Why a Life-Long Republican Left the Party

Image from sodahead.com

A Guest Post by David Benjamin Dull

To start, I feel it is important to explain how I was raised, and where my roots are. My father is a die-hard, Trump supporting, racist, social conservative and his parents were social conservatives as well while my mother is a bit of a hippie, but a conservative hippie.  I was raised to vote Republican and did so starting with George Bush in 2000 when I was 18.  I was never “involved”, never did any research and didn’t pay attention to the issues even though I smoked cannabis, was pro-choice and had close friends who were/are homosexual.

All of that changed, however, in the fall of 2008 when I accidentally ran across a motivational YouTube video for libertarian godfather Ron Paul who was running for the Republican presidential nomination.  Without a shred of hesitation, I am proud to say the words of this modern-day prophet made me openly weep.  For the first time in my life, my worldview was challenged in a way that was informative and more importantly, not condescending, which was needed to get thru to me.

Did I run right outside with my pitchfork and torch, ready to burn down the capitol?  No.  I spent a long time combing the internet for input.  I researched Austrian economics, free-market solutions, non-interventionist foreign policy, individual sovereignty and ending prohibition. I began talking less and listening more.  Eventually, fully confident that my new worldview was solid, I ventured out into the political realm by attending my first Tea Party Tax Day rally in DC in 2010, which featured to my surprise, Ron Paul himself.  And yet, I still didn’t know how to get involved.

I left Baltimore and bought a home in Virginia Beach, and knowing no one political in the area, remained the guy who protests on social media… …until my mother sent me a friend suggestion for a local anarcho-capitalist.  Finally, I had someone in my town I could share my disdain for waste, fraud, and abuse with!  And what’s more, when a mutual friend commented about the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and I jumped right on that asking how I could get involved.  I was directed to attend a dinner in Newport News across the river.  The night of that dinner, I met a dozen libertarians who have become like family.  Never in my life have I ever felt so connected to and loved by a group of individuals, not of my blood.  Together, we took on the establishment, hard!

Luckily for us, there were only two candidates on the ballot in 2012; Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, which enabled a Tea Party/libertarian alliance to not only send 49% of Virginia’s delegates to the Republican national convention, but more importantly, the grassroots alliance overwhelmingly took over the Republican Party of Virginia state central committee and a host of district chairman seats and local unit chairman seats.  We did it!  We won!  Or did we?  With the primary firmly behind us, the “presumptive nominee” was hailed as the savior to the “Obama” problem with the Tea Party falling in line like good little Republicans.  We Ron Paul supporters were soon left out in the cold.  We were scorned for not eagerly volunteering for the nominee.  We were constantly told by establishment trolls that “libertarians belong in the Libertarian Party” and our posts on Republican social media outlets were deleted.  We were called isolationists, dreamers, liberals, and idiots.

When we rallied behind Susan Stimpson for Lt. Governor, who had an impeccable record of cutting taxes and fees while also cutting the budget of Stanford County while remaining temperate on social issues, the Tea Party and other grassroots social conservatives flocked to boisterous hot-heads like Corey Stewart who is in the middle of losing his third statewide race, and EW Jackson who just lost his third statewide race. When the votes were tallied for the first ballot of the seven-way Lt. Governor race, Susan came in second after Jackson, but when the names were put up on the Jumbotron, her name was at the bottom. When she failed to carry the third ballot, I voted for “moderate” (establishment) Pete Snyder because I wasn’t about to let Jackson pull down the ticket with his outrageous statements when Snyder would help libertarian-leaning Ken Cuccinelli win the governorship… which is exactly what happened despite Republicans complaining about the Libertarian nominee, who exit polls show actually took more votes from (D) McAuliffe than Cuccinelli… but I digress.  This was in effect, the beginning of the end of the grassroots revolt of 2012.  The establishment slowly took back the state central and local units.  The Tea Party continued to rally around hot-heads like Corey Stewart year after year.  Many of my libertarian friends, disgusted with the political process and the online nastiness from bigoted conservatives and paid establishment trolls, simply threw in the towel.  Subsequently, the Ron Paul class of 2012 was all but gone by 2014.

To be fair, having left Virginia to seek my fortune in the oil fields of North Dakota in the summer of 2013 and not returning until December of 2015, I was in no position to blame anyone for leaving, and I didn’t.  I did, however, unfurl my libertarian-Republican banner and plant it in the red sand of the Republican Party on last time for Rand Paul in the 2016 presidential primary, but was met with mild enthusiasm.  I saw even less enthusiasm for Trump, but his bigoted and insulting rhetoric somehow positively reached the voters even though it turned off most of the politically active.  The abysmal primary results coupled with the death rattle of the Tea Party in Virginia was the signal to me that “changing it from the inside” was a completely unattainable goal in Virginia Beach and highly unlikely in Virginia.  So I left the party of my father and my grandfather after being undyingly faithful for eight years, somewhat hesitant for another four and actively engaged for the last four.  Truth be told; it’s the best breakup of my life!

