Young Americans for Liberty’s Flaw

Promoting liberty on our college campuses across our nation is important. In fact, it is one of the most important activities one can do if he or she wishes to advance the principles of limited government to our next generation of students. However, neither of the two largest student devoted college organizations, the College Republicans nor the College Democrats can be relied upon for this task. Sure, both of these groups may do so from time to time and on certain issues, but the simple truth is that the overall focus of these groups is to advance political parties and their candidates, but not principles.

Image from YAL's Facebook page
Image from YAL’s Facebook page

With the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, several groups came into being that sought to advance liberty first and foremost. One such group, Young Americans for Liberty, focused primarily on colleges and college-age individuals. On my own I have been actively assisting and encouraging liberty-minded college students and political dialogue for the last five or so years. Therefore, as you might imagine, I eagerly looked forward to the opportunity to join forces with a group like YAL. Unfortunately, the opportunity never seemed to present itself. At our local university of James Madison groups blossomed and quickly disappeared. Over the last several years two separate YAL groups sprung up and died.

But, last year, that changed. I heard that the Virginia State Director of YAL had moved on to other things and they now had an opening, which I jumped to fill. In November of 2015, Students for Liberty (another pro-liberty pro-student group) held a conference at the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While there, I met with the regional coordinator for YAL and briefly discussed the opening for a state director and the conversation seemed promising. When I returned to my computer, I sent her a copy of my resume.

The Young Americans for Liberty stater kit
The Young Americans for Liberty stater kit

Several weeks later, I was called for an interview that went really well.   As a test and prelude to employment, I was asked if I would be willing to try and set up YAL chapter at one of our local colleges. Although I don’t like the idea of working for free (after all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?) the thought of finally working for YAL convinced me to allay my misgivings and give it a shot. They asked me to come up with a plan to promote student activism and, based upon my work and experience with other political organizations I did. They then sent me a box of materials for tabling and I traveled to the nearby Bridgewater College to see what I could set up. I ran into a snag with the college administration and, with winter finals and the break only a week or two away, it became readily apparent that there was not time to set something up. I then visited Eastern Mennonite University, but ran into similar time constraints.

Therefore, I sent the regional coordinator this message on December 17th:

Well, as you predicted, trying things so close to break has put a damper on the plans.  However, I have spoken with one student and although we don’t have a date set yet, we are planning to meet some time this break.  And then when break is over we will see what happens.  Besides that, I’m looking forward to Star Wars, but who isn’t?

If you could put a good word for me to the people at YAL I would appreciate [it].

Thanks and have a great day!

Joshua

I hoped to try and set something up at a local college for early in the next semester as I waited for the YAL representative to get back in touch with me. Weeks passed. Then, on January 7th, I finally heard back. In the reply, I received some shocking and dismaying news.

Here’s the most important paragraph from their email:

“…I don’t doubt your abilities and I really would like to see you be a part of the movement, but the biggest hick-up that I’ve come across is your previous involvement with YAL. With the way our field program is structured all of our state chairs have been involved with YAL in the past, in one leadership role or another. This is to verify that they know what a successful YAL chapter looks like and what it takes to make one. With you, you have never been a part of a chapter with no fault of your own, but they will not let me bring you on because of that and this will not change in the future.”

Note what they are saying. I wasn’t being rejected either due to a lack of expertise or talent. Apparently, because I wasn’t a part of Young Americans for Liberty during my time as an undergraduate (because YAL didn’t exist before the 2008 Ron Paul campaign) I couldn’t be considered for employment. However, why didn’t they announce this policy from the onset of our conversation? Were they hoping to get as much free labor from me as possible before casually pointing out their policies preventing them from hiring me? It felt like a turn of the century business that had picked up an Irish laborer at no cost and when he finally asked to be hired for a wage, the business revealed a previously hidden “No Irish Need Apply” sign. As I thought more about it, I began to wonder how many other people have been taken advantage of by this policy.

As I wrote in reply, “I’m disappointed to hear about this policy and it makes little sense.  As you mention, I couldn’t have been part of YAL as an undergrad as it didn’t exist then.  By the same token, neither could Jeff Frazee (the founder of YAL), Ed King, or many others.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  And, it isn’t like I haven’t I started student groups once out of college, as mentioned in my work for Students for Life, but I guess that means nothing to YAL.  To me this is about as fair as excluding a person based upon skin color, country of origin, or gender, as no one has control over any of those things either.  And what of the people who discover liberty after they get their degree?  Does YAL treat them as second class citizens too?”

I went on to add, “Unfortunately, based upon this position of your group, I guess I won’t be able to recommend that any liberty-minded students become a part of YAL as long as this policy remains in place.  The idea of working with YAL has been a goal of mine since the end of the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, but I guess it is best to finally forget about it.  I suppose it is finally time for that dream to die.  Nevertheless, these words are a poor representation of the depth of my disappointment.  It is regrettable that the movement has to be fractured, but I am still hopeful to find work for a group which actually values my experience and dedication without this kind of inane policy.”

