The Equality of Opportunity Myth

Growing up, I was often told that Republicans believed in the idea of equality of opportunity, that everyone, regardless of his or her beliefs, ethnicity, or circumstances ought to have the same chance for opportunity and success.  Unlike the socialists, who I was told promote equality of results, Republicans desire a fair and level playing field.

I first began to question Republican support for equality of opportunity during the 2013 general elections in Virginia.  During that election, we had three choices for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis. In case you didn’t know, making the ballot in Virginia isn’t an easy task.  Two of the three candidates for governor had to collect the signatures of 10,000 registered voters across the state.  Terry McAuliffe needed to do so to be in the Democratic primary and Robert Sarvis needed to do so in order to make the general election ballot.  However, Ken Cuccinelli didn’t need to meet this signature requirement because he was nominated in the Republican convention.

Even though we had three candidates on the ballot for governor, as the election went on the debate organizers consistently excluded  Robert Sarvis.  Whether you liked Sarvis or not, given the efforts he had to make, he had as much a right to be on the debate stage as McAuliffe and Cuccinelli did.  If one believed in liberty and equality of opportunity, then he or she would fight to allow all voices to be heard, not merely the candidate he or she preferred.  Clearly, Ken Cuccinelli would agree, right?

Well, in October of 2013 I had the opportunity to find out in person as Ken Cuccinelli invited a handful of activists, including myself, to speak with him in Lynchburg.  I should add that at this time I liked Ken Cuccinelli as a person and supported much of what he did when he was in the Virginia Senate and as attorney general.  Heck, I still like Mr. Cuccinelli and believe he is still a positive force in Virginia politics though, of course, I don’t agree with everything he does (such as his efforts at the 2016 Virginia Convention), and I’m sure there is quite a bit I have done that he has disagreed with.  I didn’t think that the Cuccinelli for Governor campaign had been going that well as it had been horribly nasty and negative and, by speaking personally to Mr. Cuccinelli, he might be able to reverse course.

However, when we sat down in Lynchburg, it became obvious that the Cuccinelli campaign would not change its direction.  One of the attendees suggested that Mr. Cuccinelli should welcome Mr. Sarvis to the debates, but that idea was rejected.  As such, when I returned to Harrisonburg, I wrote a piece in my local paper encouraging folks in the Shenandoah Valley to support Robert Sarvis due to Ken Cuccinelli’s apparent rejection of the idea of equality of opportunity for Mr. Sarvis.

After about a year of refusal for contact, in late 2014 or early 2015, I spoke to my state senator, Mark Obenshain, about this same matter and about crafting legislation to make ballot access fair and equal for all candidates regardless of party affiliation.  As Senator Obenshain ran on his father’s slogan that “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,” surely you would think he would support the equality of opportunity for all political candidates regardless of political party.

As many of you already know, instead he told me that he thought no one should be on the ballot except for Republicans and Democrats.  Having just finished running for local office as an independent, I took that news as a personal affront and particularly hypocritical especially given that he sent me a letter right after the election time thanking me for running.  Sometime before this incident, someone who knows my state senator far better than I ever will told me that he wasn’t much of a conservative, he just pretended to be one.  I didn’t believe it at the time though looking back I think it was because I didn’t want to believe it.  But, in that moment, I remembered those words and realized my state senator wasn’t an ally in the fight for liberty, limited government, and equality of opportunity, but rather an adversary.  I felt as if I had been lied to and, unwittingly through my actions, I had helped promote that lie to others.

This year, much like 2013, Virginians will see three candidates on the ballot for governor in November:  Democrat Ralph Northam, Republican Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra.  And, like 2013, one candidate, the Libertarian, has been excluded from the debates.  Ralph Northam states he favors allowing all candidates on the stage.  So far, Ed Gillespie refuses to comment on the matter, though in 2014 when he ran for U.S. Senate, I received word that his campaign would not participate in a debate that included the Libertarian nominee.  At this point, as far as I can tell, he still maintains a similar viewpoint.

What if Ed Gillespie weren’t allowed to participate in the debates because he is a Catholic.  Certainly, many people would denounce such a move as being against religious freedom.  What if Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax weren’t allowed to participate in a debate because he is black?  Wouldn’t that rightly generate outrage and cries of racism?  Or what if Jill Vogel, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, were discriminated against simply because she is a woman?  Would you remain silent in the face of sexism?  Aren’t these all wrong?  I am neither Catholic, nor black, nor a woman, but I would be upset at these policies even though as a white, Protestant male I would personally benefit from this kind of discrimination.  Why then should political affiliation be any different?  Why should Cliff Hyra be excluded simply because he isn’t part of one of only two legally recognized political parties in Virginia?   Whether a candidate runs as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Constitutionalist, independent, or something else,  if he or she jumps through the necessary hoops to make the ballot, shouldn’t he or she be treated with the same respect and dignity as any other?  When we support discrimination when it benefits us, then we have surrendered the moral argument and it becomes logically inconsistent if we later declare discrimination unfair when groups of what were formerly minorities seize the majority and decide to return the favor by treating us unjustly.  Although we may not look the same and we think differently, aren’t we all made in the image of the same God?

