Sarvis v. Virginia Liberty

Last week, the Sarvis Press Shop released the following tweet which has appeared on the Facebook pages of many of my friends:

1393872_10202405844010474_55214078_nFor those who are unaware, until recently Donna Holt served as the Virginia director of Campaign for Liberty.  During her time in this position, she often promoted awareness of U.N. Agenda 21, an objective which some believe is an effort to erode American sovereignty and severely restrict land use in this country.

After seeing this tweet pop up so many places, including my own Facebook page, I thought I should investigate the matter.  Therefore, when Robert Sarvis came to Harrisonburg on Friday, I asked him about it.  Mr. Sarvis stated that he did not write this tweet, nor did he have any hand in its creation.  According to Twitter, the account is run by  The Virginia Liberty Party has this additional information directly from Robert Sarvis:  “I certainly wasn’t involved in the tweet and have already raked him over the coals for injecting his own editorial comments….as for Donna Holt…I have recently seen her name explicitly associated with blatant and clearly intentional misrepresentations of my positions.  I don’t know what was said about her in any tweets but the smear campaign is just rank dishonesty.”

As we are just days from the election, with Sarvis’ poll numbers hovering around 10% (most a bit higher, some a bit lower), many of my liberty-minded friends have been taking to Facebook to talk about Robert Sarvis.  Some offer legitimate concerns, while (as far as I can tell) a majority seek only to deride Robert Sarvis as a person as well as to cast doubt on his principles, integrity, and commitment to liberty.  Favorite tactics these days include calling him nothing more than a McAuliffe operative (there’s a conspiracy theory for you), or that he is some kind of LINO (a word I think must have been invented for this campaign, Libertarian In Name Only).  In order to further these tactics, they take bits and pieces of Sarvis’ quotes out of context and use them as proof that he is secretly supporting some kind of statist agenda.

Now, I know why many of my friends are proceeding down this path.  They are worried that Sarvis will peel away a significant number of liberty-minded voters that may have otherwise gone to Ken Cuccinelli and thus cost him the election.  However, many polls show that idea to be false.  For example, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, “Sarvis is getting 3 percent of the GOP vote, 2 percent of the Democratic vote and 14 percent of independent voters.”  In the September Roanoke College Poll, they found that Sarvis draws upon 4% of Democrats and 3% of Republicans.  With these statistics (and there are more out there), one could hardly make the claim that Sarvis will deprive Cuccinelli of a victory.

Furthermore, many of my brothers and sisters in liberty have bought into the idea that a Terry McAuliffe election will spell the end to everything we hope to achieve in Virginia.  Now, given my research, I don’t find McAuliffe to be a particularly appealing candidate.  At this point, he doesn’t seem to have much knowledge about the function of state government nor its proper role.  Nevertheless, when we let fear cloud our judgment, we often find ourselves in even worse messes.

As an additional note, I must say that I don’t appreciate that some people continue to argue that Robert Sarvis made no attempt to reach out to the liberty movement or Ron Paul supporters.  After all, here I am.  I try to avoid self-aggrandizement, but I have been active in the liberty movement for years and proudly worked for Ron Paul in 2007/08.  However, I’m sure many of you have also gotten a handful of emails that distort Robert Sarvis’ positions or claim that polls indicate his support slipping, even though the three latest polls (Rasmussen, CNU, and Emerson) show him in double digits.  Yes, Jamie Radtke, Donna Holt, Chris Stearns, and Russ Moulton are important folks, but that doesn’t mean that we should assume that every email bearing any or all their names is factually correct or that they or anyone else can speak for the liberty movement as a whole in Virginia.

Getting back to the whole tweet issue mentioned at the beginning, it clearly is an ill-advised retaliation by a member of the Sarvis campaign team, but the constant and often misleading attacks on Robert Sarvis are equally ill-advised.  I encourage you to weigh your options carefully and vote on November 5th for whom you think is the best candidate.  Although I’ve had disagreements with the RLC-VA this year, as Robert Kenyon, the chairman of that group said yesterday, “I’m going to humbly suggest that, while I fervently believe pro-liberty voters in the Old Dominion should support Ken Cuccinelli for Governor, the best way to convince people is NOT to accuse Rob Sarvis of being some sort of crypto-liberal or hating puppies. Talk about why Ken is our guy.”  The Sarvis supporters ought to follow this line of thinking as well.