David Benjamin Dull is a libertarian activist who has volunteered for a dozen campaigns.  Although admittedly brash and stubborn, he is working to better himself and is currently engaged in growing the Libertarian Party of Anne Arundel County by reaching out to disenfranchised liberals and conservatives as well as independents who lost faith in voting.

The Schmookler & Huffman Show (Episode LV)

This morning, Andy Schmookler and I had our monthly appearance on 550 AM WSVA.

In the past, we have been told that the subjects of guns and abortion are off limits for discussion.  Therefore, I was caught off guard when, before going on the air today, we were informed that we would be starting off the show talking about firearms and the 2nd Amendment due to the recent school shootings in Florida.

Although that issue took up most of the time in the show, we also spoke briefly about the situation in the Middle East including the corruption charges against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the potential for greater conflict in an almost constantly volatile region.  Last, was the issue of Mitt Romney’s run for the U.S. Senate representing the state of Utah and whether or not he would stand up to Donald Trump if Romney were elected.

As always, if you missed the show live, you can catch it here.

Ben Carson’s Religion

Photo by Gage Skidmore
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Some polls have indicated that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has opened up a lead in Iowa.  In related news, recently Donald Trump decided to attack Carson over his faith, highlighting that he is a Seventh Day Adventist and thus questioning if Seventh Day Adventists are actually Christians.

It is true that some people consider Seventh Day Adventists to be a cult and thus not “true” Christianity.  Part of this opinion stems from the early days of the church when William Miller incorrectly predicted the end of the world in 1844.  In addition, they have several doctrines, such as the keeping of the traditional Jewish Sabbath, that set them apart from other groups.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, declares that he is a Presbyterian.  However, church records indicate that his involvement with that group is limited.

These attacks are nothing new.  For example, in 2012, some people attacked Barack Obama for being a secret Muslim.  Others derided Mitt Romney for being a Mormon.  Given their unique theological beliefs, there are many who don’t consider the Latter Days Saints to be Christian.  One of my friends declared that it is “better to vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.”  However, that issue is a topic for another day.

Back in 1960, the same fears were voiced against Jack Kennedy, with worries that given he was a Catholic, he would be an agent of the Pope.  Switching to more local politicians, given the religious makeup of the 6th district of Virginia, I’m surprised that no one has made a campaign issue of Representative Bob Goodlatte’s faith, given that he is a Christian Scientist, which again some people think isn’t real Christianity.  Even Ben Carson recently weighed in on the subject of religion declaring that a Muslim should not be president.

Personally, I think these kind of attacks miss the point.  Last I checked, we are looking to elect a president, not a pastor or priest.  We are looking for someone to save our nation, not save our souls.  The government and the church aren’t directly tied together and I think it would be very problematic for our faith if the government decided to get any more involved in religious matters.  They have done enough damage already!  The simple truth is that we have a wide variety of religious beliefs in this country and if we all decided to elect politicians who shared our theological viewpoints it would be impossible.  And yet some people (typically those on the right side of the political spectrum) try to make this matter a central issue.

Yes, religious faith is an important part of a person’s character, but what church, synagogue, mosque, or temple he or she chooses to be a part of, if any, does not necessarily indicate the depth or quality of his or her faith.  After all, there are plenty of so-called Christians who don’t practice what they supposedly believe.  As the book of James says:

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.  James 2:20-26 NLT

So, don’t simply judge anyone, whether he is a candidate for political office or not, based upon stated religious affiliation.  Remember that some practice what they believe while others don’t.  After all, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16 NLT.  A rosebush may look nice, but it is full of thorns and doesn’t provide much for useful consumption.

Therefore, instead of picking politicians based upon church membership, it is far better to ask yourself which of these candidates share my political views and which do I trust to honor his or her word.  Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.  Good for him.  But where does he stand on the issues that matter most to you and me?

Differentiating the Parties

10171024_10152772632113868_2118986644_nThis morning, the group Free & Equal shared this image on Facebook.

The sentiment offered in the picture seems to be increasingly held by more and more Americans…and it isn’t too difficult to understand why.

Many politicians say that the ballooning national debt is a serious problem…unless their party happens to be the one spending the money.

Many politicians say they oppose military conflict and nation building…unless the president happens to be of their party.

Many politicians say they are troubled by the erosion of our civil liberties through the NSA and TSA…unless, of course, they are the very ones advocating legislation or executive action chipping away at our freedoms.

For far too many activists and legislators, the only principle that they seem to follow with any consistency is that an action ought to be opposed when the other party does it, but praised when your own party does the exact same thing.  For these individuals, party has trumped both principle and logic.