Since this exchange at the beginning of the year, I have heard nothing further from YAL. Several months afterward, a local student came to me with the idea of restarting the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at James Madison University. Unfortunately, given their hiring practices, I advised against him allying with YAL. For better or worse, YAL recently underwent a leadership change, but I do not know if their policies have remained the same.

This disappointing episode with Young Americans for Liberty has not dampened my enthusiasm for promoting our values to our next generation of leaders and, as such, during the 2016 spring semester you could find me at JMU almost every week. If you are interested in either working for Young Americans for Liberty or considering donating to the group I believe you ought to know this detail about them upfront and not after you have offered them your time or money. It is my hope that YAL will jettison this fatal flaw or, if that doesn’t happen, I hope another organization will rise up to become the premier liberty-promoting group on campuses nationwide. That’s something I would be excited to be part of.

A Red Solo Cup

IMG_0263In the morning

I stoop down to pick up

A red Solo cup

Discarded the night before

Strewn haphazardly about the yard

Like many of its brothers

From the party next door

 

Ants inspect the rim

While others drown

In the orange liquid remains

What was contained within?

Did the person who drank it even know?

Was it enjoyed responsibly?

It seems unlikely

 

Has it led to regret

For the one who consumed it?

Or perhaps for another?

A victim of seizing the day

Yet another careless moment?

In a young life filled with many

Or maybe a first taste of liberty?

 

The cup offers no other answers

As it sits in the sun

Abandoned by its owner

No longer needed and forgotten

Waiting for another to take responsibility

The short weekend is almost over

The long semester has just begun

Virginia Free in Harrisonburg

IMG_3012On Thursday morning, the political group Virginia Free hosted an event on the campus of James Madison University.  It was a panel presentation featuring JMU professor (and former Delegate) Pete Giesen, Delegate Steve Landes, and Levar Stoney from Governor McAuliffe’s administration. For about an hour, the three individuals, along with Virginia Free Executive Director (and former Delegate) Chris Saxman spoke on a variety of issues, including a sizable segment about the Virginia government.

Afterward, they fielded questions from the audience; during this time, both Angela Lynn, the Democratic challenger of Steve Landes, and April Moore, the Democratic candidate in the 26th Senate district, spoke briefly.  Delegate Tony Wilt was also present, but as an observer.

Angela Lynn and April Moore
Angela Lynn and April Moore

At one point, one member of the audience declared that he was offended that the speakers sometimes used the phrase “Democrat Party” as opposed to “Democratic Party” declaring the first term to be pejorative although he did not really explain why he thought so.  Later, when one of the panel members said Democrat Party again, the observer interrupted with his same objection.  In addition, quite a few people in the audience spoke about Medicaid expansion in the state and were upset with Delegate Landes’ opposition to doing so.

In addition, Virginia Free offered attendees a scorecard ranking the General Assembly members according to their pro-business stance.  I found it rather curious that they declared Senator Water Stosch to be the best member of the Virginia Senate alongside Senators Frank Wagner, John Watkins, Frank Ruff, and Tommy Norment while declaring that Senators Reeves, Black, and Garrett were among the worst and that Senator Chap Petersen was the absolute poorest member of that body.  On the House of Delegates side, they gave high marks to Speaker Bill Howell and Delegate Ed Scott while also ranking Delegates Mark Berg, Charniele Herring, and Bob Marshall unfavorably.  Wanting to learn more, I asked Mr. Saxman about the ratings, especially the 2013 ranking and he explained that everyone who voted in favor of Governor McDonnell’s transportation tax increase was given a score of 100%, while those who opposed it were rated as 0%.  Their stance on that one issue and how they chose to rank the various legislators likely tells you everything you need to know about where Virginia Free and where they stand on the issues of taxes, government spending, and the proper role of government.

Although I certainly appreciated the presentation, based upon what I learned, I am concerned that Virginia Free and I might have a fundamentally different opinion on what the term “pro-business” means and who the best and worst members of the General Assembly are.

JMU Debates The 2014 Election

The debaters on stage
The debaters on stage

Last night, the James Madison College Democrats, College Republicans, and Madison Liberty took to the stage to discuss the 2014 Senate race and current political topics.  Representing the Democrats was President Megan DiMaiolo and a fellow named Kevin, for the Republicans it was First Vice-Chair Jake Lee and Political Director Cole Trower, and for Madison Liberty it was President Emery Siegrist and Vice President Nicholas Farrar.

10557097_10152448318451915_2111471234507948077_o
A view of the crowd

About seventy five people came to watch the debate.  Most were students, though there were a handful of local residents.  I was a little disappointed to discover that I was the only candidate for local office this year that attended.