Although Republicans claim that they promote the idea of equality of opportunity, it is clear that some of them don’t really adhere to these principles.  They seek to maintain a monopoly on power and political access at the expense of freedom, healthy competition, and the rights of the average citizen.   However, it is important to remember that there are some good and principled Republicans and Democrats who do.  If people don’t enjoy political freedom, then, over time, using the lesser of two evils conundrum, it is much easier to chip away at their economic, personal, and religious liberties as well.

Adhering to the principles I was taught, I believe that everyone should have the same chance to succeed in all areas of life, including the political realm, regardless of age, sex, religion, race, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.  If any candidate, politician, judge, or bureaucrat opposes this equality of opportunity and seeks to use the law to bully or discriminate against one of these groups, not only should they be defeated, but for the sake of liberty and a free society, they must be defeated.

A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

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Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

Petersen on the 4th

Senator Petersen from his Facebook page
Senator Petersen from his Facebook page

Last week, I wrote about how Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) stood up for our political liberty by opposing a bill on party registration.  In this session he also spoke against strengthening the power of the executive branch of the Virginia government.

Well, on his Facebook page this morning, Senator Petersen offered a few thoughts on the 4th Amendment and the right of Virginia citizens to be secure in both their physical and electronic information.  As a bit of background, last month the Virginia Senate passed SB 919 with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.  In fact, Petersen was the lone no vote.

Here’s what he said:

“Stealth Subpoena” Shows Need to Update 4th Amendment

Earlier this session, the Senate passed SB 919, which gives government the right to issue an “administrative subpoena” to collect the phone and Internet records of a citizen. Ostensibly to combat child pornography, abduction and terrorism, the bill authorized the government to conceal the fact of the subpoena from the target if disclosure would “seriously jeopardize” the investigation, i.e. by causing the target to hire a lawyer and challenge an unjustified or overbroad search.

The bill passed 39-1. I was the only “no” vote.

Back in the 18th century, when “a man’s home was his castle,” the government needed a warrant to come on to someone’s property for purposes of search and seizure. That warrant could not be general, it had to specifically describe the object of the search. Today, that requirement (which was incorporated into the Virginia Declaration of Rights) is the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Times have changed. So have our methods of storing property. Previously, our possessions were inside our house or maybe in a bank vault. Each requires a specific warrant or subpoena to be searched. In both cases, the search must be approved by a magistrate or (in the case of a subpoena) the opposing attorney can quash or limit the review based upon relevancy or scope.

Current technology is shredding these historic protections. Now our computer history, phone history or travel records can be tracked, analyzed and ultimately used against us, even without a formal indictment or charge. What is the purpose of this Orwellian expansion of state power? What happened to the “right to be left alone” as articulated by Justice Powell in Bowers v. Hardwick?

I failed to stop the train in SB 919. (To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of the bill until the last second). However, I do believe that the Senate may be on the verge of doing something historic if we pass SB 965 on the floor today — that bill limits License Plate Readers by requiring police to purge the data within seven (7) days.

The larger issue is the Fourth Amendment. It was written for a low-tech agrarian society. Can it be adopted to a high-tech world? Can these same protections be extended to laptop computers and I-phones?

We have to do it. Otherwise, we will be living in a world where we are all just one click away from a legal investigation.

Apparently, this message caught the eye of other political folks too.  As both a former attorney general and state senator, Ken Cuccinelli wrote on Facebook about an hour ago, “Here’s a Va. Dem who is on the right track re 4th amendment government power.”

Now, much like Senator Petersen, SB 919 wasn’t a piece of legislation that I was following prior to its passage.  And, given that the bill passed 39-1, perhaps there are some good reasons for it.  However, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

Cuccinelli’s Thoughts on Article V

CuccinelliVC Note:  Shortly after Delegate Lingamfelter’s email, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent out his thoughts on an Article V Convention of States.  Interestingly, this issue seems to be creating a significant wedge in the conservative movement in Virginia.

 

 

Dear Friend and Fellow Virginian,

One of the most unique and important discussions among constitutional conservatives is taking place right now in Virginia’s General Assembly.  It is the debate about whether the states (including Virginia) should exercise their rights to call an Article V Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution to limit the power of the federal government.

While I have good friends whom I respect on the other side of this debate, I support the effort of the states to call such a convention and I wanted to share my reasons with you.

I would note that there is a body that sits for nine months every year, “defining” our constitution, and sadly it seems to regularly undermine the original meaning of that sacred document… always seeming to grow the power of the central, federal government.  We call this body The Supreme Court of the United States.

