The Rise of the Rocktown Libertarians

Photo of the August 2013 meeting by Lisa McCumsey

In the past, the Rocktown Libertarians have hosted a number of candidates seeking office.  In 2012 we had Karen Kwiatkowski, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.  In 2013, there was Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor.  In 2014, there were many hopefuls: Robert Sarvis again, this time the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, Will Hammer, a Libertarian candidate for House of Representatives, Helen Shibut, a Libertarian candidate for Harrisonburg City Council and me, Joshua Huffman, an independent for Harrisonburg City Council.  In 2015, we had April Moore, a Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate as well as Will Hammer once more, this time as a Libertarian seeking a House of Delegates seat.  Then, in 2016, Chris Jones, the Mayor of Harrisonburg (a Democrat) stopped by as did Harry Griego, a Republican candidate for House of Representatives.

2017 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year.  At the Rocktown Libertarians’ March meeting we will be hosting Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) to speak about this year’s General Assembly session which should be ending in just a few short days.  Then, in April, the Rocktown Libertarians will be joined by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) to discuss ways to make ballot access more fair for all, including Libertarian Party candidates.  We’ll likely have other special guests as well, but they are still in the works.

Sounds like an interesting group, doesn’t it?

Well, if you’d like to learn more about the Libertarian Party of Virginia, work to promote liberty, and meet fellow activists of a variety of political affiliations, I hope you’ll consider attending an upcoming meeting of the Rocktown Libertarians.  We get together on the third Tuesday of every month starting about 6:30 PM at the O’Charley’s at 101 Burgess Road in Harrisonburg.  Come stop by, say hello, and enjoy some good food and good conversation!

The Power of a Name

Chris Jones, D.D. Dawson, and Joshua Huffman in studio
A Democratic, Republican, and independent candidate walk into a radio studio…

While reading online last night, I was reminded of an encounter from mid 2012.  To set the scene, it was a Republican gathering in Harrisonburg shortly after a primary where Representative Bob Goodlatte fended off a challenge for the Republican nomination for the 6th district seat from Karen Kwiatkowski.  As many of you may know, I was a volunteer for her campaign.  Although I had been an ardent supporter of Representative Goodlatte from 1995 to 2010, I no longer believed that he represented my values in Washington while Kwiatkowski articulated a much better message.  Anyway, at this meeting Bob Goodlatte saw me, came over, and stated that he hoped that I would now support him as much as I supported his opponent.  It may sound strange at first reading, but I found his statement quite offensive.

You see, leading up to the primary, Bob Goodlatte seemed to do his best to try and ignore Karen’s challenge.  He steadfastly refused to debate her and, to the best of my knowledge, he never mentioned her by name.  On the scant times he referenced her, she was always identified as “my opponent.”  Then, even after the election was over, she still wasn’t worthy of being called by her name.

Using the term “my opponent” isn’t something novel for Goodlatte or his campaign.  For example, in 2006 I was an employee of the Republican Party of Virginia.  I’m sure many of you will remember the “macaca moment” when then Republican Senator George Allen called one of Jim Webb’s staffers “macaca”, apparently a racial slur which likely cost Allen the election.  However, I’d like you to listen to the recording of this incident once more.

Notice what Senator Allen says.  Not once does he mention Jim Webb by name, instead calling him “my opponent” or rather curiously “your opponent” in reference to the Webb staffer, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Also, Allen doesn’t call S.R. Sidarth (the Webb staffer) by his name and instead makes up a name for him.  Even if the word macaca wasn’t a Portuguese word for a monkey, in this video Allen seems to suggest that Sidarth’s name isn’t important.  Apparently some Allen staffers called Sidarth “mohawk” based upon his hairstyle at the time.  But really, is using that term all that much better?  Rather than taking the time to learn who this fellow is who has been following him around to various campaign stops, by inventing a name for him Allen and his crew seem to suggest that Sidarth is simply a nameless replaceable staffer for the Webb campaign who doesn’t have much value.

With either of these two examples I’m not claiming that it is only Republicans who refuse to reference their opponents by name.  I’m sure politicians of all stripes do likewise.  However, as a former Republican staffer and political activist, these are two examples I personally remember.

