Donald Trump’s moral failings.  If our religious leaders won’t defend the dignity of women and the rights of minorities, what does that tell us about their view of God?

Image from Pathos.com
Image from Pathos.com

I worry that many years ago quite a few Christian leaders made a Faustian bargain with the Republican Party.  These people have such a desire for power that they were willing to downplay or even sanctify the moral failing of Republican politicians while condemning their opponents in exchange for political influence.  Only now, with a man like Donald Trump, does this pact become undeniable.

It is becoming painfully obvious that Donald Trump was right when he said the following.  “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.  Okay?  It’s like incredible!”  This maxim seems to be especially true regarding the support of the Religious Right.  Unfortunately, with each new revelation about Trump, there is little doubt that some of our so-called moral leaders suffer from a broken moral compass.  Even worse than that is the fact that they use their influence and supposed holiness to delude their followers into following their poor example.

This whole affair reminds me of something Jesus said. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.” -Matthew 23:13 NLT.

I’m certain that these same leaders would not hesitate to condemn Donald Trump if he were the Democratic nominee for president instead of the Republican one.  They would declare that his moral character is deficient and is unworthy to be president.  Yes, I support there are some reasons to vote for Trump, but none of them include his character or morality.  Therefore, how can this behavior be considered anything but gross hypocrisy?