A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GOP is Falling Apart

Image from sodahead.com
Image from sodahead.com

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?

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The William & Mary College Republicans and Margaret Thatcher in 2000.

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:

The Republicans’ Foolish Pledge

Picture from Reuters and Fox News
Picture from Reuters and Fox News

When Donald Trump refused to agree to support the eventual Republican Party nominee for president during the first debate, that move upset the Republican Party establishment.  After all, many worried that, given Trump’s current popularity in the polls, he could end up bolting the party and siphoning away enough voters to lead to a Democratic victory in 2016.

As such, many state parties, including Virginia, considered making each candidate sign such a pledge in order to be included as a choice on their primary ballot.  With the deadline to appear on the “first in the south” South Carolina primary approaching, after some tough decisions, or perhaps merely theatrics, Donald Trump ended up signing the pledge.

If case you haven’t read it, here is the text of the pledge:

I (candidate’s name), affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.

I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.

Think about this pledge for a moment if you will.  It doesn’t pledge any of the Republican candidates to a certain set of principles.  It doesn’t even pledge the candidates to uphold the Republican Party platform.  Instead, it encourages unquestioning allegiance to the GOP and whomever ends up being their standard bearer.

The current field of Republican candidates appeal to different and diverse groups of voters, ones that increasingly don’t have much in common.  Are you telling me neoconservatives, like Lindsey Graham, will support a libertarian nominee?  Will constitutional conservatives, like Rand Paul, support a neoconservative nominee?  Will social conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, support a pro-choice candidate like George Pataki?  Will a candidate who has railed against the establishment, like Ted Cruz, end up supporting the establishment choice Jeb Bush?  Does it matter to any of them if their ideological opposition is elected?

Along those same lines, does it matter to you if the Republican nominee is a liberal… or a conservative… or a libertarian…or perhaps an authoritarian?  Is it important if he or she will work to shrink the size of the federal government…or expand it?  Or are you happy so long as a Republican is elected over a Democrat regardless of his or her positions?

When it comes down to it, do principles guide Republican politicians?  Or, like the Mafia, does blind and unquestioning support for the party and their candidates hold the greatest value?  As long as people like Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have a willing accomplice in the presidency, is that all that truly matters to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party?

11951774_10204377543189733_4022918454679309719_nWill the Republican Party win the presidency in 2016 or will it fall for the third election in a row?  Although voters gave the party control of both Houses of Congress, given the GOP’s repeated failures to accomplish anything of substance, the 2014 election is a decision that more and more citizens are coming to regret.  According to Quinnipac, support for the Republicans in Congress has reached a six year low, with a 12% favorability rating and 81% disapproval.

Given this foolish pledge that the Republican Party has forced upon all of its potential nominees, one has to wonder if the party cares about anything other than gaining power for itself?  And, if principles don’t really matter, why would the American people send a Republican to the White House ever again other than as a protest to express disapproval of the Democratic Party?

Hostile to Liberty?

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the woman who runs Dr. Paul’s Voices of Liberty.  During our conversation, we spoke of a handful of topics such as the first time each of us met Ron Paul, potential articles for the website, etc.

At one point, we somehow got on the matter of my expulsion from the Republican Party and she remarked how she thought that could make an interesting piece for the website.  And so, you can find that story here.

The Death of the Tea Party

Today I have the difficult task of writing the obituary for the tea party movement.  Where do I begin?

Well, the tea party movement was an interesting adventure in American politics.  Chapters grew up seemingly organically around the nation; there was no central organization or leadership.  In the early days, they opposed the big government policies and politicians in both the Republican and Democratic Parties, treating both with suspicion.

For the last several years, the tea party movement has been in decline.  Although supposedly non-partisan, almost all have slipped quietly (or not-so-quietly) into the fold of the Republican Party.

10613072_10204123444679426_6712838461521736272_nAs one example, let’s consider the Hampton Roads Tea Party in Virginia.  On their Facebook page, they proudly declare that they are “A fiercely non-partisan group dedicated to the U.S. (and VA) Constitutions, free markets, community-based solutions, and creating a truth-fed fire for Liberty in future generations. Actus non Verbum (Actions not Words)!”

However, during the 2014 election cycle they posted numerous pieces urging their supporters to get behind Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, providing links to volunteer, and offered a Republican sample ballot created by a group called Friends of the Elephant.