If you truly want liberty in Virginia, whether you are for Cuccinelli or Sarvis, please stay positive ladies and gents.  Promote your candidate and don’t simply malign the others.  After all, regardless of this election, on November 6th we have to try and come together as a movement.  Spending the next several days tearing us apart over fear and misinformation will make that task all the more difficult.

Before & After Ron Paul

Photo thanks to

There is no doubt in my mind that Representative Ron Paul is currently the most important figure in the liberty movement today.  His actions over the last several years have awakened a multitude of activists and cured the apathy of countless others.  However, we must keep in mind that it is likely that Ron Paul’s spotlight will diminish once his current House of Representatives term expires next year.

It’s time for a bit of history.  For those who don’t recall, late 2006-2007 was a bleak time for many conservatives.  The Democratic Party captured both the House and the Senate, establishing the Pelosi/Reid era in Congress.  Although a Republican still sat in the White House, it became increasing apparent that George W. Bush had little desire for promoting conservative principles like a constitutionally limited government, rolling back the size and scope of federal agencies and departments, and reducing the ever inflating national debt.  It seemed as if many of my fellow conservatives turned a blind eye toward many odious policies, even though they ran contrary to our principles, simply because a Republican leader promoted them.  Many of the same conservatives who once opposed the military adventures of President Bill Clinton now applauded Bush for an even more aggressive policy of nation building.  In short, principle had taken a back seat to party.

As for myself, I was feeling pretty depressed about the direction of my party and the state of politics in America in general.  Early 2007 found me in Tennessee, working a three-month contract with Students for Life of America, a pro-life organization based in Northern Virginia.  Promoting important causes, like the pro-life issue, allowed me to advanced my principles, even when it seemed as if my party had lost its way.

After this position ended, I considered returning to campaign work.  In 2006, I was employed by the Republican Party of Virginia.  Prior to that time, I had volunteered on many campaigns and so I felt as if I had a pretty good understanding of the ins and outs of campaigning.  I had never worked on a presidential campaign and considered it to be a logical conclusion to my time in the field.  But who was the best choice?  Who was the candidate who best advocated my principles, the values of a liberty-minded conservative?

Based upon familiarity, I first considered former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  But I quickly found a few key areas of policy disagreement.  Next on the list came pro-life favorite Senator Brownback of Kansas.  But again, he was less than ideal.  Well-known politicians like Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani, didn’t seem like very good choices either.

Digging deeper into the field I came across Representative Ron Paul.  I must confess that I didn’t know too much about him at that time.  Given the fairly establishment circles in which I ran, I believed what I was told, that Dr. No was little more than a cantankerous old man from Texas who didn’t get along with most of his fellow Republicans.  But the more that I read about him, the more I realized that he represented just what my party needed and my principles demanded.  He fought against the expansion of the federal government and sought to shrink it, he cherished the Constitution and the rule of law, he was a voice for the unborn, and opposed installing leaders of other nations and meddling in their domestic affairs.

These were some of my thoughts before Paul.  You may find it odd that I use the term “before Paul” given that he has been in elected office since the mid 1970’s.  But let me explain.  Although it is true that Ron Paul has been involved in politics since before many of us were born, his greatest impact in the national political dialogue began with his 2007/2008 run for the GOP nod for president.  This primary catapulted him to the forefront of the liberty movement and established a near cult-like following among some of the faithful.

But now, after five years, we are faced with the grim reality of a movement without Paul.  After all, he is not running for re-election to the House of Representatives in November and, unfortunately, will not be the Republican nominee for president.  I won’t say that I know his plans, he could host a talk show or be a regular on Fox News like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin, but I expect that his role will diminish as the years pass.

I wish I could say that the movement has transcended national leaders, that a sufficient portion of the population is educated and energized to take back their country from the statists who have led us down this troubled path.  I wish I could also say that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were the GOP leaders who fully embraced our philosophy, but neither statement would be true.

