Obama Comes to Charlottesville

Earlier today, President Barack Obama visited downtown Charlottesville, Virginia as he continues his campaign for re-election.  In 2008, Charlottesville proved to be one of Obama’s most favorable cities in Virginia, as he garnered 78.35% of the vote.

Prior to Obama’s speech, the Jefferson Area Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity held an “Oust Obama” rally at Lee Park, which began at noon, three or four blocks from the Pavilion where Obama’s event was slated to be later in the day.  Featured speakers at this meeting included: former Republican Party of Virginia Chairperson Kate Obenshain, Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, and E.W. Jackson, a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.  The crowd at this event was estimated to be approximately 160 people, most came from either Charlottesville or the surrounding Albemarle County, but there was also a sizable contingent from Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro as well.

Attendance to Barack Obama’s speech was far more tightly regulated that the relatively informal tea party event.  Each person had to have a ticket, which meant filling out a form that requested a name, address, phone number, and email address.  Once the gates opened at 1:00 PM, the line quickly grew to stretch from one end of the downtown mall to the other, a distance of about a half a mile.  As warned, the attendees had to path through “airport style security” which included emptying pockets and passing through a metal detector.  Fortunately, neither full body scans nor removing shoes was required.  However, as no outside beverages were allowed, many people simply threw their trash on the ground as opposed to finding a proper trashcan.

Although it was difficult to gauge a specific number, attendance had to have been in the thousands.  People were packed as tightly as sardines within.  A vast majority of the area was standing room only; ticket holders gathered both inside the structure and on the grassy slopes around.

After a bit of live music and some brief introductions from some of the local Obama field staff, the politicians spoke.  First up was Tom Perriello, the former member of the House of Representatives for the Charlottesville area until he lost his re-election bid in 2010.  Next was former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine who is looking to claim a seat in the U.S. Senate in November.  He made a handful of jabs against George Allen, his Republican opponent.

Around 3:30 PM or so, Barack Obama took the stage for about a half an hour.  He spent quite a bit of time reminding folks of the November election, as well as his accomplishments and plans for the future.  He spoke on an abundance of topics that would please the mostly liberal audience such as: Obamacare, his support for abortion, and his desire to increase fuel efficiency of automobiles.  One surprise, however, had to be his call to begin the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan beginning in about a month’s time.

Although it was not difficult to leave the downtown area via car, the Charlottesville police did close off traffic in or out of Route 29, one of the busiest arteries of the city, for over an hour until the presidential motorcade had passed by.  One does have to wonder how many thousands of citizens had their schedules disrupted by this unexpected delay.

Even though WSLS 10 reports that enthusiasm for Barack Obama has waned from its high water mark four years ago, today’s event in the liberal bastion of Charlottesville showed that there are still a vast number of people in Virginia who are willing to wait for hours on a fairly hot summer day and in a packed crowd to hear him speak.

Statistics show that Virginia will be one of the most important battlegrounds in the November 6th race for the President.  Whether Barack Obama carries the Old Dominion, as he did four years ago, remains to be seen.  However, as we draw nearer to the election, Virginians should expect more visits from Obama and Mitt Romney as well as counterbalancing gatherings of their detractors.

Remembering Richard Obenshain

Photo from http://www.lva.virginia.gov/

For quite some time, a quote from Richard Obenshain has been sitting at the top of my blog, The Virginia Conservative.  It reads, “The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving personal freedom in the life of this country.”  Although most citizens would appreciate such a statement, the name Richard D. Obenshain may not be all that familiar outside Virginia.  So, to give you a bit of background, he was quite active in state politics in the mid 60’s to late 70’s as he served as the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and, after beating John Warner for the Republican nomination, was well on his way to becoming a U.S. Senator.

Unfortunately, so many of us never got the chance to meet Mr. Obenshain; he died in a plane crash in 1978, several years before I was even born.  But, his legacy lives on, in part, through his children.  Even the most casual observer of Virginia politics will likely recognize the name of his son, my State Senator Mark Obenshain.  Kate Obenshain, his daughter, also served as a chairman of the RPV and currently works at the Young American Foundation.  In addition, the RPV building in Richmond is named in his honor.

As you might guess, I really like Mr. Obenshain’s quote.  It returns a bit of honor and dignity to politics.  If one adopts such a philosophy, influencing policy and seeking office isn’t treated as a means to acquire power, wealth, or fame, but rather the main focus becomes the promotion of our shared principles.  It is not about the greatest gain for a single individual or cabal, but instead advancing the cause of liberty to each and every citizen of our great state (or nation).

However, Richard Obenshain’s quote as listed on my website and also Wikipedia is incorrect.  According to Senator Mark Obenshain, it should actually read, “The most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country.”  I’ve taken the liberty of adding this quote to Wikipedia.  The change is more than just cosmetic.  Not only did Mr. Obenshain wish to maintain the dwindling list of freedoms that we already enjoy, but also enlarge that number.  Of course, one can only speculate on what freedoms he would like to expand.  In our present world, I would like to free travelers from the unreasonable TSA searches at the airport, remove the federal government from the sphere of education, allow states to determine the proper age for alcohol consumption, and forbid warrant-less wiretaps of citizens.