HRTPToday, the Hampton Roads Tea Party took yet another step by encouraging members of their group to officially join the Republican Party of Virginia.  Because of these developments, one would be hard-pressed to call the group “non-partisan” any longer.

Now, this situation isn’t unique to Hampton Roads.  For example, in 2013, shortly before the Virginia Republican State Convention, the leader of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party announced that the group would support whichever candidates won that convention regardless of their political positions.  The next year, during the 2014 July 4th parade, one member created posters saying that everyone should vote Republican.  As I was helping them assemble the float, am a long-time member of the group, and was an independent candidate seeking local office, I was able to persuade them not to offer the citizens of Harrisonburg and Rockingham a message more or less shilling for a political party.

However, I suppose if we are going to look at the issue objectively, many tea parties these days are shells of their former selves, serving as little more than wings of their respective Republican units.  What a pity!  After all, wasn’t the original objective of the tea party to oppose the excesses of both the Democratic and Republican Parties?  Wasn’t the main purpose to adhere to constitutional limitations and fight against tax increases?

I remember back when I first started getting involved with our local tea party I noticed that the local Republican Party always sent a representative to every meeting, not sent to talk, but to observe what was going on.  But for the last several years they have not done so.  Why not?  Well, because there is no need; the tea party has become one of their closest allies.  As another example, the current leader of the Staunton Tea Party is married to the current leader of the Augusta County Republican Party.  The Republicans and tea party members have become pretty much indistinguishable.  And if the tea party’s mission now is strictly wed to the Republican Party mission, it has made itself both redundant and useless.  The tea party did not take over the Republican Party, the Republican Party took over the tea party.

Although there are likely tea parties that still adhere to the original mission, by in large I think it safe to say that the tea party movement has failed.  It had a good run, but the tea party is dead.

Perhaps The Answer Is Nothing

Image from https://i.ytimg.com/vi/-a2TUQa6mN0/hqdefault.jpg

On February 25th of this year, I wrote a post asking the question, “did McCain teach the GOP anything?”  In case you haven’t read it, the central point of the piece was that many Republican activists now admit that the nomination of John McCain for president in 2008 was a mistake.  However, it is unclear whether the Republican Party has learned that a politician holding McCain’s viewpoints is unpalatable to the American people.

Having returned from Guatemala, I have sifted through my crammed inbox and discovered not one, but two emails from the Republican National Committee written by none other than Senator John McCain.  Although sent under different titles, the bodies of both emails are exactly the same.  Here is what the senator from Arizona has to say:

A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military.

Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned.

As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies—and for us.

My friend, what we’re seeing across the world, particularly with the situation with Russia, is the ultimate result of Obama’s reckless and feckless foreign policy.

From the beginning, when he refused to criticize the Iranian government, all the way through his incredible misreading of Vladimir Putin, the tyrant hell-bent on restoring the Soviet empire, Obama has led from behind.

If you want to see where Obama and the Democrats’ priorities lie, look at how much they’ve slashed the defense budget yet found ways to pay for every item on their liberal wish list—the pinnacle being ObamaCare.

What kind of message are we sending when we slash defense funds and shrink the size of our military?

On national defense and international security, Democrats just don’t “get it.”

That is why we must take back the Senate to put a check on Obama’s feckless foreign policy in the final two years of his presidency.

We must return to our best traditions of American leadership—for the sake of the cause of freedom, for the sake of the brave Americans who are willing to give their life for this cause, for the sake of our nation’s peace and prosperity.

We must be committed to peace through strength to protect our national security in this dangerous world.

And we must support those facing brutal tyranny by their oppressors and our enemies.

That’s why we must elect more Republicans to the Senate who will fight for freedom and will promote peace throughout the world.

Contribute $14 to the GOP today to help us take back the Senate in 2014.

Thank you,

Senator John McCain

Senator McCain is right when he criticizes some Democrats for expanding the debt through domestic largesse, but fails to realize that in order to combat this issue we must also shrink our military to more affordable levels.  Instead, he promotes a largely unpopular neo-conservative or Wilsonian ideology of using the American military to get involved in every corner of the globe regardless whether the United States or her citizens are under threat of attack.  Along these same lines, Senator McCain goes on to make threatening remarks against Iran and Russia leaving the reader to wonder if he would advocate war or military action (in the absence of Congressional approval) against one or both of these nations.

Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Americans oppose a globalist, expansive, and intrusive foreign policy like McCain’s.  Unfortunately, the senator still hasn’t gotten the memo.  And, as they offer a platform to Senator McCain to air his positions on this issue, it seems that the Republican National Committee doesn’t understand the American people either.  Although admittedly far more Americans are troubled by Russia since the Crimea issue took shape, there has been considerable buyer’s remorse from the conflict in Iraq, steady opposition to getting involved in Syria, and more Americans seem to favor President Obama’s approach to the Ukraine question than McCain’s.

So has the GOP leadership learned anything from the 2008 elections?  They continue to support John McCain even though, according to Politico, he is the least popular senator in the country (even opposed by a considerable majority of Republicans) and seem to advocate a foreign policy that is expensive and opposed by the will of the American people.  Although there are many factors that can and will sway the 2014 midterm elections, should it come as any surprise if the Republican Party fairs poorly, especially if they run candidates aligned with McCain’s ideology?  If the GOP is serious about retaking the Senate in 2014, they must quickly realize that this kind of email will only make their task all the more difficult.

Like Sergeant Schultz, does the leadership in the RNC hear nothing, see nothing, and know nothing?

The Brewing War

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of a civil war within the Republican Party.  Right now there seems to be a considerable disconnect between grassroots activists and legislators, between those advocating fiscal responsibility and those who spend and increase the debt without much regard, between those who promote enhanced civil liberties and those who wish to clamp down upon them.  These aren’t fights across partisan divides, but rather conflicts inside the GOP itself.

Although some may lament this feud, I say bring it on!

For limited government, liberty-minded, constitutional conservatives like me, the Republican Party has provided ample disappointment for years.  Raising the debt ceiling again and again with no hope of paying it off?  Check!  Expanding federal control of health care (Medicare Part D) and education (No Child Left Behind)? Check and check!  Eroding freedom of the internet through acts like SOPA and CISPA?  Check!  Unneeded  and irresponsible meddling of the federal government in airport security through the TSA?  Check!  The horrible consequences to our civil liberties and the liberties of foreigners as a result of the so-called ‘Patriot Act’?  Check!  A legacy of war and massive foreign interventionism?  Check! And friends, the list goes on.

Here in my home state of Virginia, the Republican Party controlled both houses of the General Assembly and the governorship in 2013.  As a result, did we see our state government take a strong stand for the 10th Amendment against the encroachment of the federal government?  Not really.  They more or less rolled over to Obamacare.  However, we did get a transportation tax increase which has been billed as the largest tax increase in Virginia history.  All this with Republicans in charge!

Is there any wonder why Republicans continue to lose nationwide and got trounced statewide in the 2013 elections in Virginia?  When both parties advocate big government why should voters choose the Republican Party over the Democratic?  The answer is, they shouldn’t.  Voters don’t trust the GOP any more…and for good reason.

So what does the GOP stand for these days, if anything?  I asked this question last year and I still have no answer.  Here in Virginia we have a Republican Party creed, but good luck finding leadership in the General Assembly or Congress who actually adheres to it.  Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t principled Republican legislators in either Richmond or Washington, because there are, but they are often marginalized or go along with the party mentality to promote the least principled legislators as their leaders and the speaker.

Activists are tired of holding their noses to vote for big government.  They are tired of being reminded to support party unity while their principles get trampled upon year after year.  They are tired of conservatives and libertarians being ignored or abandoned by the leadership, especially during the election season.

So yes, I say the GOP Civil War is long overdue.  Its time to stand up for your supposed values or else go the way of the Whigs.

Morton Blackwell on the Republican Convention

VC Note:  To follow is a letter Morton Blackwell wrote concerning the rules changes that took place at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL.  Although it has already been posted on RedState, I thought that it would be of interest to many activists in Virginia, especially considering the questionable tactics employed against our delegates.

Dated September 2nd, 2012

Dear Fellow RNC Member,

Now that the national convention is over, many delegates and others have asked me to sum up my views on the controversy at the convention regarding The Rules of the Republican Party and where we should go from here.

What happened regarding the party rules in Tampa was a totally unnecessary – but largely successful attempt – to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party and restrict or shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

The effort was led by Ben Ginsberg, a member of the Convention Rules Committee from Washington, D.C., who represented himself as the spokesman for Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ginsberg worked for the Presidential Campaign of Michele Bachmann.  In Tampa, he led the effort to make major changes in the party rules strongly opposed by Congresswoman Bachmann.

Mr. Ginsberg is simply a man unencumbered by principles.