Please don’t pretend you haven’t seen and heard it.  It is not difficult to comprehend that many of the policies Barack Obama ran on in 2008 have been cast aside in the same way President Bush did before him.

I doubt you remember it, but Mitt Romney crafted this ad back in 2008.

The line “when Republicans act like Democrats America loses” has resonated in my mind these last six years.  However, I also remember Romney’s 2012 foreign policy debate with Barack Obama when they both offered the exact same solutions to expand U.S. involvement overseas and fully embrace America serving as the world’s policeman.  It was like each was speaking in front of a mirror.

The simple fact is that when either the Republicans or the Democrats expand the size and scope of the government beyond the allowable limits of the Constitution, America loses.  These days, it seems like far too many politicians from both parties are recklessly charging in the same direction.

Is there a difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties?  Of course there is.  But this rank hypocrisy only seems to be getting worse in Washington D.C. and Richmond.

I know some voters have already reached this point, but what happens when a majority of us look at our Republican and Democratic options and shout, like Hilary Clinton exploring the causes of Benghazi, “what difference does it make?”

One-On-One With Pete Snyder

Pete Snyder
Pete Snyder

On Saturday, after the meeting of the College Republican Federation of Virginia here in Harrisonburg, I had the opportunity to speak with Pete Snyder, one of the seven candidates seeking Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.  Mr. Snyder is an entrepreneur from northern Virginia who recently served as chairman for the 2012 Virginia Victory campaign.

Although we planned to get together at the local Starbucks, due to overcrowding, we had to relocate to the Jimmy Johns located several doors down.  This particular discussion was pretty open-ended, in which I was able to ask a number of questions about Mr. Snyder’s political principles and his campaign.  Armed with a trusty, new recorder, we began.

What I thought was the most important issue of the day concerned the matter of liberty and how Pete Snyder would reach out and connect to the tea party and Ron Paul activists, a growing segment within the Republican Party in Virginia.  His answer was fairly simple and straightforward stating that he is a solid constitutionalist, who offers a consistent message to every group, emphasizing, “I think anyone who is liberty-minded would hopefully want someone in office who…thinks about how we protect our civil liberties.”  When it comes to our government in Richmond, he added he that he would like to “have the entire state government dust off the Virginia State Constitution…and figure out what business we were supposed to be in and what business we are in now, what mission creep went on there and reign it back in.”  If elected, he declared that he would base his decisions upon three criteria: First, “Is it moral?” Second, “Does it add to or chip away our civil liberties?” Lastly, “Does it strengthen or weaken the free market?”

I did ask Pete Snyder about a potentially sore subject, his time as Virginia Victory Chairman.  As you may recall, in the past election neither Mitt Romney nor George Allen, the GOP Senate candidate, were able to win the state.  Mr. Snyder mentioned that he was honored to be asked to volunteer as the chairman and stated that he was quite successful at his primary task, raising money for these Republican candidates.  Regarding this matter, one lingering question that was sent to me recently is, if Pete Snyder spent so much time promoting Romney and Allen last year, how do we know that, if elected, he will not emulate the big government policies either advocated by these two, or Governor McDonnell who appointed him to this position?  It is an important consideration, especially coming on the back of Virginia’s transportation tax increase, which is viewed by many conservatives as a massive betrayal perpetrated by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  The Snyder campaign has answered this question over the weekend, in part, by issuing statements on Facebook praising the legislators who opposed these measures. Today, they stepped up the rhetoric releasing a statement adding, “The career politicians and big government crowd in our party have to go.”

Over the last several weeks, I have spoken to Pete Snyder more than any of the other candidates running statewide.  Personally, he does seem to be a friendly and likeable guy and I appreciate the fact that he has made it a point to talk with me after several recent events.  We share a somewhat unusual commonality, as we are both graduates of the College of William & Mary with a degree in government.  I should add, in all fairness, after I heard his story about how be met his future wife while she was on a date with another guy, I asked him about his experience, hoping for some wisdom, given that I found myself in a similar situation.

Regardless of your opinion of Pete Snyder, one must admit that he is persistent and not one to give up easily.  For example, each time we conclude one of our conversations he always ends by asking for my support.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I am still in the process of learning about all of our choices for lieutenant governor before reaching any premature conclusions.  Nevertheless, on Saturday he gave me one of his bumper stickers should the time come that I would be in need of it.

As with my previous piece on the lieutenant governor’s race, I’d like to thank Pete Snyder and his staff for the opportunity to meet with him one-on-one.  Although a conflicting event will prevent him from speaking at the Harrisonburg Tea Party this coming Thursday, a member of his campaign team should be on hand.

Lastly, let me encourage the readers of the Virginia Conservative to learn more about Pete Snyder and the six other individuals running to be our next lieutenant governor.  We have an important decision to make in May; properly informed delegates are indispensable if liberty-minded conservatives hope to reclaim the government of the Commonwealth.