Fortunately, there are other leaders in Congress, leaders like Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, or Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina who have been fighting the good fight for liberty.  The best well known, Senator Rand Paul, has also drawn a good bit of flak, tarnishing him in the eyes of some Ron Paul supporters for endorsing Mitt Romney recently.  I won’t go into that argument again, but you can find my thoughts here.

I suppose my take home point here is that there has been a time before Ron Paul was there to share his wisdom, inspiration, and leadership.  Whether it happens today, tomorrow, next year, or fifty years from now, there will come a time when Ron Paul is no longer with us.  Therefore, although Ron Paul is currently an important force and should be remembered and honored as such, for the sake of the future of the movement, we must become something more than a cult of personality based around Dr. Paul.  When he leaves us, we cannot allow ourselves to be lost in the wilderness once more, waiting for the next great leader to serve as our guide.

The future belongs to all of us.  Ron Paul has made his mark and, God-willing, he will continue to do so for a long time to come.  But, like Barry Goldwater before him, the time of Ron Paul is coming to a close. So what will you accomplish to further the ideals of liberty in this great nation of ours?

Remembering Richard Obenshain

Photo from

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.

Extending the Patriot Act

Today, members of the House of Representatives got a chance to vote on whether or not to extend some of the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act.  Yesterday, I called my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), to ask how he was planning to vote on this issue.  His Washington office did not have an answer at that time and so I encouraged him to vote no.  As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I have quoted several times), “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” –Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin.  This so-called “Patriot Act” is the modern manifestation of this struggle.  In our great desire for security, would we give up our freedoms and the rule of law, that which separates us from the despotic nations and peoples who attacked us on September 11th?  Unfortunately, we failed that great test back in 2001 when the Patriot Act originally passed and then again in 2005/2006 when many of the provisions were extended the first time.

As the dust settled today, the final vote in the House was 277 in favor, 148 opposed, and 9 nonvoting.  Given that the bill required a 2/3rds majority to pass, it has been defeated…at least for now.  I was disappointed to see that a vast majority of Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, voted in favor of this bill.  In fact, only two of Virginia’s eleven Representatives voted against the bill:  Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Jim Moran (VA-8).  I’m starting to wonder if the Tea Party’s call for limited and constitutional government has fallen on deaf ears.  Will most of the newly elected Representatives and Senators support big government business as usual?

Prior to the vote, several members spoke out in opposition to renewal.  I submit to you the words of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX-14) and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Update: Senator Rand Paul (KY) now shares his opinion this topic.

Lastly, I’d like to share one more video.  Several years ago, Judge Napolitano offered his thoughts on the Patriot Act.  In short, his opinion is that it was passed in Congress in too great of haste and erodes our Constitution and our liberty.  Watch and see if you agree.

Metal Bell

About a week ago, I received a pretty troubling email from another political activist.  It concerned a pre-filed bill for the upcoming legislative session, HB 1528 sponsored by Dickie Bell of Staunton.  According to the email, this bill “requires every dealer to prepare a daily report” of precious metal transactions.  Furthermore, these reports would be available to both government and law enforcement agents.  As you would imagine, I found this news to be particularly troubling.  I would assume that more and more Virginians would look toward investing in precious metals given the continued weakness of the U.S. Dollar.  Isn’t it just a little bit disconcerting that the government would take such a keen interest in these transactions?  What do they plan to do with this data now or in the future?

Resisting the temptation to hastily write a letter to Delegate Bell regarding my concerns, I thought it prudent to do a bit of research first.  The most interesting point that I discovered is that the Virginia Code  (54.1-4101) already requires precious metal or gem dealers to keep a written record of both their transactions and customers that are available on request.  Delegate Bell’s bill would primarily change two points:

  1. “Every dealer shall prepare a daily report containing the information required by 54.1-4101 sold to him each day and shall file such report by noon of the following day with the chief of police or other law-enforcement officer of the county, city or town where his business is conducted designated by the local attorney for the Commonwealth to receive it.”  The dealer can submit his or her report electronically as opposed to mailing or delivering them in person, which is the current norm.
  2. Dealers can charge their customers a small service fee to cover the added costs associated with these filings.