We can continue to idly watch the Supreme Court and the federal government eat away at the constitutional foundation of this country, or the states that founded it can make an effort to limit the runaway growth in the power of the federal government.  Frankly, I don’t see – nor has anyone suggested to me – a viable alternative to the Convention of States.

The usual argument: ‘we just have to elect people who will rein in the federal government’ has not worked.  I would note that the Founding Fathers expected to be disappointed, and they tried to design a governmental system with checks and balances to curb the natural excesses of mankind, including a way to rein in the federal government when it got out of control.

Virginia’s General Assembly will vote to take the first step to rein in our runaway federal government in the next few days.  Your support is urgently needed!  The vote looks like it’s going to be very close.

Our Founding Fathers gave the states a method of proposing amendments to our Constitution to rein in the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.  Proud Virginian George Mason insisted that one day the federal government would outgrow its bounds, and when that day came, the states would need to have the ability to amend the Constitution to limit the power of the federal government.  An Article V Convention of States is the specific recourse he and our Founders put in the Constitution for that purpose.

I’d like to ask you to stand with George Mason and our Founding Fathers and tell your Virginia legislators to support HJ 497, HJ 499, and SJ 269!

Here are 3 Simple Facts that I Think Opponents are Getting Wrong:

1. The States Control the Convention Process

A Convention of States was put in the Constitution for the express purpose of giving the states a way of limiting the federal government.  Under Article V it takes 34 states to start the convention process.  Then the states appoint the delegates to the convention.

No matter what Congress would like to do to influence or attempt to ‘control’ the convention, they have no authority to do so.  The convention can ignore anything Congress ‘says’ about the convention.

Finally on this point, and in my mind critically, 38 states have to ratify any proposals coming out of the convention before they become part of the Constitution – this is our ultimate ‘backstop.’  Put another way, at a time when Republicans control more state legislative chambers than ever before in my lifetime, only 13 legislative bodies (e.g., only the House of Delegates, even without the Senate, on behalf of Virginia) may block ANY proposed amendment.  Blocking votes are the most important, and there are more conservative states than liberal states; additionally, Republicans control approximately double the number of state legislative chambers across the country as Democrats right now.  That’s as good a backstop as we’re going to get – and don’t forget, the Supreme Court is out there whittling away our constitution and increasing the power of the federal government even as we debate this question.

The process is state-driven from beginning to end, and has numerous checks and balances to ensure its safety.  Our Founders knew what they were doing.

2. Virginia is focusing on Amendments that Limit the Power of the Federal Government.

HJR 497 only allows a convention to consider amendments that will limit the power of the federal government.  HJR 499 only allows a convention to consider a balanced budget amendment.  This can be reflected in the qualifications of Virginia’s delegates. Your rights under the First, Second, or any other Amendment are not ‘up for grabs’ (compare that to the Supreme Court)!  The only people who need to fear a convention are the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Remember, Virginia’s General Assembly will decide how delegates to a convention are selected, and while there are no absolute guarantees here, Virginia does have significant control of its delegates and a solid backstop in place.

3. Who does and who does NOT support a Convention of States:

Opponents often accuse us of being supported by the likes of George Soros and Moveon.org.  This is not the case.  Have you ever heard any of them back it (I mean quotes from THEM, not someone who opposes it telling you ‘George Soros wants it’)?  Go look at their websites.  You will not find such support anywhere.

I’ve even heard things like ‘the NRA opposes it.’  If so, my understanding is that their lobbyist in Richmond is unaware of that fact… draw your own conclusions.

A wide range of conservatives support this effort, including people like Governor Bobby Jindal, Prof. Randy Barnett – the leading academic in the opposition to Obamacare, Mike Farris, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, David Barton, Colonel Allen West, Senator Ron Johnson, and Retired Senator Tom Coburn, just to name a few.  Countless other conservative leaders also support this effort.

I should note that I have never seen an issue that sees so many good conservatives on both sides.  But I want to ask you to stand with our Founders and the countless conservatives who have joined this cause.  Please contact your state legislators in the Virginia House and Senate and tell them to vote in favor of HJ 497, HJ 499, and SJ 269.

You can find out who your state legislators are here: http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/

For liberty,

Ken Cuccinelli, II

 

A Tale of Two Politicians

On January 6th, 2015, a judge will sentence former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife; the recommended prison term is at least ten years.  Earlier this year, McDonnell was convicted of a number of felonies related to corruption of his office and betrayal of public trust.

However, lately some people have suggested, including the McDonnell attorneys, that his time served should be vastly reduced, instead being forced to perform a certain number of community service hours.  Although I think we ought to explore alternative sentencing for a variety of non-violent crimes, it should never be treated like some kind of political perk, doled out to the rich, famous, or well-connected.