Messing With The Electoral College

Recently, some Republican leaders and pundits in Virginia have been floating the idea of changing the way the state awards its electoral votes in presidential elections.  Currently, Virginia gives all 13 of its votes to the candidate who receives a plurality of the statewide popular vote.  In both 2008 and 2012, Democrat Barack Obama claimed Virginia, the first Democratic candidate to do so since Lyndon Johnson did in 1964.  This new plan, sponsored by State Senator Charles Carrico Sr. of Grayson County, gives the winner of each of the state’s 11 congressional districts one vote, with the remaining two votes going to the candidate who wins the most districts.

From nationalatlas.gov
From nationalatlas.gov

There is no doubt that this proposed change would radically modify the outcome in Virginia.  Taking 2012 as an example, Barack Obama only won 4 of the 11 of the congressional districts, with the remaining 7 going to Republican Mitt Romney.  If Carrico’s plan had been in place, Romney would have ended up with 9 of Virginia’s electoral votes has opposed to the zero he actually received.  The fact that Obama won 50.8% of the statewide vote would have been completely irrelevant.

Although there is some argument to be made that both the interest and will of Virginia’s voters would be better served under some other plan than winner-take-all, the Carrico solution is a particularly terrible suggestion.

The fundamental reason why this plan is poor deals with the ugly issue of gerrymandering.  According to the Constitution, each congressional district must be roughly equal in population.  Based upon the population of the Commonwealth, Virginia has 11 districts.  However, the question becomes, how should the state be divided into these 11 pieces?

Given that the Virginia legislature draws these districts, they are often created, not based upon regional hegemony, but for political gain.  For example, we know that, in general, the most heavily Democratic areas of the state are areas of fairly close population density, such as most of northern Virginia, and cities like Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Norfolk.  Creating a district that included a majority of Arlington or Alexandria would almost certainly result in a Democratic heavy district, while crafted a district using the counties of Augusta and Rockingham in the Shenandoah Valley, or Powhatan and Hanover in central Virginia would have the opposite effect.

With these thoughts, and previous voting history in mind, one can combine like-minded areas to generate safe districts, much like the 3rd & 8th congressional are for the Democrats, or 9th & 6th are for the Republicans.  It is also possible to dilute the vote, such as splitting the heavily Democratic city of Richmond between the 3rd and the 7th or to enhance the effects of a voting population as is done in the Virginia House of Delegates where four different Republican members of that body benefit from representing a portion of the Republican voting strength of Rockingham County.  Simply add a city or subtract a county, and one can often safely assume a result long before voters head to the polls. Offer any politically savvy consultant a pen, a map, and a few statistics; with these tools he or she can draw lines that can easily serve the interests of either the Republican or Democratic Parties.

Now some people might say that given the fact that the Republican Party controls the state government, rank and file Republicans should not speak ill against this proposal, given that if it passes it will likely benefit the party.  However, such a view is shortsighted and ignores the political health of the nation.  Sure, Republicans are in charge today and this move could bolster the Republican presidential candidate’s chances in 2016, but what happens when the Democratic Party regains control?  Would it be just for the GOP to speak out against a plan that they created when it no longer serves their political interests in the future?

Another factor to consider is the issue of political relevancy.  For example, in 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech in Harrisonburg in order to gain support among the residents of the city and the student body of James Madison University.  This move proved successful as he ended up winning this city.  However, if the 6th district voted as a solid block, then he would have had no incentive to go to Harrisonburg, for it would have been impossible for him to make any difference.  Even if every citizen in Harrisonburg voted for Obama, those totals would have been insufficient to overcome the Republican heavy 6th district.

The same logic would hold true for Republican candidates as well.  If the 6th were seen as a solid block, it would be foolish to waste time and resources in an area where victory was a certainty.  Thus, under the Carrico system, no presidential candidate would set foot in the 6th district ever again, all parties would largely ignore the region, and it is almost certain that political apathy and/or intolerance would become the norm throughout both the conservative and liberal segments of the Shenandoah Valley.

Therefore, for the twin concerns of gerrymandering and maintaining political relevancy, legislators, activists, and ordinary citizens throughout Virginia ought to oppose Senator’s Carrico’s plan to award the state’s electoral votes based upon the winners of each congressional district.  Yes, it sounds quite tempting to many Republicans today, but the lasting consequences of this change will certainly offset any temporary benefits.

Some Nights With the GOP

Shortly after the November elections, I heard Fun.’s Some Nights and realized that many of the lyrics in this song apply to the current turmoil in the Republican Party stemming both from the nomination of Mitt Romney and his failure to win the general election on November 6th.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking; gee, do you always draw ties between politics and pop culture?  Well, I guess that connection is simply programmed in my brain.  For example, when I watched the James Bond film Skyfall yesterday, I noticed a number of interesting theories at work, such as the question of when or if one should surrender his or her own needs and desires to the greater good of the state.  But any discussion of Skyfall will have to wait for another day.