For four years, the Republican National Committee’s Standing Committee on Rules carefully reviewed The Rules of the Republican Party and adopted changes to propose for adoption by the national convention.

Then the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to approve the new rules proposed by its Standing Committee on Rules and sent them on to the Convention Rules Committee.

Enter Ben Ginsberg.

At the Convention Rules Committee meeting, he proceeded to introduce and support many amendments to the newly-revised rules which had been approved the previous day by the RNC.

The changes he proposed shared a common theme:  to concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party, and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up.

Since these rules changes would go into effect for the 2016 presidential election cycle, none of Mr. Ginsberg’s power grabs would in any way help us elect Mitt Romney and defeat President Barack Obama in November.

And I’m sure you agree defeating Obama should be our top priority this Election Year.

But Ben Ginsberg’s efforts predictably enraged conservative Republicans who treasure the protections long incorporated in our national party rules.

The record will show that during the Conventions Rules Committee meeting, as a member of that Committee from Virginia, I repeatedly warned Mr. Ginsberg that his power grabs would hurt the Romney campaign by outraging grassroots conservative and libertarian activists whom we want to support our candidates this year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ginsberg continued on his path.

There are some folks who, if you give them a fur coat, think they’re King Kong.

As anyone with relevant experience should have foreseen, when the Rules Committee report was presented for consideration to the National Convention, a thunderous “NO!” vote arose from the convention floor.

Most of the news media and those of us in the convention hall agree that the vote on adopting the Rules was obviously close. Some believe the “NO” vote was louder, but Speaker Boehner ruled that the “ayes” had it.

I was the youngest elected Goldwater delegate at the 1964 national convention.  I have attended every national convention since, and I’ve represented Virginia on the RNC since 1988.

Nothing like this has ever happened before in living memory at a Republican National Convention.

When they were presumptive Presidential nominees – and when they were Presidents of the United States – neither George H.W. Bush nor George W. Bush ever attempted to undermine the means by which power within the Republican Party structure can rise from the bottom up.

The operatives whom the Romney campaign put in charge of Rules matters seem to want the power to rule the national Republican Party, as Nelson Rockefeller used to run the New York State Republican Party.

These operatives should be repudiated – and it’s not too late to do so.

Later in this email, I’ll discuss some of the awful changes Mr. Ginsberg supported.

But first, it’s necessary to stress how important I believe it is to elect Mitt Romney and defeat Barack Obama in November.

My wife and I have supported Republican candidates every year in our 40-year marriage.  This year, my wife and I have contributed at least five times as much money to Romney Victory, Inc. as we have ever given to any other campaign.

Four years ago, I predicted in a posting which still can be seen on the website RedState, how bad a President Barack Obama would be.

He has been even worse than I predicted.

Barack Obama is a leftist ideologue who has filled his Administration with other leftist ideologues, and their policies are bankrupting our country and destroying many of our liberties.

Mitt Romney strongly supports conservative principles – and he would undo the damage Obama has done.

He would end the slide into national bankruptcy, restore threatened liberties, and put our country on the path toward economic growth and more job opportunities.

It’s little short of tragic that some of his operatives blundered by setting up an entirely unnecessary, major controversy with grassroots Republicans at our national convention.

Undoubtedly, the worst power grab initiated by Mr. Ginsberg was his ramming through a change in the Rules of the Republican Party, a new Rule 12, which permits the Republican National Committee to change national rules between conventions.

The Democrats have had such a rule for years, and those in power in their party spend the periods between their national conventions fighting in their national committee over rules changes to benefit this or that faction, or this or that potential presidential nominee.

We Republicans have avoided that by prohibiting changes in the rules between our national conventions.

The office of the RNC Chairman is – and has to be – very powerful.  A National Committee of 168 members, which meets for a few hours two or three times a year, can’t micro-manage the RNC.

The RNC Chairman has the immense power of the purse and a large staff to influence the decisions of the RNC, so an RNC Chairman can get the votes of a super-majority of the RNC for just about anything he or she desires.

But until now, the fact that the RNC Chairman must abide by stable party rules has served as the main protection for input by grassroots conservatives and libertarians.

For practical purposes, the new Rule 12 adds to the power of the RNC Chairman (or to the White House when there’s a Republican President) the ability to change party rules at will.

Over a number of election cycles, our party has struggled to avoid the front-loading of our delegate selection process, moving us closer and closer to a single national primary as states race to the head of the line to hold their primaries.

