RPV Adds to God’s Law

I’d wager, whether religious or not, the average American knows at least something about the 10 Commandments, such as they were carved in stone and given to Moses or that they include instructions such as honor thy father and mother or thou shall not commit adultery.  As they are an important foundational basis for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, one can find monuments and references to them throughout the United States on both public and private property.  In 2007, I even found a plaque listing the commandments on a Taco Bell in eastern Tennessee.

But, apparently, the Republican Party of Virginia has decided to add to these 10 Commandments ordained by God.  On February 4th, RPV Chairman John Whitbeck penned an email where he created the 12th Commandment.  For those who don’t know, many years ago a Republican Party chairman in California wrote the 11th, “thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican”.

As Chairman Whitbeck says:

My friends, I am not going to copy the California Chairman and demand the 11th Commandment be followed by our candidates in 2017.  That’s been done before.  Instead, I am going to ask every Republican leader, District chair, unit chair, elected official and grassroots activist to demand our candidates follow the 11th Commandment.  Let them know that personal attacks, false innuendo and below the belt politics have no place in our Party.  If we do that, our nominees will emerge strong and with a united party behind them.  Too often, we fight the primary well into the general election.  We saw multiple examples of this in the last few years.  In some cases we won and in some we lost.  But in 2017 we are more likely to lose if we don’t follow the 11th Commandment.  So I ask each of you to hold our candidates accountable in this regard.

He goes on to add:

What I will do as your Party Chairman is call for an adherence to a 12th Commandment.  It is a solemn duty I believe is incumbent upon all Republicans.  Quite simply, the 12th Commandment should be “thou shalt support the Republican nominee.”

Whitbeck explains his rationale:

The last few years we have seen good Republicans, even members of our local Units, openly support Independent and third party candidates far too often.  While we all appreciate people standing on principal [sic], how is it principled to support someone who has no chance of winning and handing elections over to the Democrats?

Listen to what Mr. Whitbeck is saying here.  At the end of the day, principles don’t matter.  What matters is electing Republicans and defeating Democrats.  Imagine what he might have said if he lived during biblical times.  Sure, you might think that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are terrible and immoral people who constantly violate God’s law, but if they are Republicans, we must never speak ill of them and we must always support them no matter what they say or do.  Or, yes, as pro-lifers we don’t approve King Herod’s plan to kill all male infants in Bethlehem, but if he came to power under the Republican banner, all Republican activists must not call him out on this.  Would modern day conservative Christians have the courage to denounce these ill-fit leaders or would they stand with Chairman Whitbeck and support Republicans who might stand against every principle they claim to care about simply because “we don’t want the Democrats to win, do we?”

What baffles me is what sort of arrogance and irreverence would compel Chairman Whitbeck to “demand” his 12th Commandment?  Does anyone else see the sacrilege of placing loyalty to the Republican Party of Virginia and her candidates on the same plane as God’s commandments?  Are commandments such as “thou shall not murder” and “thou shall have no other gods before me” equal in importance as “thou shall support the Republicans no matter what” and “thou shall never vote thy conscience”?

Although it may be true that as Chairman Whitbeck says, “If you add the Libertarian candidate’s vote totals to that of our nominees in 2013 and 2014, we would be living out the last year of Governor Cuccinelli’s term and the third year of Senator Gillespie’s,” I know many, good, liberty-minded folks (myself included) who would not have voted for Ed Gillespie in 2014 even if the Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis weren’t on the ballot.  Why wouldn’t some Republicans support Ed Gillespie in spite of his being the party nominee?  The answer is simple; he didn’t share their most important values.

I guess this latest affront from the Republican Party of Virginia shouldn’t be surprising given that although they retracted it in the spring of 2016, the RPV posted on Facebook that “Not voting to stop Hillary borders on treason.”  The current party leadership has helped transform the Republican Party of Virginia into an organization that is unconcerned with their creed, liberty, and conservative principles.  Instead, the only two important pillars of the “Republican faith” are winning at all costs and unquestioned loyalty.  As demonstrated in the quoted email, the chairman even dares to elevate himself to a modern day prophet of God by issuing new commandments.  They believe that anyone who holds an opinion that deviates from the GOP (God’s Own Party) and does not prostrate him or herself before their leaders and nominees, must be declared a heretic or a traitor and cast into utter darkness.

I’d like to see some socially conservative group call out John Whitbeck and the RPV for this blasphemous attempt to add to God’s law, but I expect that there will be no outrage and no call to action.  After all, the most important thing at the end of the day is to be a “Republican first”; decency is burdensome and all other principles are secondary to prevent a future Governor Northam or Governor Perriello, right?

More Reasons to Oppose Party Registration

Senators Obenshain & Petersen from their respective Facebook pages

As many regular readers know, I have a strong opposition to registration by political party here in Virginia and, as such, have been rallying others to help defeat SB 902, a bill crafted by my own state senator, Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham).  On Friday, while running an errand to and from Dayton, I thought more about the idea.