This subject reminds me of a scene from the movie Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend doing so.  Anyway, at one point the characters create a plan called Project Mayhem.  When a person is part of Project Mayhem, he is stripped of his name and becomes an undistinguished and replaceable cog in the plan.  But, when Robert Paulsen is killed and it is suggested that they secretly bury his body in the garden, Edward Norton’s character objects to calling his fallen friend a nameless and disposable object.  Here’s the scene.  (Please pardon the language and violence from the movie).

As you might imagine, I find this tactic of refusing to call one’s political adversaries by name very demeaning.  After all, a person is more than a mere political opponent, an obstacle to be overcome, or an annoyance to be brushed aside.  Be it for better or worse he or she is much more than a candidate for an election or even a series of elections.  He or she has a unique personality, has a collection of experiences, an abundance of hopes, dreams, and fears.  He or she is someone’s mother…or brother…or niece…or son.  He or she is someone’s friend, possible lover, potential mentor, or perhaps an eager pupil.

I am of the thought that everyone has at least enough human dignity to be worthy of being called by his or her name, not degraded as an “opponent” or slurred based upon their appearance.  I’d like to think that our elected officials should be at the forefront of embracing this philosophy, instead of deriding those who dare challenge their misguided perception of a divine right to rule.  In an open and fair political system especially, everyone should at least have the power of his or her name, his or her right to run for office, and the ability to express his or her opinions.

Considering The Lives of Others

Image from The Lives of Others from theguardian.com

On Sunday evening, I joined several friends in watching the German film, The Lives of Others or, as it is called in German, Das Leben der Anderen.  The movie portrays life in East Germany, with a heavy focus on the activities of the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany. It is a bleak existence where anyone and everyone can be placed under surveillance without warrant or probable cause and unquestioned loyalty to the state and her leaders is demanded of all.

The Lives of Others serves as an important reminder of what happens when a people surrender their civil liberties in the name of security.  It isn’t hard to see the United States drifting in this direction with the creation of the TSA, warrantless wiretaps, unlimited detentions of terrorist suspects without trial, and related activities.  However, what I found particularly impactful was a personal connection.

In the film we meet a character named Albert Jerska.  Although a theatrical director, he fell out of favor with the party leaders for expressing anti-government opinions and thus was blacklisted, unable to continue to work in his field.  Looking back, for me my blacklisting likely began with my support of Karen Kwiatkowski in the 2012 Republican primary over Representative Bob Goodlatte.  Although Goodlatte hasn’t been a particularly principled legislator during his several decades in office, there is no doubt that he has amassed considerable power and influence, especially in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Unfortunately, over the years I’ve had several nasty run-ins with some of Goodlatte’s staffers.  One memorable example was in March of 2012.  Another took place in the fall of 2014 when I was harassed by one of his local goons who he later promoted to his Washington D.C. office.

I was surprised when I was expelled from the Harrisonburg GOP in early 2014.  However, what was even more surprising was that when I asked the local chairman why I was kicked out, he told me it was done at the request of Bob Goodlatte’s staff.  This revelation spawns several questions.  Why would Bob Goodlatte take such an interest in the affairs of a local unit and an activist such as myself?  Why would a local chairman kick out a member based upon the request or demand of a legislator?  Based upon this event, has Bob Goodlatte and his staff been working behind the scenes to blacklist me from future political employment as one local GOP leader seemed to hint?  And, does it concern anyone else that a member of Congress seems to wield enormous power over the lives of others in a fashion disturbingly reminiscent of a Stasi official?

In The Lives of Others, when Stasi Captain Wiesler discovers that a writer in East Germany is questioning the actions of the government, he is faced with a difficult choice.  Does he turn the writer in for subversive activities?  Or does he keep it secret because he realizes that both the Stasi and the government are corrupt and trample upon the liberty of the people, even though he knows revealing this truth puts his career, liberty, and even his very life at risk?

Bob Goodlatte speak at the Rockingham County Republican mass meeting
Bob Goodlatte speaking at the Rockingham County Republican mass meeting

Earlier this year Bob Goodlatte’s people attempted to install city and county party chairmen up and down the 6th district whose primary loyalty would be, not necessarily to Republican ideology, but to Goodlatte.  Surprisingly, they were largely unsuccessful.  Am I wrong in thinking that in a free society one should be judged according to his or her merits and not simply rewarded or punished based upon loyalty to party bosses?  Step by step I worry we are becoming more like the now defunct East German government, complete with their network of informants and secret police.