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Phil Hamilton & Bob McDonnell

To offer some perspective, let me tell you the story of another Virginia politician who found himself in similar legal trouble.  Back during the 2009 election cycle, Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-Newport News) was accused of selling his office for personal gain.  The charge stemmed from a bill which created a new position at Old Dominion University, a position that was filled by Hamilton.

Many GOP leaders were quick to condemn Hamilton.  Bob McDonnell, who was then Virginia’s Attorney General, said, “Elected officials must keep the highest ethical standards in order to maintain the public trust. From what I have seen of published news accounts containing emails and admissions, it appears that Delegate Hamilton has violated the public trust. Based on this public information it would be in the best interests of his constituents for him to step down, but if he believes that the due process of a full inquiry by  the House Ethics Advisory Panel will clear his name, he should have a full opportunity to present his case. Any such inquiry should be commenced immediately and conducted expeditiously.”  Looking at it from a political perspective, at that time McDonnell was running for Governor of Virginia and the Hamilton situation could very well have had presented negative ramifications for his election chances.

When the story of Hamilton broke and before there was a trial, like McDonnell, the Republican Party of Virginia treated Hamilton like a leper, removing his name as a candidate from their website.  Ken Cuccinelli was the only statewide leader to suggest that Hamilton ought to have his day in court before being hanged by mere public opinion.

In 2011, Phil Hamilton was convicted and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.  In the ensuing election cycle, the RPV used the news of Hamilton as a political tool, attacking Virginia Senator John Miller (D-Newport News) for supposedly engaging in the same behavior.  They backed up and drove the bus over former Delegate Hamilton.  Unless I’ve missed it, I haven’t seen them apply the same treatment to our former governor.

Shortly after his conviction, I spoke to a member of the House of Delegates about the Hamilton situation.  I was told that Delegate Hamilton didn’t try to hide his actions because he didn’t think he did anything wrong.  Furthermore, other members of the General Assembly had done and continued to engage in the same activities that ended up placing Hamilton in prison.  As one example, I was informed that Virginia Senator Tommy Norment (R-James City County) supposedly acted very similarly to Hamilton regarding his employment with the College of William and Mary.

Now, I didn’t serve on the jury for Delegate Hamilton nor had any hand in his sentencing.  It would be highly improper of me to do so given his status as my former boss.  Although I can say that I never saw Hamilton engage in any unethical or illegal behavior and he treated me fairly well when I was in his employ, I wouldn’t argue that due to this personal connection he should be let off the hook.  Being convicted of bribery and extortion ought to merit considerable punishment and restitution regardless of how nice or evil the person otherwise is.  We must hold our elected officials to some kind of standard and this same standard ought to apply to Bob McDonnell too.  Virginia badly needs to improve its laws on political ethics.

I spoke to Bob McDonnell a number of times while he was in office and I don’t have any personal grievance with him (other than him joining the chorus line of condemning Hamilton before he was tried and convicted and apparently not seeing the hypocrisy in engaging in the same bad behavior he repudiated Hamilton for doing). However, we should not think better (or worse of him) in order to gain some sort of political advantage, due to his political party, or as our result of our relationship with him.

Given that the United States has over 2.2 million people incarcerated and has one of the highest prison population rates in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies, there is no doubt that our country is in desperate need of reform.  But, to argue that Bob McDonnell should be treated much better than former Delegate Phil Hamilton downplays the seriousness of the crimes of which he has been convicted, is unfair favoritism, could encourage further political ethics violations, and would only end up making a further mockery of our legal system.

The Liberation of Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli and Joshua Huffman at the 2009 RPV Convention
Ken Cuccinelli and Joshua Huffman at the 2009 RPV Convention

In case you don’t follow former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Facebook, lately he has been expressing a lot of strong opinions regarding politics.

For example, when it comes to Del. Joe Morrisey and his adventures with an underage woman, Cuccinelli writes “I hope there’s a race on under Rule 24 of the House, or other appropriate mechanism, to expel him from the House of Delegates.”  But his comments aren’t limited to only Democratic misconduct.  For example, when there are poor Republican actions, such as the vote on HR 83 concerning amnesty, Mr. Cuccinelli stated that it “is so disappointing I’m beyond comment”.  On December 12th, he announced, “I am sorry to have to report that of all 8 GOP congressmen in Virginia, only Cong. Dave Brat voted ‘against the rule’ governing debate and amendments of the CROmnibus bill.”

I don’t know about you, but the fact that Ken Cuccinelli is willing to take a stand on principle, even when it means calling out members of his own political party, is one reason why I like Mr. Cuccinelli.

But wait a minute, the astute observer might say.  If you like Ken Cuccinelli why did you support Robert Sarvis over him in 2013?  How can what you say above make any sense?