Apparently, then-President Ronald Reagan was so impressed by this quote, that he kept a paperweight inscribed with the motto on his desk in the Oval Office.  In what is likely the greatest tragedy, most, if not all, of his successors have not respected these words.  Even though it is impossible to gauge what kind of impact Richard Obenshain would have had in Congress, from this quote alone I dare say that he would have been a far stronger advocate for liberty than our current Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner.

Let me ask you a question.  For those of us involved in politics, what is the most important goal in your life?  Is it as noble as preserving and expanding freedom for your fellow Americans like Richard Obenshain?  Or do you consider such principles to be secondary or of no value?  Are you (or they) in the field simply for the money, a fancy title, or to meet the famous and powerful?  If our politicians and politicos truly supported the notion of personal freedom, would we have either Obamacare or the Patriot Act?

Although we often disagree on the specifics, all kinds of government need leaders who heed the words of Richard Obenshain.  After all, without liberty, we become enslaved to the whims of the government.  Our citizens and politicians would do well to remember that the greatest freedom is achieved when the largest amount of responsibility is left, not in Washington, in Richmond, or the city council chambers, but with the individual.

Scenes from The Tea Party

I’m pleased to announce that the Tea Party gathering in downtown Harrisonburg on Tax Day went quite well.  Coming on the back of the recent JMU riot, I suppose some folks feared the worst from a political gathering like this one.  (If you missed hearing about the JMU fiasco, head on over to hburgnews for the story.)  Despite some liberals’ misgivings, the only message was principled politics, not personal hatred.  Unlike events elsewhere, there were no signs threatening violence and no signs calling for Obama’s head.  All they asked was for limited government and liberty.  Although sometimes people from other parts of the state and country malign citizens of the Shenandoah Valley as backwards and rednecks, I’m pleased to say that we have enough decency and common sense to act in a dignified manner.  (To return to that JMU matter, you should know that most of the people charged with felonies and misdemeanors were neither JMU students nor Valley residents.)

Along with the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party members, were former Senator George Allen, former RPV chairwoman Kate Obenshain, Americans for Prosperity’s Ben Marchi, and Senator Mark Obenshain.  They all gave impassioned speeches in favor of our shared principles.  I don’t know how many hundreds of people were gathered on the courthouse grounds yesterday, but you can use my pictures to get a rough estimation.  Fortunately, the day was blessed with perfect weather.

I cannot tell you how inspiring it is to see so many of my fellow citizens getting involved.  But, simply showing up for an event is the easy part.  We must stay active in politics and constantly promote our principles whether it is through the local tea party, the Republican committee, or some other means.  A word of warning, however, is that we cannot and must not be complacent, marginalized, co-opted, or taken for granted.  Then, and only then, can we create the real change we need in our city, our state, and in our country.

Thank you Shenandoah Valley Tea Party.  Y’all enjoy the photos!

Welcome to the Party

Good evening.

Thanks to all readers for bearing with me.

Recently some members of the local tea party have become involved with the local Republican Party. Personally, I welcome their involvement. So many of their ideals mirror my own and the stated goals of the Virginia Republican Party that their addition seems like a natural fit. As stated on the tea party website, they support: “fiscal responsibility, Constitutionally-limited government, and adherence to free-market principles”. Don’t they sound like my kind of people? With their help, I hope we will compel our representatives and leaders to faithfully uphold our supposedly shared principles.

Unfortunately, their arrival heralded a bit of mistrust and confusion. Rumor spread that tea party members sought to take over the Rockingham County Republican Party. I was baffled. I don’t understand how anyone could honestly accuse David Huffman and the Rockingham County GOP of not advocating constitutional conservatism. After all, I believe that the Shenandoah Valley represents the true heart and soul of conservatism in both the state and the nation. Thankfully, the potentially problematic crisis turned out to be only a misunderstanding and miscommunication and was therefore quickly defused. I hope that more tea partiers will follow the example of the handful of members who attended our First Friday. In addition, traditionally conservative Republicans should follow Scott Sayre’s example and welcome these new allies with open arms.

And so I offer a hardy welcome to the tea party members. I respect your principled stand. I hope that the GOP and the tea party movement can work hand in hand. Together we can and must reform local, state, and federal government before they continue to grow into a nanny state, an unconstitutional sprawling leviathan.

With that being said, I want to alert you that the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party is holding two similar events on April 15 from 5:30 to 7:30. One is at the Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton while the other is at Court Square in Harrisonburg. Both events feature former RPV Chairwoman Kate Obenshain, Americans for Prosperity Virginia chapter’s Ben Marchi, and former Governor and Senator George Allen. I strongly encourage you to attend. Assuming that I’m not working, you should find me downtown on Thursday evening.