I wish that more people would stand up for principle rather than unquestioningly siding with a party or a political official, especially when they know that that person or group is engaging in morally questionable or hypocritical behavior.  Unfortunately, doing so is the riskier path that many avoid which is one big reason why the power of the government expands and political leaders grow more and more unresponsive and dictatorial.  The Lives of Others is a stark portrayal of what happens when the government and its officials stop viewing themselves as servants of the people and instead treat the public as their vassals.  If we wish to remain a free people, we must resist this kind of thinking at every turn and not be afraid to speak out boldly whenever we hear of it.

Time to Retire Bob Goodlatte

kwiatkowskismall
Karen Kwiatkwoski

By Karen Kwiatkowski

What if you lived in a part of Virginia dominated by poultry, hay and cow-calf agriculture, and yet your Congressman of nearly a quarter of a century was a city lawyer from Massachusetts, who thought ethanol subsidies were a good idea, spending your tax dollars to raise your feed costs year after year?

What if your Congressional district was home to well over a dozen institutes of higher learning, in a technological age, and your Congressman responded not to their needs, but to West Coast lobbyists to preserve decades old digital copyrights law, filling his campaign chest by stifling innovation ?

What if you, like many of your neighbors, supported first amendment rights for the various groups known as “Tea Parties” and yet your 12-term Congressman who had headed the House Judiciary Committee for nearly four years agreed to consider impeachment hearings for IRS appointees for targeting tea party groups ONLY after the House Freedom Caucus forced him to last week?

What if your Congressman was never a member of the House Freedom Caucus?

What if your long-serving Congressman is close friends and political allies with removed House Speaker John Boehner and successfully primaried whip Eric Cantor?

What if your Congressman was currently offering a “free” bus for Republican delegates from the 6th District to their district Republican convention on May 21st to choose national delegates and key Republican committee seats – but only if they vote for who you tell them to vote for?

What if your Congressman didn’t understand how modern technology works in the cable business, as stated by Techdirt magazine in early May 2016, yet persisted in pushing the wrong kind of regulations for it?

What if your “republican” Congressman voted to fund Obamacare again and again, while simultaneously telling constituents that he opposed it, again and again?

What if your Congressman had advocated for federal government domestic surveillance, beyond Constitutional statutes, and blindly supported the USA Patriot Act and its extension called the USA “Freedom” Act despite constitutional questions on the legality and ethics of this surveillance and data gathering on US citizens?

This list could go on and on, and it will continue to grow, as long as we continue to send Bob Goodlatte back every two years to vote for more government spending, and more government interference in our lives, year after year.

We have a choice on June 14th to send a different kind of Republican to represent us in the House.  Harry Griego, a military veteran, professional pilot, dedicated to the Constitution and limited government, is a change that is long past due for the 6th District.

Let’s retire Bob gracefully, and leave him to his world of expensive suits and “it’s the best we can hope for” explanations to his constituents.

Let’s send a conservative warrior, who believes in limited government, and who will be a part of limiting that government through strict Constitutional votes, and partnering with likeminded Congressmen and women, who truly care about reducing federal debt and overreach.

Vote with me for Harry Griego on June 14th!

 

Karen Kwiatkowski is a farmer, professor, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, member of the executive committee of the Republican Party of Shenandoah County, and immediate past president of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County.  In 2012, she challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for the 6th district of Virginia.

Goodlatte Faces Opposition

Representative Bob Goodlatte
Representative Bob Goodlatte

Since Karen Kwiatkowski was the first person to challenge Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s sixth district back in the 2012 elections, conservatives and libertarians in the Shenandoah Valley have wondered when or if Mr. Goodlatte would face another interparty contest.  In 2014, Paul Bevington attempted to seek the nod but fell short of the signature requirement to make the ballot.

IMG_7603Well, today Harry Griego of Roanoke issued a press release announcing his candidacy.  Mr. Griego recently ran for office in 2015, opposing Delegate Chris Head for the Republican nomination in the 17th district and garnered over 47% of the vote.

According to the press release, Harry Griego states, “over and over again voters told me they were unhappy with the lack of leadership and the failure of Republican officials to vote and fight for the Republican principles they campaign on.” As a hint of his possible campaign issues, he mentions, “an end to the expansion of the budget and the crippling national debt.  They want the border secured.”