Well, just about every Cuccinelli supporter I know is of the opinion that the 2013 Cuccinelli campaign was one of the worst run statewide campaigns that Virginia has ever seen.  Rather than highlight any of the positive aspects of Ken Cuccinelli as attorney general and a state senator beforehand, his campaign instead focused on painting Terry McAuliffe as a sleazy, unelectable dirt-bag.  Although they succeeded in creating a general disdain for McAuliffe, the McAuliffe campaign successfully defined Cuccinelli as a scary right-wing zealot out to control every aspect of our lives.  I’ve seen far too much fearmongering and incivility in politics in recent years and could not be an advocate of either.  For that reason, and several others, I could not support Cuccinelli and decided to latch on to the one campaign that offered a clear message of liberty and hope, Robert Sarvis’.

Shortly before Election Day, several of us, including the chairman of the Harrisonburg Libertarian Party had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Ken Cuccinelli.  I told him that his campaign had to offer voters a positive message, that there were a number of reasons why citizens cast their votes for him in 2009 and why they should do so again in 2013.  He did have one video, which I thought was great, but I said he needed more like.  I was told the funding wasn’t available and that the negativity was the only real course available.  The Ken Cuccinelli I knew, that I ardently supported in 2009, the one that would stand up for principle even when in means bucking his party, the one who got kicked out of the GOP in 2011 for supporting an independent candidate over a poor Republican choice, was lost amid the campaign.

But, once the campaign was over and McAuliffe was sworn in as our new governor, I noticed that the Ken Cuccinelli that I knew, the one who boldly takes a stance for what he believes in was making a comeback.  Now, do I agree with every position that Ken Cuccinelli takes?  Over course not!  But it was a very encouraging sign and thus I had a strong desire to speak to the former attorney general once more and reached out to his staff.

Shortly before the 2014 elections, I had the great opportunity to speak to Mr. Cuccinelli again.  I hoped to discuss the 2013 campaign and his efforts in promoting liberty through his new role with the Senate Conservatives Fund.  Unfortunately, some of the scars from last election had not fully healed and so our conversation was cut short before we could explore the second topic.  Although I think I failed, I was trying to provide whatever limited advice I could, not to maliciously reopen an old wound.

Regrettably, I’ve discovered that when a person holds or is running for an elective office, they often disguise or mute their true political opinions.  I’m wondering if Ken Cuccinelli was elected governor (and I think he would have made a far better governor than Terry McAuliffe) would he be presently hamstrung too?  Once they are no longer in position of power or are planning on seeking election do we catch a glimpse of the true colours of politicians?  In 2013 Republicans got a taste of liberated and vengeful Bill Bolling and in 2014 they might have finally realized that one could only laughably call former Senator John Warner a conservative.

So, today I’d like to take a moment to recognize Ken Cuccinelli.  I’m glad to see him speaking out whether it is admonishing either Democrats or Republicans who seek to expand the power of government, strip away our freedoms, or funnel our money to further crony capitalism.  Don’t ever obey the voice that tells you that you must stand by your party regardless of their actions.

Keep fighting the good fight, sir!

Will the Real Libertarians Please Stand Up?

A guest post by James Curtis.

This article appeared the October issue of Virginia Liberty, the LPVA newsletter.  It has been reposted here with permission.

One of the results of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election has been to demarcate a clear divide between libertarian Republicans and Libertarians. For this discussion, “libertarian Republicans” are defined as members or supporters of the Republican Party and/or its candidates who self-identify as “libertarian” in philosophy. (“Big L”) “Libertarians” are defined here as philosophical libertarians who are members or supporters of the Libertarian Party and/or its candidates.

While there has been talk of “litmus tests” and the measure of one’s “libertarianism,” these discussions have detracted from the real separation between the two groups. One division between the groups seems to be a tolerance, or even acceptance, of bigotry by libertarian Republicans. By any definition of the word, Ken Cuccinelli has demonstrated his belief that homosexuals do not have the same rights as heterosexuals. Examples of such can easily be found through any internet search. These are not just words on his part, either. Cuccinelli has a track record of letting his prejudice affect his performance in public office. Two glaring examples are his support for the Constitutional amendment prohibiting the Commonwealth from recognizing “same sex marriages” and his recent efforts to reinstitute anti-sodomy legislation.

Many libertarian Republicans dismiss or discount these and other efforts and comments. Some have suggested that Cuccinelli would be the “most libertarian” governor in recent Virginia history. They point to such efforts as the lawsuit filed against the federal government in regard to some aspects of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and his general touting of using Amendment X (US Constitution) as a means to thwart other federal abuses of authority. While these efforts may be laudable, they do not adequately demonstrate that Cuccinelli is “libertarian,” especially given his record on social issues. And this is not to suggest that all social conservatives are bigots. While words such as “bigot” or “racist” sometimes get used too freely, there is no denial that such sentiment exists, and has adversely affected Republican policy positions.