First, if you haven’t heard Fun.’s Some Nights, or if you don’t remember the song, I encourage you to listen to it again here.

For purposes of this article, I’ll quote a line from the song and then explain the current political significance regarding the controversies within the Republican Party.  Is everyone clear on the format then?  Okay.  Let’s begin.

Right off, we have the line “Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck”.

A few Republican pundits blamed the results of the 2012 election on bad luck.  Oh, if only Hurricane Sandy didn’t hit when it did…oh, if only Representative Todd Akin didn’t stick his foot in his mouth when it came to rape, Mitt Romney would have won.  Although bad luck can certainly play a factor in all facets of life, including elections, the Republican Party lost for more important reasons than simply “bad luck”.

The next line of interest is “But I still wake up, I still see your ghost”.

The political ghost for the Republicans is the spirit of Ronald Reagan.  Most Republican activists fondly remember the Reagan presidency in particularly idyllic terms.  Oh, they think, if only we could only find another Ronald Reagan then we could return both the country and the party to some sort of golden age.  Unfortunately, the standard practice is to whitewash history so we tend to forget that despite his greatness, Reagan did have his flaws and the country wasn’t perfect under his rule.  Nevertheless, Reagan was a good president, but we must recognize the simple fact is that he is gone.  The GOP must look to the future, not continually dwell on the past.

Moving on, we find the lines:

“Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…”

In these lyrics we find the crux of the GOP dilemma.  What does the Republican Party stand for these days, if anything?  Many conservatives I know would argue that the Republicans stand for a federal government restrained by the constitution, free markets, fiscal responsibility, personal liberty, a strong national defense, and a faith in God (see the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia).  But one does have to wonder, if those principles guide the GOP, why did they select such a poor standard bearer in the form of Mitt Romney? After all, during his political career, he opposed the 2nd Amendment, approved of judicial activism and fought against the right to life by supporting Roe v. Wade, spoke in favor of some aspects of government involvement in healthcare, and believes that government can deny citizens suspected of terrorism their basic constitutional protections.  Are these the values that the modern GOP supports?

Then we have “This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?”

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have been actively working to destroy political dialogue in this country.  Differing political opinions are not tolerated; those who disagree, either domestically or internationally, are treated as enemies that cannot be reasoned with.  Taken in its extreme form, you get thoughts much like President George W. Bush statement in 2001, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”  The prospect of any sort of political middle ground is treated with hostility.  Once a people begin to treat their friends and neighbors as enemies based upon mere political disagreements, that country is no longer politically healthy.  As fellow political blogger Rick Sincere stated earlier today, “People with whom I disagree are people with whom I disagree. They are not demons, mortal enemies, or the Antichrist. Disagreements about policy and culture are the lifeblood of representative democracy and pluralist society. They are not signs of the Apocalypse.”

“Why don’t we break the rules already?”

The Republican Party famously chose to modify many of its rules at the Republican National Convention in order to favor the establishment and exclude liberty activists.  But it is okay, because the end justifies the means, right?

“I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white”

Leading up to the election, some political pundits, like Karl Rove or Dick Morris, predicted a victory for Romney, apparently not based upon political reality, but predicated upon the mere hope that Romney would win.  Should we leave objective journalism to the “black and white” newspapers?

“I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked”.

Mitt Romney did work diligently to win the election.  However, far too many voters had a hard time liking a New England liberal elitist who was unable to relate to the plight of the average working man or woman.  Nationally, he claimed less votes than the not particularly well-liked John McCain.

“…but here they come again to jack my style”

Here we have the establishment lament.  Oh, those cursed Ron Paul supporters! If only they would have fallen in line behind the party nominee.  Who cares what principles they may or may not hold?  The victory of the party is of paramount concern.  They only exist to cause trouble or to “jack” the style of the establishment.

“…who I am, who I am, who I am.  Oh, who am I?”

As stated earlier, the GOP is a party with an identity crisis.

“Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again”

In order to survive as a national party, the Republicans will need to attract new voters or “friends”.  A lot of these potential friends are youth associated with the Ron Paul movement but in order to attract these folks, the party must adopt a more pro-liberty slant.

“Some nights, I always win, I always win…”

A repetition of the mistaken belief and/or fantasy that Romney and the Republicans would enjoy a great victory on Election Day.

“Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands”

One of the great concerns of the establishment is the acquisition of power.  To many of them, principles are a secondary issue.  Without this power, they grow bored and don’t wish to wait ten long years (or, in this case, four years) to regain influence in Washington.

“So this is it? I sold my soul for this?

Washed my hands of that for this?

I miss my mom and dad for this?”