Will 2016 mark the end of the Goodlatte era of Shenandoah Valley politics that began after the 1992 elections?  Or will Bob Goodlatte fend off this challenge?  Hopefully, this primary will make for some interesting times in the 6th district.

Anti-Collectivism in a Collectivist Political Race

kwiatkowskismallVC Note: A guest piece from Karen Kwiatkowski

I like where Rand Paul is taking the national imagination.  Clapper sharing a cell with Ed Snowden, discussing liberty!   Ending the war on drugs and even more astounding – proposing that justice be blind, and applied equally to rich and poor, white and black, politically connected and political outcast?  Allowing an Act to sunset as the Congress “intended”?  This guy is a freaking radical!

As libertarians, AnCaps, Rothbardians, Menckenites, Lysander-lovers and whatever else we are, we should be exceptionally pleased with what is coming in the next 18 months or so.   Towards that end, it might be helpful to lay down a few ground rules in our endless discussion and critiques, of all things political, and specifically of all things Rand.

We could see as many 15 Republicans running in the primaries!  Given the two party national setup created by the Holy Constitution, it could really be a wild west shootout leading to the GOP convention – and what a convention it will be!

The hairy will line up against the hoary, Old Testament thumpers and zombie apocalypse predictors will align and realign against Constitution worshippers and the ragged liberty wing of the GOP.  Candidates include racist autarchs, non-racist autarchs, Neo-Progressives, Neo-Conservatives, bureaucrats, crooks, liars, and pseudo populists.  Then there is Rand Paul.  Stuck in the GOP because he opposes collectivism, hated by the GOP because he opposes collectivism, fascinating to the rest of us because he opposes collectivism, and an extremely dangerous man in Washington because he opposes collectivism.  Predictably, because he opposes collectivism, he stands mostly alone in DC, and voterland sees him simultaneously as a liberal conservative, a conservative liberal, an out-of-touch populist, a patriotic un-American, and idiotic genius.

Leading up to the GOP convention, the odd statements, retractions, clarifications, and pile-ons by the candidates in their political slugfest will become delightful truffles for the rooting hogs we become as we seek to become involved in “the direction of our country.”   The Republicans alone will be delicious, but with Bernie Sanders chiding Hillary, and potentially pulling every old Naderite still in the party plus the whole of the social justice antiwar element, well, it’s going to be just wonderful!

I have yet to become aware of what the third parties will offer candidate-wise, but it is increasingly apparent that what we think of as “the two major parties” are nothing of the kind.  A party must have structural discipline, a creed of sorts, and a semblance of consistency of its candidates to that creed.  Neither major party stands for anything, and Katie Perry once roared about what that leads to.

Without a party creed, code, or spine, the Republican baker’s dozen will be disciplined by the campaign itself.  This discipline will be cat-o-nine-tails style – by pundits, other candidates, cynics, wisecrackers, meme-makers, and the odd viral video or federal crime.   It will be non-stop entertainment!

Photo from Rand Paul's Facebook page
Photo from Rand Paul’s Facebook page

But back to Rand Paul.   Because it really does come back to Rand Paul, early, often and always.  He is driving the train, pushing the train and riding on the train, all at once.  The RNC, the old guard and the crony collectivists in both parties are asking, “Who gave him permission to do that?”  The media is asking “How does he do that?” But the question we should be asking is, “For how long can he do that, and how can I help?”

Towards that end, I’ll propose some guidelines, that if followed exactly as I have described, to the letter, 100% of the time, will absolutely and instantly calm the Internets, and bring a glowing perpetual peace to the blogosphere. I personally guarantee it.

First, if Rand Paul says something about putting someone in jail (like Ed Snowden)  for a few years, he is just being moderate.  Obama, his party, and the Republicans have been demanding Ed’s head on a platter, his body on a pike, his nuts in a vise, and his scalp on a mantel for a few years now.  That said, I do think being forced to spend any time in a cell with retired General Clapper is cruel and unusual punishment, as such would violate the Constitution, and I would be against it.

Second, when Rand Paul likens the ACA (aka Obamacare) and the presumed right to health care as leading to doctors in irons, he does frighten people with the concept of 21st century slavery.  But we libertarians are well-qualified to calm the waters, and take the heat off Rand by reminding people that at least forcing doctors to give us health care is a waaaaaaaay more socially useful kind of slavery than say, having the government force somebody to bake a wedding cake against their will, pay their unskilled employees more then they produce, create millions of college graduates who have to live with their parents and work nights at Pizza Hut to try and pay down their stifling student loan debt, and print fiat money to support the warfare welfare state at the expense of human liberty and prosperity everywhere.  Right?