What if a business wanted the state government to create a database of its customers?  What would be your reaction to such an idea?  Likely, you would decry the plan as a kind of crony capitalism designed to help that business at the expense of others and weaken the free market, right?  How about if a church asked the state to create a database of its membership?  Similarly, many would declare it to be an abridgment of our first amendment rights to freedom of religion and association, no?  So, if it would be against the free market for a business to ask the government for registration and an affront to the freedom of religion for a church to compel the government to create a database, how is it not an attack on our political freedom for a political party to do likewise?

Here’s another thought.  What is the end goal of party registration?  Well, most Republicans I’ve spoken with say it is to keep Democrats from voting in Republican primaries.  Fair enough, but ask yourself these questions.  How can members of a private political party use the power of the state government to keep others out of a publically funded political primary?  How does party registration advance the cause of limiting the power of the government?

In 2015, Senators Mark Obenshain and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) debated this issue on the senate floor.  As Senator Petersen said, “And I understand that the purpose of the gentleman’s bill is to restrict participation in the primaries…to essentially restrict the people that can participate in those primary elections?” Senator Obenshain replied, “Quite the contrary.  That is absolutely not the intention.  The intention is to allow the Democratic Party or the Republican Party to establish its own rules as to how they or we are going to nominate our candidates and it is up to the individual party to make that determination.”

So what does the Republican Party hope to accomplish through party registration?  Does it, as Senator Petersen claim, plan to use party registration to restrict participation?  Well, quickly reading the first several pages of the RPV Party Plan gives us the answer.

Although some people make the argument, as listed above, that the purpose of party registration is to only keep Democrats out of Republican nomination contests (although these contests are funded by the taxpayer and often held in public buildings), according to the RPV Party plan the true goal is to not allow anyone, including independents, to vote in Republican primaries except those voters who have registered with the state as Republicans.  It appears that as Senator Petersen suggested, party registration is indeed a tool for restricting participation.  In addition, as you will note in the picture above, with registration it would allow the party to prevent any individual who exercises their freedom to support a candidate who best aligns with their principles from participation in Republican primaries, assuming that in an election the voter supported a candidate who did not bear the scarlet R.  Nor would voters be allowed to exercise their right to vote in whatever party’s primary they wish during a particular year.  No, as the RPV party plan states, if you vote in a primary or convention for a different party, you would be legally barred from voting in a Republican primary for the next five years.  My goodness!  All this loyalty demanded, not to political principles, but to a political party!  I have to ask, does this sound like fascism to you, because it certainly does to me!

If you are wondering, the party plan of the Democratic Party of Virginia is far less draconian, not including a list of time limits and punishments, but on their website they too list:

With party registration, it is likely that members of other political parties, including independents, would be excluded from participation in Democratic primaries should party registration pass.

It should be perfectly obvious to everyone that party registration hurts the average Virginia voter and hurts political competition.  Would you be happy if the Virginia government created a database for Walmart that told them who shopped at Target so they could keep them out of their stores?  Or how about if the Presbyterian Church used a government created list to determine who could and could not receive communion?  If we wouldn’t allow a business or a church to create a statewide registry with the help of the Virginia government, why is it somehow okay for a political party to do so?  Party registration benefits both the Republican and Democratic Parties while simultaneously greatly hindering other political parties from the opportunity to rise up to challenge them.  Whether in business, religion, or politics, registration kills competition.

Let me close with a quote from Senator Chap Petersen shortly before party registration was last defeated in 2015.

There are two winners from this bill.  One is the Republican Party, the other one is the Democratic Party.  The parties are going to get so much more power if this bill passes, but let me tell you who is going to lose. It’s going to be ordinary people that just want to participate in elections.

You know, not everybody labels themselves as a Democrat or Republican or even an independent.  They might be a Libertarian one day, the next day they wake up a liberal, and the next day they wake up a conservative.

The bottom line is that we live in a free country, God bless it, and we live in a free Commonwealth and people ought to be free to associate.  And political parties, we owe them no favors.  Okay?  We’re not here to put them in power and to give them the maximum power. We’re here to allow people to participate.

If you oppose party registration too, please consider signing this petition (no donations, please, if it asks).

Tearing Out A Man’s Tongue…

Political dialogue is important, which is why I am Facebook friends with a variety of politicians and “like” a lot of political parties and organizations.  I try to maintain ties with a variety of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and independents.  You shouldn’t simply surround yourself with people who agree with you all the time, as doing so places you in a very small circle and doesn’t allow much room for thought and the possibility of change.  However, I do insist that my contacts treat each other civilly.  For example, several years ago a fellow Ron Paul supporter I knew got into a heated argument with one of my Republican friends and ended up declaring that it would be better if his mother had aborted him.  Regardless of your political affiliations, such a remark is totally over the line.  One can have disagreements about policy without delving into personal attacks.