Although the debate was designed to center around the three candidates for U.S. Senate: Mark Warner (D), Ed Gillespie (R), and Robert Sarvis (L), these names weren’t mentioned all that often.  However, this switch also meant that the forum had a heavier focus on the issues of the day rather than simply rehashing repetitive partisan attacks.  In addition, there was a live Twitter feed from the audience which allowed folks the opportunity to express their thoughts of what was transpiring on the stage.  Each group has their share of supporters and detractors, with some tweeters going back and forth depending on the issue.  I found it interesting that all three groups opposed the Harrisonburg Police Department’s ownership of an MRAP.

As student political activism is extremely important to me, I have been attending these twice yearly events for the last three years.  In previous semesters, I recorded a portion or all of the debate as was done in 4/3/13 and 4/19/2012.  Unfortunately with the extreme age of my video camera, I am unable to do so anymore.

I’d like to take a moment to offer my gratitude to each of the students who took to the stage last night.  I know firsthand that it isn’t always easy to express your opinions publicly, but it is an important way to help advance political dialogue, which is sorely needed.  I’d also like to commend those who took time on a Monday evening to listen to this discussion.  Lastly, thanks to JMU and the Student Government Association for hosting the event.  Every semester has been great and I appreciate the fact that you don’t discriminate against any of the three groups.

For those who weren’t able to attend Monday’s gathering, I hope you’ll consider coming in April 2015 when the JMU Dems, JMU GOP, and Madison Liberty take to the stage once more.  I’ll see you there!

Schmookler at JMU

On Wednesday, March 26th, Dr. Andrew Schmookler spoke on the campus of James Madison University.  The event was sponsored by the JMU College Democrats and the speech explored the topic of evil in American politics, much of which, according to Dr. Schmookler, results from a malevolent spirit in Republican circles.

Although a little over an hour, I was only able to record the first 42 minutes.  Whether you agree or disagree with the thoughts offered, I hope you will find the presentation of interest.

McAuliffe & Clinton in Harrisonburg

This morning, around a thousand individuals gathered at the Festival Center on the campus of James Madison University.  IMG_2212I arrived a little after 8:30 AM for an event which was slated to begin at 10:30 and already the line stretched around the building.  Along with fellow blogger Nick Farrar, we checked in at the press table and awaited the start of the rally.  IMG_2214About an hour later, a group of nine gathered outside to show their support for the Cuccinelli campaign while another local activist drove his truck down the street with signs of the three Republican candidates.

It seemed that just about everyone who was anyone in local Democratic politics attended, including past mayors and party leaders.  About a third of the seats in the room were reserved for them.  Given that seats were at a premium, a vast majority of the crowd had to stand.

After a few individuals spoke, including the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia and a former Republican member of the House of Delegates, both gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton took their turns in front of the podium.  Rather than offer you a summary of what they said, here is a recording of both speeches:

IMG_2296To the best of my knowledge, this event was the largest, and thus arguably most important political event in Harrisonburg since candidate Obama spoke at JMU in 2008.  Does this event herald a victory for McAuliffe in Harrisonburg and statewide?  We’ll find out in a week.

Clinton Is Coming to Harrisonburg!

With less than two weeks to go until Virginia holds its gubernatorial election on November 5th, it seems that the Democratic Party has decided to bring in the big guns to promote their candidate, Terry McAuliffe.  As part of his final tour of the state, former President Bill Clinton will be joining Mr. McAuliffe.  According to news from Deb Fitzgerald, Chairwoman of the Harrisonburg Democratic Party, both Clinton and McAuliffe will be on the campus of James Madison University on Tuesday.

Here are the details:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HARRISONBURG EVENT

WHAT: “Putting Jobs First” Event with President Bill Clinton and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe
WHO: President Bill Clinton, Terry McAuliffe
WHEN: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM EDT
Public Access time: 9:30 AM EDT
Press Access time: To be announced
WHERE: James Madison University, Festival Conference & Student Center – 1301 Carrier Drive, MSC-4201, Harrisonburg, VA 22807

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, this is the highest profile event for the city of Harrisonburg since Barack Obama came here during his campaign for president.  I know I plan to be there and hope to get my press pass soon.

Robert Sarvis at JMU

IMG_2184On Wednesday evening, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis spoke in front of over a hundred students and members of the local community at James Madison University.  Sponsored by the Student Government Association, after Sarvis spoke he fielded numerous questions from the enthusiastic and supportive audience.

This trip marks Sarvis’ first visit to the Shenandoah Valley in about a month as he continually crisscrosses the state spreading awareness of his campaign.

Although a host official campaign materials were available on site, including palm cards, door hangers, bumper stickers, buttons, and yard signs, several supporters brought their own home-made signs, including this particularly amusing one featuring grumpy cat.