Third, if you hear that Rand Paul likes somebody, or endorses someone, or was nice to someone in the political world, instead of going off the deep end like some kind of ISIS wannabe, couldn’t we instead just call him a lying hypocritical bastard and let it go?  I mean, he is a politician, isn’t he?  Poly and tick, many bloodsuckers, seriously, he’s probably just after food and everybody’s gotta eat.   What are we, monsters?  I think not!

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Rand Paul is our era’s political Janus – a face for every angle, looking back, looking forward, and more than that, every other candidate in every party wants to be him, even as they fear and loathe everything he stands for.   Hillary started talking about police reform for the first time this week, after Rand’s work on that subject over the six months.  As soon as the GOP pack figures out where Rand is on immigration (THE most important issue EVER) they will know what to they are supposed to say.  I imagine the Libertarian and the Green candidate will both echo something Rand has said or written, and then accuse him of trying to out-green and out-freedom them.

I don’t know if elections matter, and a democracy of the dimwitted and damned right is never pretty picture.  I don’t know if the deep state has nefarious plans for Rand, or whether the Janus act is real, faked or just a private illusion.  But I do believe politics should be both dangerous and fun.  Towards this end, I stand with Rand!

Karen Kwiatkowski is a fellow political activist and commentator in addition to being a farmer, a professor, and a retired Air Force Colonel.  In 2012, she challenged the Republican establishment by running for the House of Representatives in Virginia’s 6th district.  Presently, she serves at the leader of the Republican Women of Shenandoah County.

No Freedom to Dissent

Photo from Noah Berger of the AP
Photo from Noah Berger of the AP

Last year, the Republican Party of Virginia modified their party plan to restrict who may participate in Republican Party nominations.  Specifically, part 2 of section A reads that “a voter who, subsequent to making a statement of intent, publicly supports a candidate in opposition to a Republican nominee shall not be qualified for participation in party actions as defined in Article I for a period of four (4) years.” and part 4 adds “in addition to the foregoing, to be in accord with the principles of the Republican Party, unless otherwise stipulated by the appropriate Official Committee, a person otherwise qualified hereunder shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party within the last five years.”

So, if you believe the GOP nominates a poor candidate you have no choice but to support him or her.  And although your tax dollars funds both Democratic and Republican primaries, if you decide to exercise your political free will to vote in another party’s contest, you are booted from the GOP.  So much for the freedom to think for yourself and be able to support whichever candidate most closely aligns with your views in both the primary and the general election.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Well, now it may get even worse.  According to Race to Richmond, the party is considering yet another restriction on participation adding, “any individual who within the last eight (8) years was a candidate for public office as the nominee of a political party or as an independent in an election for public office where there was also a Republican candidate for said office, shall be disqualified from participating as a candidate, delegate or otherwise in a convention, mass meeting or party canvass of the Republican Party at any level.”

So maybe you run as a Democrat, Libertarian, or independent and later decide that the GOP is the party for you.  Assuming this restriction is passed, you wouldn’t be allowed to join the Republican Party of Virginia or participate in any contests for eight years, even if the only choices available to you in an election were Republicans!

Karen Kwiatkowski, the leader of the Shenandoah County Republican Women and 2012 Republican challenger to Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) was quick to offer her thoughts on Facebook saying, “The GOP is trying to fix a problem that originates in the Party’s noticeable lack of adherence to principle, and its frequent inability or refusal to run solid conservatives under the GOP mantle. This will drive not only those who ‘bolted’ away forever, who will take with them their supporters.  A better approach is to follow Rand Paul’s style of bridge-building, and treat disloyalty to a GOP candidate as a sign of the party itself doing the wrong thing.

So, I have to ask, what comes after this rule?  Expelling a person for ten years for criticizing an elected Republican legislator?  Or how about forcing Virginia citizens to register by party?  Oh…wait…there are two bills coming before the General Assembly that will do just that!