Photo from January 19th, 2015
Photo from January 19th, 2015

I appreciate my Facebook network of friends who are elected officials, but have discovered that several have gone missing.  After doing a bit of digging I determined that they have blocked me.  I believe Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) blocked me first.  Delegate Bell and I got into a scuffle on my blog back in late 2013 after he crafted a bill that would have drastically changed the opt-in program for organ donation.  I had argued that making this change would, in effect, mean that your body would be assumed to belong to the state unless a citizen declared otherwise.  As you might imagine, this article generated considerable negative press and he ended up pulling the bill, which I praised him for doing.  Since that time Delegate Bell and I have not really communicated (even though we posed for a photo earlier this year) and at some point in 2015 he took the step of blocking me.  I believe it was around the same time I wrote a piece chastising the Augusta County GOP for releasing an ad telling voters to vote Republican in order to “preserve our Christian heritage“.

IMG_2980Next was Marshall Pattie, a Republican Supervisor from Augusta County.  I first met Pattie as we were both running for office.  I was seeking a seat on the Harrisonburg City Council while he sought the Republican nod for the Virginia Senate in the 24th district.  Over about the next year and a half we had several conversations.  Although I did my best to remain objective about the race on this site, I discovered that sometimes he would tell me one thing and then later do or say something totally contradictory.  Here are two examples:  On June 30th, 2014, I attended Marshall Pattie’s official campaign kickoff in Waynesboro.  After the event, he came up to me and told me that he wanted to help my campaign for council but was worried that the Republican leadership would be upset if he did, especially as he was a recent convert to the party.  I explained that I appreciated his support but understood his situation and didn’t ask him for any public help.  However, the next time I saw one of his posts on Facebook, it was a photo of him wearing stickers of my opponents and going door-to-door on their behalf.  Shortly after the November 2014 election, I was told that he spoke at the local Young Republican meeting and declared that Harrisonburg would have elected two Republicans to council if only I had not been in the race.  I asked him if he actually said these words and he confessed that he did, but promised that he would not say it again because he did not believe it to be true.  I didn’t really communicate with him further as I felt these two events had amply proven him to be untrustworthy.  I am not alone in this sentiment, as I know other activists (Republicans and Democrats) who have had similar experiences with him and have drawn the same conclusions.  If you closely examine the figure in the middle of the photo from the 2015 July 4th parade in Staunton, you will see it is Marshall Pattie.  If looks could kill, eh?

The third, believe it or not, is the Republican Party of Virginia.  About once a month or so I would comment on something they posted either offering a factual correction (if they posted something in error) or urging them to actually adhere to the principles found in their creed.  I was also very troubled when the Virginia Republican Party recently took what I thought was an extraordinary step, kicking Delegate Mark Berg (now I-Winchester) out of the party.  I still believe that action was unjust.  However, on the evening of December 12, 2015 I discovered that the party had blocked me from commenting on anything else.

Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline
Delegate Mark Berg, local activist Laura Logie, and Delegate Ben Cline

I’ve gotten into disagreements with just about every elected official from time to time.  Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and I have had differing opinions on what constitutes an isolationist.  I supplied a local paper with a photo from the announcement of Delegate Ben Cline’s (R-Rockbridge) Democratic opponent.  I believe Delegate Cline is one of the best delegates and I was not trying to hurt his reelection chances.  Instead, I did it because I felt the paper had fallen down on its responsibility to provide important news to their readers concerning their political choices.  I successfully lobbied the General Assembly to defeat Delegate Steve Landes’ (R-Augusta) party registration bill.  However, in none of those cases did either the elected official or I rush to block the other over these issues as they were, in my opinion, all political fair game.

In full disclosure, I have blocked four people on Facebook.  Three were Republicans staffers and one was a Libertarian (or perhaps better labeled as a former Libertarian).  In each case these people attempted to threaten me into silence.  Whether you agree or disagree with a position or an individual, the use of coercion, be it either through physical or emotional threats, is completely unacceptable.  There is a certain line I will not allow anyone to cross and therefore terminated all further interactions with these individuals.

Censorship+most+often+also+means+you+fear+the+truth+_3d2d1a4bbf6fcae55cdde627c46ab85bAfter I discovered the RPV block I was reminded of a moment at the end of the first season of Game of Thrones.  In the episode a bard had performed a song that King Joffery found offensive.  Acting as Joffery often did, the king presented the bard with a choice, for his insolence he would either lose his fingers or his tongue.  In response, Tyrion Lannister offered this thought on censorship:  “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar; you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Yes, we all have differing opinions and sometimes these differences can strain or even destroy relationships.  I have not kept track of how many Facebook friends I have both gained and lost due to political conversations.  And, although unfortunate, that is fine.  However, the act of blocking a person, not because they are intentionally nasty, but due to disagreements does make one wonder if a person or group is simply afraid what would happen if other people knew this information and adopted these viewpoints.