Some conservative activists are rightly upset that they compromised their principles in order to defeat the supposed greater threat of Barack Obama. The line, “I miss my mom and dad for this?” echoes the fact that many volunteers sacrificed their family life for the pursuit of this political goal.  Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we don’t have a Republican victory, the GOP doesn’t seem to hold too closely to our principles any longer, and some of our personal relationships have become strained apparently needlessly.

“Who the %&*# wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?”

Unless the GOP returns to its principles and works to attract the new converts, sooner or later the party will die alone or be relegated to political irrelevance.  This line could also refer to the neo-conservative foreign policy of George W. Bush, which was extended by Barack Obama.  These conflicts resulted in many of our soldiers dying alone in the deserts of the Middle East.

“When I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible nights…ahhh…”

I’ve stated this fact over and over again, but the youth are the future of the party.  If we could but understand their concerns and tie them into the greater Republican movement then perhaps some good could come from the terrible night of November 6th.

Although I began writing this article before watching Fun.’s video, the backdrop of the U.S. Civil War is appropriate to the political situation.  After all, the Republican Party is embroiled in its own civil war to determine who will control the party, the establishment or the conservative/liberty wing.  This battle is clearly playing out in Virginia as Lt. Government Bill Bolling squares off against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2013.  One important question is yet to be determined.  Is the modern Republican Party in the mold of Thomas Jefferson, who called for a limited federal government, or has it reverted to the party of Abraham Lincoln who promoted the expansion of federal authority?

Perhaps after reading this article, you might hear something new when Some Nights comes on the radio again.  So what does the Republican Party stand for these days?  Honestly, some nights, I don’t know.  But I do know the direction that I’ll be pushing it.  The GOP must be a strong advocate for liberty at all times.

The 2012 Elections Postmortem

In the days leading up to the November 6th elections, predicting the outcome of the presidential seemed a bit murkier than one would expect.  A few polls, like Gallup, had Mitt Romney ahead, while others, like Rasmussen, showed a very close race, and some, like Huffington, heralded another strong victory for President Obama.  It seemed to me that a lot of news outlets reported on the outcome that they hoped would occur rather than what would actually happen; Republican pundits predicted a solid Romney victory and their Democratic counterparts made similar claims.  Fellow Republicans were critical, but in 2008 I wrote about Barack Obama’s victory on the day prior to Election Day, as I believed the results were already a foregone conclusion.  However, I wasn’t quite as certain this time around.

In the end, however, Mitt Romney stood no chance of becoming our next President.  In the electoral count, he faired only slightly better than John McCain did in 2008.  He won the tradition Republican states of North Carolina and Indiana unlike McCain, but failed to capture key battlegrounds like Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida.  Curiously, both Romney and Obama failed to garner as many votes as the candidates did in 2008.  It seems obvious that Obama’s numbers would decline as his presidency has not been particularly popular and the great excitement (or novelty) generated from electing our first black president in 2008 is gone.  But what about Romney?  Although some activists have been urging people to resist resorting to the “blame game”, ultimately I believe that voters had a hard time supporting a rich New England liberal who had difficulty relating to the plight of the average American.  In addition, the actions taken by the RNC and the Romney campaign, which can only be described as unnecessary and spiteful, to exclude Ron Paul and his supporters at the Tampa convention tore open the growing rift in the Republican Party between the establishment and the liberty movement.  As stated earlier, a majority of Paul supporters I know either voted for Gary Johnson, wrote in Ron Paul, or simply stayed home on Election Day.  Speaking of the other party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson finished in third with almost 1%, Green Jill Stein was fourth with .35%, and Virgil Goode was fifth with .1%.

Moving on to Virginia’s U.S. Senate contest, as we approached Election Day it became increasingly obvious that George Allen would lose to Tim Kaine.  The conventional wisdom was that an Allen victory hinged heavily upon Romney’s coattails.  If Romney won Virginia by a large margin, then it was likely that Allen would also be victorious.  However, if the election was close or if Romney lost the state, Allen would be defeated.  Although the crossover wouldn’t have influenced the outcome, it is still important to note that Romney had the support of 37,766 more Virginians than did George Allen.

The House races in Virginia were not particularly exciting.  Each incumbent won re-election with a comfortable margin with the exception of Scott Rigell in the 2nd who won by 24,000 votes.  In the 6th, Republican Bob Goodlatte easily dispatched Democrat Andy Schmookler.  However, Schmookler did best Goodlatte in the more urban areas of the district, capturing the cities of Harrisonburg, Lexington, and Roanoke, and boasting a fairly close contest in Staunton.

Given that Harrisonburg voted Democratic for president, senator, and representative, it should come as no surprise that the Democrats faired well in the city council election.  With eight candidates on the ballot, three Republican, three Democratic, and three independent, Democrats Kai Degner and Richard Baugh were re-elected along with newcomer independent Abe Shearer.  Only Degner and Shearer cracked the 6,000-vote mark.  All but one of the other candidates was in the 4,000-vote range; Roger Baker finished in last place with less than 2,500 votes.  Political newcomer Christine Johnson finished at the top of the Republican office seekers, missing out on third place by only 202 votes.