IMG_2195For JMU students who are interested in learning more about Robert Sarvis and the ideals of liberty, I encourage you to attend a meeting of Madison Liberty, a group which meets on Wednesday evenings starting at 7:00 PM in Taylor Hall, Room 305.

JMU & The 2012 Presidential Race: Part II

About a week ago, I wrote about the attitudes of James Madison University students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  Although you should read the previous post below if you have not done so, the summary is that 42.6% of students surveyed support President Barack Obama, while Mitt Romney has 27.8%, Gary Johnson has 2.8%, Jill Stein has 1.9% and a large percentage, 24.1%, were undecided.

After the second presidential debate, but before the third, I conducted another door-to-door poll of a different batch of off-campus JMU students to gauge how their opinions had shifted.  The two questions asked were the same as before.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, which of the presidential candidates would you support if the election were held today?  This time, 95 students answered.  Like the last survey, their answers closely mirrored the previous results.  Democratic candidate Barack Obama improved slightly, rising by .6% to 43.2%, while Republican Mitt Romney declined by 1.5%, falling to 26.3%.  Libertarian Gary Johnson dropped as well by .5% to 2.1%.  Interestingly, none of the respondents this time mentioned Green candidate Jill Stein as his or her top pick.  As before, zero students made any comment about Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode.  With this numbers, you will note that a considerable number of students were once again undecided, showing an increase of 4.3% to now rest at 28.4%.  Continuing the previous trend, when considering just Obama versus Romney responses, Obama dominated with 62.1% to Romney’s 37.9%

With the two surveys combined, Barack Obama is the favorite of a plurality of James Madison students with 42.9%, Mitt Romney is second with 27.1%, Gary Johnson is third with 2.5%, Jill Stein is fourth with 1%, although not a candidate, Ron Paul is fifth with .5%, and a vast number of students are still undecided with 28.4%.  In the Obama/Romney head-to-head, Obama gets 61.3% to Romney’s 38.7%.

Although I’m admittedly a political animal, I’m surprised that the number of undecided voters remains so high among JMU students.  What explains this trend?  Do they suffer from a lack of information, is apathy high, or is there simply a strong dissatisfaction with both of the two major party candidates?  After all, as one undecided student commented, she didn’t particularly care for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Given the previous results, I would assume that at this point a majority of undecided students will break along the same percentages as their brethren have done, unless something changes.  But a lot of factors could alter this outcome in the 13 days that remain.  I hope to have one final survey of JMU students before Election Day to gain a clearer picture.

JMU & the 2012 Presidential Race

On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I’ve visited three different off-campus JMU apartment complexes in Harrisonburg.  Part of the purpose in doing so was to assess the opinions of the students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  The general theory is that JMU students who registered to vote in Harrisonburg in 2008 supported Barack Obama by huge margins and helped him to capture the city last time.

For a bit of historical perspective, in the 2004 presidential election, when students had to vote in their hometowns rather than at their college or university, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections about 11,000 people voted in Harrisonburg.  George W. Bush won about 6,100 or 55.9%.  In 2008, John McCain had slightly less votes than Bush did four years prior, but only took 41.2% as around 14,500 people voted in the city. While about 1,000 more people voted in Harrisonburg in 2004 as they did in 2000, 3,500 more showed up in 2008 as compared to 2004.  A large portion of this increase was no doubt due to changes in Virginia law, which allows students to vote where they attend university.

So one important question to consider is will JMU break heavily for President Barack Obama this November?  With this thought in mind, I asked the JMU students two questions.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, if the election were held today, which of the candidates would you support?

Now, a considerable number of students were not at home at the time of my visit, a handful was not registered to vote, some were registered in their hometowns in other states, and still others refused to answer.  However, 108 students did respond.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won a plurality, 46 or 42.6%.  Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, finished in second place with 30 votes or 27.8%.  Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, was a distant third with 3 votes or 2.8%, Jill Stein, the Green candidate, was fourth at 2 votes or 1.9%, and, although not a candidate, one student planned to write-in Representative Ron Paul.  Even though he is listed on the Virginia ballot, none of the students mentioned Constitution Party candidate, Virgil Goode.  However, you should note that a sizable portion of respondents, 26 students or 24.1% stated that they are undecided.

If these survey numbers are indicative of the entire student population, then the race is still pretty fluid at JMU.  As expected, Barack Obama is ahead, but not by an insurmountable margin.

I assume that whichever candidate or campaign works the most diligently to court these undecided voters will not only win the JMU vote, but also likely claim Harrisonburg as well.  Toward that end, rumors swirl that President Obama will visit JMU prior to the election as he did back in 2008.  And what sort of impact did the second presidential debates make? What will happen?  We’ll find out soon!