Anyway, I want to thank the vast majority of elected officials and political parties who have not blocked me or anyone else simply as a result of posting something they didn’t like.  In the long journey ahead there will be times when we agree and times when we disagree.  However, I hope we can always remain civil and never sever the lines of communication without reasonable cause.

The Rise of the LPVA

Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention
Robert Sarvis at the 2014 LPVA convention

The Libertarian Party of Virginia stands on the brink of political history as they look to certify a candidate for U.S. Senate and all eleven congressional districts in the state.

In order to understand the significance of this event, I think it useful to reflect back on my experiences with the LPVA.

In 2004, I found myself living in Charlottesville.  As most political activists in Virginia know, Charlottesville is one of the more liberal cities in the Commonwealth.  Being a Republican, I attended many of the meetings of the Charlottesville Republican Party while living there.  However, I found the group so demoralized and so fragmented that after a few gatherings I began to seriously question why I should offer my time and energy to them.

About this time, I heard of another organization, the Jefferson Area Libertarians.  They met at a place called the Mellow Mushroom.  For several months I simply sat and listened to their discussions.  Although I didn’t agree with everything they stood for (and who agrees with anyone 100%?) I thought the group was far more spirited than the local GOP.  As such, at one point I asked them about the candidates they were running for office.  The response was unexpected.  They seemed to think I was crazy for asking such a question.  To me, although philosophical discussion is great, without a plan to turn your vision into reality, it is of little tangible value.  I found that many of Libertarians around the state weren’t particularly interested in getting involved in campaigns and elections and thus I became critical of the LPVA.  To me, if a party doesn’t recruit candidates and work to help them, they aren’t really a political party, but rather little more than a debating society.

Although the LPVA did run candidates, such as for governor and senator, they were a rarity, especially in my corner of the state.  That began to change in 2010 with Stuart Bain who challenged Representative Bob Goodlatte in the 6th district.  Then, in 2013, the party not only ran Robert Sarvis, a candidate for governor, but also over half a dozen candidates in House of Delegates races.  This year, as mentioned at the beginning of the piece, the Libertarian Party has a candidate in every congressional district as well as for Senate.  Now, will all of the Libertarians make the ballot?  We’ll find out soon, but I would be surprised if they did.  Nevertheless, it is certainly amazing to watch what is happening.

Taking the entire picture of Virginia politics, although in control of the state legislature, the Republican Party is fractured between the grassroots and establishment, still reeling from a successive string of statewide losses.  At the same time, the Democratic Party has fared well in statewide contests, but is not challenging every Republican Representative in the November election and recently lost control of the Virginia State Senate in unusual circumstances which has left many of their supporters crying foul.

One shouldn’t expect some sort of radical outcome in the November elections, although yes, as Dave Brat showed us recently, anything is possible.  After all, the smart money in American politics is maintaining the status quo.  The more exciting questions revolve around the future.   With this multitude of Libertarian candidates this year, what will 2015 look like?  Bolstered by their activity, will dozens seek positions in Richmond next November?  Will a Libertarian claim office in the near future?  Could more than one emerge victorious?

Like them or hate them, it is hard to refute the claim that the Libertarian Party of Virginia is making waves.  Will 2014 herald the beginnings of a new era in Virginia politics?  Or will it merely be a high-water mark for the Libertarian Party, a footnote in history?   Right now it is too early to tell.

6th District Conventions Aplenty

This weekend, the Republican Party will be holding their sixth district convention in Botetourt County.  The details are as follows:  It will be taking place on Saturday, April 26th, 10:00 A.M. at the Lord Botetourt High School located on 1435 Roanoke Road in Daleville, Virginia.  One of the main purposes of this gathering is to elect a chairman of the regional party.  As previously mentioned, they will choose between current chairman Wendell Walker and former Speaker of the House of Delegates Vance Wilkins.  Representative Bob Goodlatte does not have an intra-party challenger (though if he did, that contest would have taken place in a primary at a later date).

Then, on May 3rd, the Libertarian Party will be holding a sixth district convention of their own.  This convention will be held on Saturday, May 3rd, starting at noon at the Macado’s restaurant at 30 North Main Street in Lexington, Virginia.  One of the major features of this gathering will be to determine who, if anyone, will be the Libertarian nominee to run against Representative Goodlatte.  For the record, the Libertarian Party last ran a candidate in the 6th in 2010.  It would not be surprising to see the party field a challenger, especially given that there is not a Democratic candidate in the race.

Thus far I have received no word on whether the Democratic Party will be holding a sixth district convention in the near future or if they have already done so.

Exciting political times here in the central western portion of Virginia!