On Wednesday, April 11th, both Andy Schmookler and I, Joshua Huffman, made our monthly appearance on 550 AM, WSVA. We started off discussing the recent announcement of the retirement of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. From there, we moved to the recent hostilities in Syria and possible U.S. reactions. Lastly, we briefly touched on the ongoing Mueller investigation of President Donald Trump.
On the morning of March 15th, Andy Schmookler and I, Joshua Huffman, appeared on 550 AM WSVA for our monthly radio hour. The topics for discussion included: Obamacare and Paul Ryan’s attempts to craft his own health care law, the 2017 Virginia elections including the increasing number of contested elections for the House of Delegates in the central Shenandoah Valley, and President Trump’s connections with Russia and whether this issue creates a massive conflict of interest with his duties to the Constitution and the American people.
On Saturday night, before sitting down to play Die Macher with a handful of friends, I had the opportunity to speak with a local professor about politics. A self-identified Republican, he voiced his frustration with the direction that the party has been heading. In an earlier conversation he mentioned that although he had donated to the party in the past, he has not done so in some time.
As a libertarian within the GOP, the professor said that he now has little in common with the other factions in the party. Although the Republican Party used to be an advocate for both fiscal responsibility and limited government, those haven’t been primary concerns in many years. Amusingly, the professor has a Republican elephant magnet on his refrigerator, but it is turned upside down as if the party were now dead.
Looking at the matter objectively, what have limited government advocates gained in the past 15 years with the Republican Party? Yes, in the first half George W. Bush was president and in the second Barack Obama has been at the head. All the while the Republican Party has been in control of Congress more often than the Democrats. But the policies under both the Republican and Democratic leadership have been fairly consistent. We’ve gotten a massive increase in our national debt and an expansion of government programs including: No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Medicare Part D, Obamacare, the Patriot Act, NDAA, continual war in the Middle East, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, curtailing of our civil liberties, extrajudicial killings of foreign civilians, scores of executive orders, and the list goes on.
As the professor lamented, far too many social conservatives seem to tolerate or even embrace these intrusions so long as Republican politicians continue to offer lip service to God in the public sphere while national defense Republicans howl at any sort of cost saving measures regarding our armed forces or the idea of cutting back on our ever-expanding policing of the world.
Perhaps the worst part is that limited government conservatives are actively being fooled (or more realistically they are fooling themselves). For example, when the 10th district of Virginia was deciding upon a Republican candidate to replace Frank Wolf, anyone who had been paying attention would know that based upon her rhetoric and record that Barbara Comstock was not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. After she won the nomination and the election many seemed surprised when she voted more like the Democrats than any other national Republican legislator in the state. Or how about Paul Ryan? When he campaigned for vice president in 2012, I had an opportunity to listen to him in person and came to the unfortunate conclusion that he was about as committed to limiting the power of government and reducing the national debt as my own representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6). It seems odd that people are now calling Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a traitor after he pushed through the latest budget given that his track record showed that that was exactly what he was going to do if he were given such authority. Isn’t it painfully obvious that neither Paul Ryan nor Barbara Comstock share our ideology? Therefore, why in the world should we support them?
Over at Bearing Drift Brian Schoeneman bemoans the infighting in the Republican Party, declaring that the libertarian Republicans “openly flaunt their unwillingness to stand by the Party when it does things they disagree with, going so far as to run and support third party candidates that have cost Republicans victories”. However, the better question one should ask is, why should liberty-minded folks continue to support the Republican Party? In the last decade and a half can you name even one federal department that has been eliminated or drastically curtailed as a result of Republican leadership? Can you point out more examples of ways that the Republican Party has reduced government involvement in our lives…or ways that they have expanded it?
I would argue that regardless of party Americans desperately need a Margaret Thatcher. After World War II the Conservative Party more or less surrendered on the issue of limiting the power of the British government, much like the current Republican Party, instead trying to make the bloated national government as efficient as possible. However, Thatcher upset the wisdom of the day by openly questioning government involvement in a variety of areas that used to be under the control of the private sector, charities, or churches and, once she became prime minister, instituted policies which began to dismantle government control. How many leaders of today’s Republican Party are willing to take such a step? Certainly not Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and not most of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for president.
The traditional three-legged stool of the GOP is falling apart because the party has almost completely abandoned the tenets of liberty and limited government. The party is led by men and women who treat power and not principle as the holy grail of politics and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it. When these people don’t get the influence that they so desperately desire, rather than blaming their failed policies they blame us for not blindly following them! If the Republican leadership is unwilling or unable to abide by the limitations set forth in the Constitution, perhaps liberty-minded folks ought to take the advice of Dr. Henry Jones at the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade:
Paul Ryan, the Republican Representative for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District and Mitt Romney’s running mate, made a campaign stop at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds on Friday. His visit marks the first of any presidential or vice presidential candidate to the central Shenandoah Valley.
Besides Representative Ryan, speakers also included: Delegate Tony Wilt of Rockingham County, Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, and Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.
The event itself was quite well attended. Most estimates I’ve read peg the audience about 3,000. Like the recent Obama rally in Charlottesville, each person had to pass through “airport style security” overseen by both the Secret Service and the TSA.
Reaction to the gathering was mixed. Although most of the people that I spoke with enjoyed Ryan’s speech, the event was plagued with a number of shortfalls.
First, no one could bring in liquids, which was expected. However, the fact that one could not even get a cup of water without paying for it seemed completed absurd. Would a person have to suffer through their thirst if he or she could not pay $2.00 for a beverage?
Second, the venue did not allow for a majority of the spectators to see Paul Ryan. The organizers set up a ring of fences around the platform and only a portion could enter this circle. Although raised, the platform was not nearly high enough for many people to even catch a glimpse of the man who could very well be our next vice president.
However, one positive aspect, as compared to the Obama event, was that the police did not close down traffic in a highly central location for the better part of an hour, which would have wasted the time of countless residents.
Overall, I would rate Ryan’s event a success even though, as mentioned, there were several aspects that could have been and should have been handled in a better manner.
So the next question is will any of the five presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, or Jill Stein, make a stop in the Shenandoah Valley between now and the election? If you will recall, four years ago Barack Obama won the city of Harrisonburg after making a speech at JMU while John McCain merely sent a relative to the local GOP headquarters. After all, personal campaigning is an important element to electoral success and Ryan’s visit on Friday should serve to bolster the local Republican effort. Now how will the other candidates respond? Our first answer comes tomorrow when Libertarian Party candidate Judge Jim Gray speaks at JMU.
As a final note, I want to shout out a special thanks to Helen Shibut of Madison Liberty for the picture of Paul Ryan. As mentioned, I happened to be one of the countless spectators who could not get close enough to get a usable shot.
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?