As you can see, some of the most onerous parts of the law are already in place.  Delegate Bell’s bill just enhances them and provides a much closer and daily link to law enforcement.  As you can imagine, with this new information I was still against HB 1528 and looked for an opportunity to speak with the Delegate about it.  That opportunity came on Friday when Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republicans gathered for lunch at our typical First Friday meeting.  All of the Delegates and Senators who represent any portion of the city and/or the county were invited.  Once I got to the gathering, I discovered that neither Senator Hanger could not attend nor could most of the Delegates.  Fortunately, both Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain were there.

After the meal and a short speech by the Senator and Delegate, I patiently waited my turn to ask about HB1528.  Senator Obenshain moderated the questions from the audience and several times he passed over my outstretched hand.  Amazingly, after just about everyone else’s questions had been answered, the Senator ended the meeting, thus denying me my opportunity and primary reason for showing up to the meeting in the first place.  Although it would be easy to assume such a move as an intentional slight, I really hope it was merely an oversight.

As the crowd began to trickle away, fortunately Delegate Bell stuck around to speak with some of the guests and so I kept my eye on him.  Once the line dwindled, I finally got my chance.

The first thing Delegate Bell said to me was that he noticed that I had been waiting patiently for quite some time. I agreed and pulled out my printed copy of HB 1528 and asked him why he was proposing that bill.  He responded that local law-enforcement officials suggested the bill as an effort to further crack down on illegal trafficking of stolen goods.  However, after speaking with a number of interested parties, Delegate Bell stated that he no longer supports this bill and would be removing it from consideration very soon.  In addition, given the potential privacy violations already present in the law, he mentioned that he would be speaking to the Attorney General about deleting (or at least modifying) 54.1-4101 from the Virginia Code.

It is difficult to find the balance between security and liberty.  Although I’m sure that HB 1528 would aid Virginia police in catching criminals, is the added bureaucracy, hassle, and loss of privacy worth is?  I would say no.  In our post 9-11 world, far too many conservatives and liberals alike are willing to sacrifice just about every right in order to gain even the slightest feeling of security, even if doing so provides no tangible benefits.  For another example one needs look no further than the ridiculous nature of airport security.  First, why do we allow the federal government to look after airport safety?  Shouldn’t that role be the responsibility of the independent airport authorities or at least the states or the localities in which they are located?  Second, aren’t these body scanners and aggressive pat-downs a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment rights?  Must we give up our Constitutional protections in order to fly the not so friendly skies?  I could go on, but the simple fact is that once we surrender liberty in one facet, like travel, it will be that much easier to surrender it in another, like commerce, all in the false and misguided hope of greater security.

Now some activists might be upset by Delegate Bell’s HB 1528 proposal, but I think we should look at this event in a different light.  After all, Delegate Bell freely admits that HB 1528 is a blunder that he intends to correct immediately.  I believe that gesture shows volumes about his character.  He could have ignored the concerned letters and phone calls.  He could have not taken responsibility for this lapse in judgment.  After all everyone makes mistakes and the easiest and most widespread response is to simply deny their existence.  A true mark of strength is when we recognize missteps and correct them before the damage becomes irreversible.

Even though we share many conservative values, I’m sure that Delegate Bell and I will disagree on a few points in the future.  I’m just glad to know that the 20th district has a Delegate who listens to the people and will change course when he discovers he is in error.