So what does the future hold politically for Harrisonburg, the 6th congressional district, Virginia, and the nation as a whole?  Well, it depends on a number of factors including the strength of the candidates and the overall political climate.  Will the GOP learn anything from the 2012 elections?  It is obvious that they didn’t figure anything out from 2008.  Without strong conservative candidates that can clearly articulate the merits of a constitutionally limited government, the Republican Party will continue to suffer nationally, statewide, and locally.  Let me end this article with a bit of advice: Past big government Republicans who lost in a previous election don’t somehow miraculously transform themselves into either conservatives or winners.  So don’t retread on me.  Don’t retread on me!

Mainstreaming Mormonism

One particularly interesting development regarding the 2012 Presidential Election is the possibility that Americans could elect a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known to many as a Mormon.  Personally, I’m quite surprised that the issue of Mitt Romney’s religious faith has not played a larger role in public discussions.

If we turn back the clock a few decades, when John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, the fact that he was a member of the Catholic Church was a cause for concern for many citizens throughout the nation, sparking fears that he would owe his greatest allegiance, not to the United States and her people, but rather to a pope in the Vatican.  Recently, in response to this potential 2012 Mormon controversy, the perhaps best-known evangelist, Billy Graham, tried to defuse the situation, offering some tactic support of Mitt Romney’s candidacy and his church.  This news was a bit of a shock to many, given Graham’s previous declarations that the Mormon Church is a “cult”. 

I assume that there is generally little widespread knowledge regarding the Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church.  Before spending considerable time learning about the religion and meeting many Mormons while living in Charlottesville, VA, in the mid 2000s, I’ll confess that Mormonism put me at unease; this concern did not stem from a reasoned theological disagreement with the church, but rather a lack of understanding and general widespread prejudice.  Now, I won’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I’ll start off by saying that there are a number of issues that set Mormonism apart from what is generally regarded as traditional Christianity.  Some of the best well-known distinctions of Mormonism include the Book of Mormon and the church’s previous support of polygamy.

Let’s start with the Book of Mormon.  According to Mormon theology, Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of the LDS Church, through the assistance of the angel Moroni, discovered a number of golden plates on a hill in upstate New York.  With the aid of “seeing stones”, Smith translated the writing on many of these plates into what is now known as The Book of Mormon.  The text describes the ancient people of America as a lost tribe of Israelites and explores their history and theology.  In addition, after his death in the Middle East, Jesus appeared to these early Americans to impart teachings, many of which are similar to the concepts found in the Bible.  Some time later, two factions within these ancient peoples, the Nephites and the Lamanites came into brutal conflict.  The last Nephite, the then human Moroni, wrote the final portion of the Book of Mormon and buried the text only to be discovered by Smith about 1500 years later.  Besides the Book of Mormon, the LDS have additional extra-biblical texts including the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants.

Polygamy, (more specifically polygyny, the practice of a man taking multiple wives), was an early custom in the Mormon Church.  Joseph Smith had a number of spouses as did Brigham Young, who led the Mormons on their trek to what is now the state of Utah.  Perhaps not surprisingly, polygamy caused considerable tension with the non-Mormon population and the United States government, which was one compelling reason for the Mormons to move westward, away from the established American communities.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Utah was not admitted as a state in the union until the Mormons renounced polygamy, which they did in the Manifesto of 1890.

Besides the Book of Mormon and early support for polygyny, there are a number of other aspects of the Latter-day Saints, which set them apart both in theology and in practice from traditional Christianity.  For example, there is baptism for the dead, where a member of the Church can, by proxy, be baptized for a deceased person.  The reasoning in doing so is to allow the deceased person an opportunity to enter into heaven, which would previously be denied to someone who had not participated in this rite while alive.

Most people consider a fundamental element of Christianity is the idea of Trinitarianism, the belief that God exists simultaneously in three separate but united persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, Mormons believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods.  In addition, Mormons believe in the concept of eternal progression where men and women can become like God.  As former LDS President Lorenzo Snow stated, “As God now is, man may be.”   This theological distinction could lead some to claim that Mormons are not monotheistic, but rather either polytheistic or henotheistic.

Interestingly, I have found that many socially conservative Christians, like Billy Graham, who, all things being equal, I would assume would reserve the greatest criticism for Mitt Romney’s Mormon ties, are some of his more ardent defenders.  Then again, I’ve also heard some of these very same people use the line that it is better to elect “a Mormon than a Muslim”; playing upon the fear that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim and threatens to subvert our national interest to Islamic terrorists.  Do they dislike Mormons still, but reserve a greater distrust of Muslims?  For some people, is it simply another case of choosing the “lesser of two evils”?