Many Libertarians point out that the philosophy is not just an economic model, nor one that values “states’ rights” to the point where the States may tread on civil liberties in areas where the federal government is prohibited. Libertarianism encompasses economic, personal, and even moral aspects of personal liberty that cannot be separated from the others. In these regards, bigotry is simply unacceptable. Ron Paul, the definitive libertarian Republican, dismisses allegations of racism by pointing out it is a form of collectivism that ignores individuality. While this is true, and Paul calls for more liberty with a focus on individuality, he seems to stop short of calling out the immorality of such comments and actions. The true Libertarian challenges the moral failings of bigotry, and challenges those who defend, dismiss, or downplay such sentiments to reexamine their respect for libertarian philosophy. In short, Libertarians reject bigotry, whether involved in public policy or not.

Another division between the groups was the unawareness of, dismissal of, or even hostility towards the “libertarian left” by libertarian Republicans. Many downplayed, or even attacked, Robert Sarvis’ focus on “social issues” during his campaign. Others twisted his responses to economics questions to argue that he was not libertarian at all (or not as much as Cuccinelli). Those arguments on economic issues have been well analyzed elsewhere. The suggestions that Sarvis was a “social liberal,” or that his focus on such issues somehow demonstrated he was not really libertarian, pointed out the failings of many libertarian Republicans. As alluded to above, such arguments place too much emphasis on financial matters at the expense of personal civil liberties. And as some of the vitriol showed, many libertarian Republicans do not apply the libertarian philosophy consistently, by downplaying or dismissing the importance of social issues to many voters, Libertarian or other.

Many Libertarians came to libertarianism through a focus on civil liberties. Subsets of libertarianism such as left-libertarianism or libertarian socialism exist and attract many newcomers to the libertarian movement. Groups such as “LGBT Libertarians” and “Libertarian Democrats” also help spread the libertarian philosophy with a focus on social issues. And we have to acknowledge that just as there are libertarians who choose to work within the Republican Party, there are some who choose to work within the Democratic Party, often citing similar “pragmatic” arguments for doing so. Many Virginians who voted for Sarvis were independents who were at least equally attracted to his positions on social issues as on economic issues.

The most obvious division between libertarian Republicans and Libertarians is the division over which political party to support. Good faith arguments can be made for either approach as the best tactic for promoting libertarianism to Virginians. But, as these other divides may suggest, neither “side” should expect the other to abandon its chosen path.

But I challenge libertarian Republicans to consider these points. Are you really comfortable ignoring, or even defending, the prejudices of some of your Republican colleagues? If not, you either need to work harder to drive such intolerance out of the Party, or quit supporting such an un-libertarian organization. Do you believe enough Libertarians, including the libertarian left, can be persuaded to come and work within the Republican Party to reform it? Even if some voters can be convinced a reformed Republican Party is actually a libertarian party, the Republican “brand” may have been too damaged for many Libertarians to comfortably take up its mantle, or for many independent voters to support its candidates.

For these and other reasons, the Libertarian Party is the best vehicle through which to promote libertarianism and libertarian candidates for office. While there is much divergence of thought within libertarianism (a phenomenon that is dismissed or downplayed by our political opponents or others who wish to demonize our efforts), the philosophy does not allow for the social conservatism that Republicans accommodate nor the economic redistribution that many Democrats call for. The results in this election, coupled with polling data that shows growing numbers of Americans who agree with our positions on so many issues, suggests that the time is ripe for Libertarians to abandon their efforts in other political parties, and for others to get involved in partisan politics, so that we can become a more effective political force.

James Curtis serves as the Treasurer of the LPVA and has been part of their activities since 1996.  He is a Marine Corps veteran and holds two degrees from the University of Virginia.

Is the Senate Race Over?

IMG_2662The biggest race to be decided in Virginia this year is the election for U.S. Senate.  Whether you agree with his policies or not, Democratic Senator Mark Warner is almost certainly the most popular politician from either party in the state.  However, plagued by his support for Obamacare and rising discontent over President Obama, Warner isn’t as invincible as he proved to be in 2008.  This year he faces two challengers, Republican Ed Gillespie, who previously served as the chairman of both the Republican Party of Virginia and the Republican National Committee, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who pulled 6.5% of the vote last year when he ran for governor.

So what do the poll numbers say?  Well, the latest poll, held by the Watson Center for Public Policy at CNU, shows that Warner has a 22 point lead over Gillespie with Sarvis taking 5% and the remaining 11% undecided.  This poll is not some kind of outlier, instead being fairly consistent with previous ones.  For example, the CBS/NY Times poll, which ended on September 2nd, had the race 51% Warner -39% Gillespie and the late July Hampton University poll showed the race with 53% Warner -28% Gillespie -5% Sarvis or 55%-32% if Sarvis is excluded.  The Republican Party of Virginia claim that “in most polls Mark Warner is struggling to break 50 percent” might be wishful thinking, but it simply isn’t true according to a vast majority of the polls I’ve seen in the last three months.