With the exception of the 2009 sweep, no Republican candidate has won statewide in Virginia in a decade.  Rather than running better campaigns, recruiting more principled candidates, or insisting upon adherence to the values found in the RPV Creed, the RPV is instead circling the wagons and heavily restricting who can call themselves Republican.  As Kwiatkowski says, it is an exceedingly poor decision and will only result in further GOP losses and greater exodus from the party.  Shouldn’t you support Republican candidates because they are the best choices and not simply due to the fear that you’ll be kicked out of the party if you do not?

Like the man in the above picture, do you call yourself a Republican and are ashamed of these ideas?  Should the RPV reverse course and allow its members the God-given freedom to say no when it or its candidates stand in opposition to our values without fear of multi-year retribution?  And, if they continue along this path, would liberty be best served if the RPV were allowed to die of this self-inflicted wound in the hopes that a political party bound by principle instead of unquestioned party loyalty could take its place?

After reading this proposed addition to the Republican Party Plan, I was reminded of a verse from the Bible.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.  But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24 (NLT)

Falling Out With Goodlatte

Representative Bob Goodlatte
Representative Bob Goodlatte

On Friday, January 2nd, I received a notice from my representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6th), encouraging me to connect with him on Facebook.  Although I followed him for many years, my enthusiasm for him has waned considerably and I’ve been actively supporting his challengers for the last several cycles.

Rather than pointing to a single issue, for there are many, let me instead offer some background and history.

There is no question that Representative Bob Goodlatte has been a mainstay in Shenandoah Valley politics.  First elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, he has been serving in that capacity for twenty-two years.  Most elections he has been without a Democratic challenger and he has faced an opponent from within his own party only once, Karen Kwiatkowski.

When I first became interested in politics in the mid 90’s, I supported Representative Goodlatte without question.  After all, isn’t that what a “good Republican” ought to do?  Once I graduated from college, seeking a position to make a difference in politics, my first interview was in his office, as I hoped to become his regional representative for Staunton.  That didn’t come to pass but, several years later, I had another interview, this time to work for the House Agricultural Committee which Goodlatte chaired.  That didn’t work out either.

Ah ha, you might say.  You grew bitter about not getting a job then.  Actually, that doesn’t really have anything to do with it.  I’m actually grateful for any opportunity to get work in politics and certainly don’t hold that against him.

Well, is it something personal then?  Again, not really.  He has always been civil to me and I have done my best to be civil toward him.  For example, this year he made it a point to say hello to me even while I wore the shirt of Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for the 6th district, and did so again a few months later while he was stumping for the Republican candidates for city council.  I’ve donated my time for his liberty-minded opponents and he donated $500 to my establishment competition for Harrisonburg City Council.

So, what then?

Well, a small portion of it deals with the people in his employ.  Although he does have some good staffers, several of his people over the years are downright unpleasant, egotistical, arrogant, power-hungry bullies whose one goal is to rise as far and as fast in the political ranks as possible, caring little what principle needs to be discarded or what person needs to be eliminated to achieve these goals.  Yes, I’ve encountered people with these traits throughout my adventure in politics, but these kind of individuals seem to flock to Representative Goodlatte at a far higher than average rate.

But that’s only a small part of the problem.  The far larger one deals with the fact that he and I have a radically different political philosophy.  I believe in a small, constitutionally limited federal government while he doesn’t…not really.  Although Representative Bob Goodlatte often uses great rhetoric, his votes and bills often don’t match.

The truth was hard for me to swallow at first.  After all, watching previous political role models such as Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush either fall from grace or completely abandon their principles was hard to accept.  Surely my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, was the good constitutional conservative that he claimed to be.  Like the kid who asked Shoeless Joe Jackson on the steps of the courthouse, “say it ain’t so, Bob.”  Unfortunately, the legislator I assumed Bob Goodlatte was didn’t match who he actually happened to be.  Let me offer some examples to illustrate:

– For a good many years he has been advocating a balanced budget amendment but has voted to raise the debt at least seven times.  Wonder why the country is over $18 trillion in debt?  Representative Goodlatte has been part of that problem.

– He supported the 2014 continuing resolution commonly known as the CRomnibusAs Conservative Review states, “This 1700+ page, $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill granted President Obama full funding for 11 of 12 federal departments for the remainder of the fiscal year – without any congressional restrictions on his unilateral action on amnesty, Obamacare, and environmental regulations. Worse, this bill actually provided Obama with an additional $2.5 billion in funds to facilitate his executive amnesty.”