Smoke’em While You Got ‘em

Recently the General Assembly passed a bill (SB 1105) that “prohibits smoking in all indoor restaurants, bar and lounge areas, and restrooms in restaurants in the Commonwealth, with certain exceptions where smoking may be permitted.  Requires the posting of ‘No Smoking’ signs and provides for a $25 civil penalty for a violation of these provisions” (official summary from the G.A.’s website) as of December 1 of 2009 unless those places of business create portions of their establishments with alternate ventilation systems.  This law, as is done in the case of both gun control and abortion, is another incremental step toward outlawing the practice of smoking altogether.  Rather than pushing for an outright ban (which would met with tremendous resistance), opponents of smoking have slowly pushed their agenda.  For the longest time, we have had a “sin tax” on tobacco products which was much higher than just about any tax on any other good and much greater than the typical sales tax in most states.  Over time the tax would increase, thus although the good itself was not illegal, the inflated price would discourage citizens from either continuing their habit or trying the item for the first time.  Today I read in the DNR that the FDA and the federal government are looking into the regulation of tobacco. I should note that I have not nor do I ever plan to use any tobacco product and personally I strongly discourage the use of any tobacco products be they smoked, chewed, snuffed, or dipped.  I find all of these practices both disgusting and harmful to one’s health and I greatly look forward to the day in which no person uses these products.  So then, I must be a big fan of this new law?  No…not at all.  Business owners, not politicians in Richmond or Washington, should be able to decide for themselves if they wish to allow smoking in their places of business.  Now I prefer to frequent businesses that do not allow smoking as I don’t like being around the smoke, but that is my decision as a consumer.  If a business chooses to allow smoking, either for personal or financial reasons, that preference should be their option.  Like many nonsmokers, I’ll be less likely to come in, but, on the other hand, smokers will likely appreciate the opportunity to light up.  Given the massive crusade against smoking, I find it hard to believe that any customer or employee is not aware of the potential risks of either smoking or of second hand smoke.  If you enter such an environment then I say caveat emptor.  As a parent, if you don’t want your kids to be around second hand smoke, then don’t take your kids to a place that permits smoking. Don’t instead go to an establishment that allows smoking and then complain to the manager when the person beside you lights up.  It’s not the manager’s fault…it’s not the smoker’s fault…it’s not the government’s fault…it’s your fault for not being a responsible parent.  Your choices at that point are to sit there or leave.  I’d advise leaving.  Simple enough.

Besides tobacco usage, people engage in all sorts of activities that are potentially dangerous to their health.  So does that concern give the government the right to be the health police?  These days obesity is a major issue.  I believe that the mass consumption of fast food is a major contributor to the health decline of many Americans.  If they were to greatly reduce or, even better, eliminate patronage at these establishments, I sincerely believe that the average health of citizens would improve dramatically.  So then should I advocate government regulation for the betterment of my fellow citizens?  Again, the answer is no.  First of all, the ends do not justify the means.  Should we look to the government to solve all of society’s problems?  Obviously, like tobacco, many citizens freely choose to engage in these behaviors we consider risky.  Must their freedoms be curtailed because we know (or supposedly know) better?  I’m sure that I myself partake in behaviors that shorten my life expectancy.  For example, I know that I should exercise more frequently, but due to various reasons, I do not do so.  Should the government (local, state, or federal) mandate exercise requirements for me?  Heaven forbid.  Such a policy, although expected from a fascist police state, is unreasonable for a supposedly free republic like our own.

What about seat belt laws?  Although I think we can all agree about the importance of wearing a seat belt while either driving or riding in a vehicle, is it really the prerogative of the state to decide for us whether or not we should engage in protecting ourselves?  Fortunately the government has wisely restrained itself from being our nanny in our own autos, and therefore…oh no…wait a minute…that’s not right.  My mistake.  For some reason we’ve come to believe it is reasonable for the government to be our co-pilot for the sake of our own safety.  Gee, as we surrendered our choices and personal responsibility to the government on this issue, it should come as no surprise that the government seeks to extend its influence further into the public health and safety debate.

Now I think that the public should not turn a blind eye when companies attempt to mislead people concerning the dangers or potential dangers of using or consuming their products, but if we know what the risks are, then each person should be able to decide for him or herself if he or she chooses to use such products or engage in those behaviors.  When it comes to smoking in private businesses it is time to get the government out!  Nevertheless, I expect that the crusade against tobacco products will intensify in the coming years.  Prices will continue to rise and one day you won’t be able to smoke at all in public, and then not even in your own home.  Although I ask that you continue to show the courtesy of refraining from smoking in confined areas (especially around me), to all my friends who enjoy a the liberty of a good smoke I say, “smoke ‘em while you got ‘em”.