Now, I’ve heard it said that Ken Cuccinelli faced similar poll numbers last year against Terry McAuliffe last year and, given that race was decided by 2.5%, victory for Gillespie is still possible.  However, looking back at the statistics, by early September how many times did McAuliffe reach or crack the 50% mark?  The answer is zero, not even once.  Only in October did he enjoy such high polling.

Unfortunately, the statewide 2013 race devolved into a contest begging voters who was the lesser of two evils; both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli had fair numbers of detractors among their own party faithful.  Compared to last year, as the latest poll indicates, Warner loses only 9% of the Democrats while more than double the number of Republicans (20%) do not favor Gillespie.  These numbers aren’t terribly surprising, for I’ve heard complaints about Gillespie from many traditional Republicans in the state.  The simple truth is that the Virginia GOP is heavily fractured right now and, in general, the liberty wing of the Republican Party doesn’t support Ed Gillespie as he has painted himself as a fairly standard big government Republican.  As a result, at the end of the day some Republican votes will go to Warner, some will go to Sarvis, and some will simply stay home.  Unlike the last election, where exit polls showed that more Democrats voted for Sarvis than Republicans, given Warner’s popularity and Gillespie’s lukewarm support in GOP circles, I predict Sarvis will see far fewer Democratic votes but will find a noticeable upsurge from the traditional Republican base.

So, on November 4th will Gillespie get blown out by 22%?  I don’t believe so.

Is the Senate race over?  Well, that depends on your perspective.  Polls have been wrong before, but, given past trends, I expect the race to tighten a little and, barring any major surprises, at the end of the day Warner will emerge the victor by 6-12%.  If I had to offer a prediction today, Warner will beat Gillespie by about 9%.   With that said, Gillespie’s campaign does have value to the GOP as it has forced the Democrats to spend money in Virginia, as opposed to elsewhere, and thus will improve the chances for a Republican controlled Senate after these elections.  However, anyone who has their heart set on saying “Senator Gillespie” will almost certainly be disappointed.

Therefore, with Virginia’s Senate seat not really being in play, the most important question left to be decided is, how will the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian Parties use this election to bolster their volunteers and support network for the 2015 elections when Virginians go to the polls to determine every single seat in the Virginia General Assembly?

The Republican (Feudalism) Plan

Image from nobility.org
Image from nobility.org

Ask the average Republican voter or even activist if he or she is familiar with the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia and I’d wager you’re likely to get a blank stare in response.  Much like a constitution or a set of bylaws, the party plan is the governing document for the state party.  Well, as Craig Orndorff, who runs the Race to Richmond, This Time, Roanoke, recently highlighted, the RPV has made several changes to their party plan.  You can read the entire document here.

Perhaps the most important modification deals with participation in party activities.  Point 2 in section A of Article 1 reads, “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.”

Now what difference does this change make?  Well, if it were in effect prior to the 2011 elections, Ken Cuccinelli would not have been the Republican Party nominee for governor in 2013.  Both Ken Cuccinelli and Bill Bolling broke party ranks to support independent Bill Janis for commonwealth attorney of Henrico over the GOP nominee.  As such, under this change not only would neither of the two men would have been eligible to run for any office under the Republican Party last year, but in addition they would have been excluded from all party functions until 2015.  Even Eric Cantor, the U.S. House Majority Leader, backed Janis and would not be eligible to be a Republican, much less hold his current post.

Although not changed in the latest round of revisions, there are other troubling aspects of the party plan.  For example, who can participate in Republican primaries and conventions?  According to the plan, “all legal and qualified voters…who are in accord with the principles of the Republican Party, and who, if requested, express in open meeting either orally or in writing as may be required their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election may participate as members of the Republican Party of Virginia in its mass meetings, party canvasses, conventions, or primaries encompassing their respective election districts.”

Several years ago the RPV attempted to use a loyalty oath as a condition to vote in a primary.  Although legally unenforceable, the effort generated considerable backlash and it was withdrawn.  The whole idea is rather concerning.  In order to select a Republican nominee a voter has to pledge in advance to support the eventual Republican candidate whomever he or she happens to be and regardless of what positions he or she happens to hold.  Imagine, if you will, a single issue voter.  Let’s say she is a pro-life Republican.  On primary day she goes to the polls to support a pro-life candidate over a pro-choice one.  Regardless of the outcome, according to the party plan by voting in that primary she is honor-bound to support the Republican even if that candidate holds a position which is in stark contrast to her own.  Does that seem right to you?  What will be the effect assuming it is attempted to be enforced?  It seems that the loyalty oath is alive and well.