– Has both supported and opposed minimum wage increases (depending on which party holds the White House) despite the fact that Congress has no constitutional authority to set any sort of wage standards.

– A leading advocate to ban internet gambling even though that is yet another power not enumerated to the federal government.

– Was the deciding vote in favor of Medicare Part D, further embroiling the federal government in yet another area it has no legitimate control.

– Voted for George W. Bush’s meddling in education with No Child Left Behind which Republicans are finally starting to publicly admit was a mistake.

– Voted for George W. Bush’s military adventures in Iraq despite the fact that Iraq posed no military threat to the security of the United States.  This conflict has cost trillions of dollars, and resulted in the needless deaths of a multitude of Americans and Iraqis.  In addition, destabilizing the region has only increased the possibility of terrorism against the United States and her citizens.

– Cosponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and supporter of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) designed to strip away our freedoms on the internet.

– Voted for the Patriot Act.  Although you can make an argument for it in the wake of the 9/11 hysteria, Representative Goodlatte has voted for it each and every time it comes up for renewal, gravely endangering the civil liberties of Americans.

– Voted for the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which created the TSA, needless hassle and harassment at the airport, and has failed to do much to deter or catch terrorists.

– Voted for the National Defense Authorization Act in recent years which, along with the Patriot Act, allows for indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects in violation of the 4th Amendment.

– Voted for the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014, which, in the words of Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3rd), “permits the U.S. government to acquire, retain, and disseminate nonpublic telephone or electronic communications to or from a U.S. person”.

– Voted to impeach President Clinton and, although now Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and admits that President Obama “is not enforcing the law“, he refuses to consider impeachment for Obama’s gross abuses of executive power.

I could go on to include his advocacy for big ag subsidies and his support for the ethanol mandate, choosing crony capitalism over the free market, but these are some of the more troubling issues of the day.

IMG_0144Just as important, Representative Goodlatte does not feel beholden to his constituents.  At the 2012 6th District Republican Convention, he surprisingly called the 6th district GOP chairman, Wendell Walker “his boss”.  Although his honesty was appreciated, I was horrified to learn “his boss” wasn’t the voters of the 6th district or even the Republicans of the 6th district.  To hammer home this point, despite the fact that the 6th district Republican committee unanimously wrote a letter to demand Representative Goodlatte oppose John Boehner for Speaker of the House in the 2013 election, he ignored them and voted for Boehner anyway.  In 2015, he once again cast his lot with John Boehner.  Although his campaign shirt proclaims, “Bob Goodlatte, Working Hard for Us!” it should more accurately read, “Bob Goodlatte Does Whatever He Wants and Ignores Us!”  After twenty-two years in office, he seems to be far more beholden to the power-brokers and lobbyists in Washington than the citizens he was supposedly sent to represent.

He or his people treat the 6th district of Virginia as his fiefdom, replacing party leaders who oppose him or trying to silence his critics (as was done to me when I was expelled from the Republican Party).  Unfortunately, Goodlatte and/or his supporters have hurt quite a few of my friends and allies who, like me, believe that principle is more important than any single politician.  As a result, an increasing number of them react by treating Representative Goodlatte with utter contempt.

Although the 6th district of Virginia is arguably the most conservative district in the state, one whose people support an extremely limited federal government, we have a representative who has proven time and time again that he does not share this point of view.  Yes, it is a good thing that he encourages a public reading of the Constitution on the Congressional floor, but it is clear that he doesn’t seem to think that all of its provisions, especially the 9th and 10th Amendments, should be used to restrain the power of Washington.

Representative Goodlatte is a member of the Republican Party, but as I’ve illustrated through the issues listed above and The Washington Post agrees, he certainly shouldn’t be mistaken as either a conservative or libertarian.

I hope that Representative Goodlatte and I can continue to be civil toward each other and yes, compared to some legislators (Senator Shelly Moore Capito I’m looking at you), Goodlatte is better.  However, although Goodlatte might be a decent enough fellow personally, if you like a federal government that grows bigger every year, strips away our civil liberties piece by piece, supports endless war, ignores the Constitution, rewards some businesses at the expense of everyone else, works to enslave us all with debt, employs some of the most unsavory of people, and promotes big government Republicans like John Boehner, then Representative Goodlatte should suit you just fine.  Conversely, I oppose them all which puts the two of us at odds.