One overarching question that needs to be asked is what makes a person or a church Christian?  It is simply holding the belief that Jesus is the messiah sent by God for the redemption of mankind and that following him is the only path to salvation?  Does it require a literal or figurative understanding of the Bible?  What about acceptance or rejection certain texts like the deuterocanonical portion of the Bible, also known as the Apocrypha, or the Book of Mormon itself?  Is baptism required and, if so, how and when should it be done?  Must Christians adhere to follow the leadership of a certain spiritual leader?  So, are Mormons Christians?  How about other groups often labeled as cults such as Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists, or Unitarians?  Given their veneration of Mary and other differing beliefs, are Catholics Christian?  Does supporting predestination preclude calling Presbyterians Christian?   And can a person be a Christian even if the church to which he or she belongs is outside the traditional definition of the term?  What about those who have no official church membership?  Is there one simple answer to this question and can it be universally applied?

Anyway, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is quite possible that, like the 1960 election, this contest will re-define the American perception of what it means to be a Christian.  Mormons, like Catholics before them, once viewed with suspicion and hostility, might slowly be welcomed into the larger Christian fold.

Although I appreciate the chance to improve religious dialogue, I am disappointed that this conversation seemingly arose, not from a desire to promote understanding, but rather as an afterthought to advance a particular candidate.  Do conservatives, like Billy Graham, honestly now believe that Mormonism is simply another branch of Christianity and not a cult?  Or are they willing to cast aside their longstanding beliefs for political gain?  If the answer is the first, then I’m hopeful that this change will permit more people in this country to openly practice their religious convictions without fear of societal persecution.  However, if the answer is the second, which I worry is the case, then the state of organized religion and politics in America is in a much more sickly state than I previously imagined.

Regardless of the circumstances and any particular personal preferences, as a result of the 2012 elections, Mormonism is being mainstreamed.  Whether you adhere to a more traditional Christian tradition, you are a Mormon yourself, or you chart a path separate from either, this development does make for a lot of important theological and political ramifications in America today.

Writing-In Ron Paul

If you were to ask a political activist who strongly values the ideals of liberty and a constitutionally-limited government who was the best candidate running for president in 2012, chances are many of them would enthusiastically answer Representative Ron Paul of Texas.  I know that I would!  Unfortunately, due a number of issues, some relating the unfair tactics of the Republican National Committee, other due to errors on the part of the Ron Paul campaign, Dr. Paul is not the Republican nominee and will not be showing up on the ballot on November 6th.

As a result, some die hard Ron Paul supporters are planning to write-in Dr. Paul as opposed to voting for one of the other candidates.  However, I must caution my fellow Virginians, for I believe such a decision is a mistake.

Here in Virginia, we have five candidates on the ballot for president.  Besides both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, who presumably everyone knows, we also have Virgil Goode, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.  Although write-ins are technically allowed in the Commonwealth, they are of practically zero value, as the state board of elections does not report individual write-ins.

Don’t believe me?  In the general election of 2011, I worked as an election official for a precinct in Rockingham County.  At the end of Election Day, we dutifully recorded each and every write-in response for each office and there were a fair number of them.  They ranged from potentially legitimate candidates to fictitious characters like Mickey Mouse and “anyone but the guy in there now”.  Look at the official results for House of Delegates in Rockingham County.  The only two options listed are Tony Wilt and the rather generic Write In candidate.  And that race isn’t some sort of anomaly.  Every race in 2011 is the very same way, so too are the election results for each year available on the state board’s website.  Let me tell you that the only people who know whether a write-in vote is for a legitimate and real person or someone absurd like Homer Simpson are the voter who cast the vote and the election officials.  They are the only ones.

So, now that we’ve established that a write-in vote is close to worthless in Virginia, why would anyone still write-in Dr. Paul?  As I’ve already mentioned, we have five candidates running for president that will be on the ballot.  Are any of them as great as Ron Paul?  No.  Although each has his or her merits and flaws, none are quite as good.  However, given the fact that we do have a number of choices, at least one of them has to share a lot of our political principles.  Now, as I’ve mentioned previously, if you don’t know much about them, I would recommend visiting iSideWith.com to find out with which candidate or candidates that you most closely align.

If, however, at the end of the day, you still feel compelled to write-in Dr. Paul, I will not condemn such an action.  After all, I believe that the most important facet of voting is to never betray your convictions.  Nevertheless, if you explore the candidates with an open mind, I’m pretty sure you’ll find one that is more than acceptable.  I know that I did.

I encourage you to take heart.  Remember!  Regardless of the outcome on November 6th, this great movement spearheaded by Ron Paul will not die so long as we faithfully promote the cause of liberty in our words, our deeds, and in our votes.

Best of luck to you on Election Day, fellow Ron Paul supporter!

For liberty and responsibility!