Now, this position is not unique to the Republican Party as the Democratic Party of Virginia included a similar statement in their 2010 party Plan.  “No person shall participate in a Democratic primary, convention or caucus who intends to support a candidate opposed to any Democratic nominee in that general or special election.”  Many of the locals know that it is very unlikely (but not impossible) for me to vote Democratic.  Will some party official stand at the door of the polling place on primary day, like George Wallace, denying me entrance?

In point three, the party seems to call for voter registration by political party, an idea I firmly oppose.

Moving through the RPV party plan, we reach point four.  It reads, “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.”

In plain English, this means that if you vote in the Democratic primaries, you are booted from the GOP.  It doesn’t matter that your tax dollars fund these primaries, you cannot voice your opinion in these contests…according to the Virginia Republican Party.  As someone who faithfully votes in as many primaries as he can, this plank is exceedingly worrisome.  I can think of at least three Democratic primaries in which I’ve voted; 2006 U.S. Senate, 2009 Statewide Virginia, and 2013 Statewide Virginia.  In addition, although I could not vote, I was a witness to the 2013 Libertarian state convention.  Does that count as participation too?  What if you live in an area of the state where only Democratic candidates can win?  Would voicing your opinion to select the best Democratic option exclude you from later expressing your opinion in Republican circles too?  Can a party forbid you to take part in a political process funded by your own tax dollars?  Although there is a clause to avoid this issue…as a one-time exception…being required to craft a written statement denouncing the other party very much seems over the top.

I find these issues worrisome and would expect that many of my conservative brothers and sisters would as well.  Why is it that the Republican Party is so concerned with making vassals of their base?  Shouldn’t they instead promote the Republican principles found in the Republican creed and make sure that Republican elected officials actually honor and uphold these values?  If the GOP wants to make a principled statement, why not strip party membership from delegates and state senators who supported the transportation tax hike last year…or work to remove them from leadership positions…or, at the very least, publicly chastise them?

With these rules, one has to ponder why the party just doesn’t force all primary voters, convention goers, and potential candidates to declare, “I will to my party be true and faithful, and love all which it loves and shun all which it shuns”?  In case you are wondering, that declaration is a modification of the Anglo-Saxon Oath of Fealty.  I wonder if the RPV wishes to reduce us to serfdom.  Is political feudalism alive and well within the Commonwealth?  Are we being transformed into red and blue vassals, stripped of any semblance of political free will?

Shouldn’t the RPV do a better job reaching out to voters and actually reducing the size of government rather than promoting restrictive regulations?  Rather than expanding the Republican Party, these rules (especially if actually enforced) will only serve to shrink involvement, which, in turn, will further reduce any chances of future Republican statewide victories.

As so many Virginia elections are either uncontested or one party has a virtual lock on a seat, participation in party nominating contests is an important tool for voters to have at least some voice in determining their representation.  Demanding loyalty or forbidding cross party voting in order to take part in party politics is a violation of a free and open political process and weakens the strength of our democratic process.  No group or individual should ever unquestioningly own your vote or your support.  We haven’t lived in the middle ages for centuries, so why should our partisan politics be so mired in the past?

If the Republican Party of Virginia desires to enact an oath I can get behind, it ought to sound something like this: “I will to my principles be true and faithful.  As long as the party and her candidates uphold these shared principles, I will support them.”

Sam Rasoul is a Terrorist?

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2008 campaign photo from Sam Rasoul’s Facebook page

Earlier today, JHPolitics posted a piece supposedly linking Democratic Roanoke House of Delegates candidate Sam Rasoul to terrorism.  One of his donors, a group called Mar-Jac Investments, may have ties to the funding of radical Islam.  As the author concludes, “Virginians deserve better than representatives who may owe favors to such nefarious figures.”

In response, Shaun Kenney at Bearing Drift points out there are several issues that ought to be addressed in this matter.  One particularly pressing one is that if Mar-Jac does have a terrorist link, what does that mean for other recipients of their funds, such as Republican State Senator Dick Black, Democratic Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli?  I encourage you to read his entire post.

Normally, as this issue has been picked up by Bearing Drift, I’d likely leave it as is.  However, as some of my political associates have been running with Rasoul’s supposed ties to terrorism, I felt I had to offer my thoughts.  Even the Republican Party of Virginia is spreading it too.  Although I haven’t spent much time reading about Mr. Rasoul since he ran for House of Representatives in 2008 and almost certainly wouldn’t be supporting him in his House of Delegates race, we can’t go about grasping at straws and making wild accusations.  By all means, figure out what Mar-Jac is all about.  However, for anyone who seeks to condemn Rasoul for this donor, are you also willing to declare Republicans who have benefited tainted as well?

Can we please have a race where we focus on principles and substance?  Or am I simply asking too much?