Believe it or not, I’d love to be proven wrong, that Representative Goodlatte is a strong advocate for liberty, that all the examples I’ve given don’t offer an accurate picture, and I don’t know what I’m talking about.  But I don’t think this is the case.  And so, I’ll continue to speak out against his votes.  I don’t do this because it is good for my political career, on the contrary I’ve been informed that it is personally detrimental for me to stand against such a powerful figure in Shenandoah Valley politics and likely has cost me several jobs, but because principle should come before our own enrichment.

I’ll admit that I’d very much like to support my representative as I once did, but that will either require a change of principle by myself or Congressman Goodlatte…or a change of representative.

2014: In Political Review

UntitledAs today is the last day of 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my political adventures over the previous 365 days.

I suppose the most monumental event for me, at least politically, was running for city council.  Although involved in more elections than I can count, that race marked my first time as a candidate.  It was a unique experience and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of folks that I may not have otherwise encountered.  It also gave me an insight into my fellow candidates, viewing them from an angle that most voters would never know.  Yes, the voters preferred other choices, but I’ve said that one win or loss isn’t as important as advancing the liberty movement.  Taken as a whole, running was both rewarding and discouraging.

2014 marked the end of my 19 year involvement with the Republican Party as I was expelled from my local unit in February.  It was disheartening to see the party place blind loyalty over their principles, but for far too many people in politics, values are a mere smokescreen to advance their own power.  A few months later, about a decade after attending my first meeting, I joined the Libertarian Party.  Although I am keenly aware of the potential pitfalls of political parties, it is difficult to promote and advance your ideas by yourself and have discovered a number of good people who call themselves Libertarian.  I especially appreciated the opportunity to meet Will Hammer, the Libertarian candidate for House in the 6th, and Paul Jones, the Libertarian candidate in the 5th.  Thanks also to Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian senatorial candidate, as well as John Buckley, the West Virginian Libertarian senatorial candidate and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who helped my campaign.  Also, I don’t want to forget Josh who created a fine website for me and Jonathan who crafted a bunch of campaign literature; thank you too to my friends that are still within the GOP.  Before moving on, let me offer another big thanks and shout-out to Marc Montoni, the LPVA Secretary, whose assistance, advice, and friendship were valuable to me in so many ways.

I feel I should mention that earlier this year I faced a pretty significant political threat.  Although I’ve been bullied by a variety of sources previously, this particular threat had a rather nasty sting to it especially considering it was done by someone who once declared me a good friend.  I shouldn’t be surprised that some people in politics will say or do almost anything to try and achieve their goals, but that doesn’t make the encounter any less disappointing.

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to learn a little bit firsthand about Guatemalan politics during my mission trip with my church to that country.  Comparative politics is usually interesting.

I was glad that the radio show with Andy Schmookler on 550 AM WSVA continued and am grateful to Karen Kwiatkowski for filling in for me on two shows I could not participate due to my run for council.

I’m pleased to say that this website, The Virginia Conservative, still is going strong; it’s a little amusing that it continues to accumulate more fans that my run for council did.  Not seeking to garner praise from any particular group or person, I pledge to continue to offer my candid thoughts and news into my seventh year.

Moving on to politics at JMU, I wonder if I am the first person to be refused entry to a meeting of the JMU CRs.  I’ve been active in trying to promote college activism for years, but several months ago, like George Wallace enforcing segregation, a leader of that group blocked the door to their meeting and requested that I not come in.

Although I’m disappointed that Nick, the former leader of Madison Liberty, has graduated and left the area, I’m looking forward to seeing how Emery advances the group next year and plan to aid him however I can.  I also hope that Students for Sensible Drug Policy continues to be a force on campus.  Although my time with the JMU CRs was brief, I must I was glad for the opportunity to meet Christian, a like-minded activist, and hope he presses that group in a more principled direction.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and recognize two of my fellow former candidates for city council.  Although we certainly disagreed on a number of issues, both Republican D.D. Dawson and Democrat Alleyn Harned showed themselves to be particularly worthy opponents and I appreciated their warmness and decency in a field that sorely needs it.

Have I missed something or someone?  I have no doubt that I have.  But please forgive me; after all, it’s hard to condense an entire year into a single post.

Best wishes to you all in 2015.  Let’s see where the next year takes us!