Yet prudence dictates that there should be a reasonably long nomination process in order to properly vet all of our candidates.

After special studies and much consultation, many serious party leaders finally came up with a workable solution.  Party rules were changed in this cycle to prohibit winner-take-all primaries in March of presidential election years.  March primaries had to in some way allocate delegate votes proportionally to the popular vote.

The new system worked, and Mitt Romney is a better presidential candidate because of that experience.

Mr. Ginsberg gutted the hard-won reform by ramming through a change in the rules to permit winner-take-all primaries in March.

When I asked him why he did this, he replied to me, “It wasn’t our idea.  We did it as a favor for some friends.”

That’s a far cry from a process in which the best interests of our party are carefully discussed and considered.

I have innumerable times over the years recruited new participants into the Republican Party by stressing the fairness, openness, and stability of our Republican rules compared to those of the Democratic Party.

The way to treat newcomers to our party is fairly, politely, and even cordially.

That’s what we do in Virginia. And that’s how to build and sustain a majority party.

Among the many still-not-publicized rules changes rammed through the Convention Rules Committee by Mr. Ginsberg was one to raise from five to eight the number of states a presidential candidate would have to win in the nomination contests in order to have his or her name formally placed in nomination before the convention.

Raising the bar was a gratuitous slap at prospective new participants in our nomination process.

Despite his success in recruiting new volunteers, Congressman Ron Paul won a majority of the delegate votes in nowhere near five states this year.

To discuss all the power grabs the rules suffered this year would be tedious in a letter, so let me mention only some of them, including the one which resulted in a “compromise.”

Mr. Ginsberg got the Convention Rules Committee to pass a rule change which would allow presidential candidates to remove national convention delegates who were legally elected under the party rules and laws of the respective states.  This caused such a furor that a Minority Report to the Rules Committee Report seemed certain.

That would have forced a debate on the convention floor and a vote of the entire convention body.

A valid Minority Report required the support of 28 members – or 25% – of the Convention Rules Committee.  Well over 35 signatures were certain, despite all available arm-twisting of Mr. Ginsberg and those who supported him on everything else.

State parties, including Virginia’s, fiercely defended their right to elect their own delegates.  The “compromise” was for Mr. Ginsberg to agree to take out the provision which would have given candidates the power to disavow and remove legally elected delegates.

In place of that obnoxious provision was inserted a guarantee that delegate votes would go to candidates who won those delegate votes in binding presidential primaries, a matter which would have been routinely enforced under the existing rules.

Conservatives continued to mount efforts to file two Minority Reports, but in the end, enough Rules Committee members were persuaded not to sign them or to remove their signatures.

Neither had the required 28 signatures and one wound up with 27 valid signatures.

Therefore no Minority Reports reached the convention floor.

I should mention that Mr. Ginsberg moved one rules change which would have required the signatures of 40% of future Convention Rules Committees for a Minority Report to be considered on the convention floor.

That would have rendered future Minority Reports virtually impossible because the signatures would have to be obtained and the Minority Report filed within one hour of the adjournment of the Convention Rules Committee.

The opposition to this attempted power grab was so intense that Mr. Ginsberg withdrew his motion.

There circulated in the media coverage of the Tampa convention a report that a late and wayward bus deliberately prevented the Virginia Delegates from arriving at the convention hall in time for me to take part in the final (usually pro-forma) meeting of the Convention Rules Committee held as the convention began.

It is true that our Virginia bus got our delegation to the convention hall after the Convention Rules Committee meeting adjourned.  But I never for a minute believed our bus had been deliberately delayed.

One should not attribute to conspiracy what can adequately be explained by incompetence.  You will recall that staggeringly bad transportation arrangements inconvenienced most of the states’ delegations that day.

All in all, in most ways our 2012 convention was a roaring success.

We presented great speeches by Mitt Romney and his brilliant choice for running mate, Paul Ryan.  Other great speeches by Anne Romney, Marco Rubio, and a galaxy of others put our party’s best feet forward.  The 2012 Republican Platform clearly expressed our conservative and liberty-loving principles.

My strong advice is for all of us to work tirelessly and give generously to our national campaign.  Everything is on the line this year.

And there’s another reason for solid conservatives to contribute more time and money now.

I believe we shall win this election, and then there’s the important matter of staffing a new Administration.

I worked full-time in the Presidential Personnel Office of President-elect Ronald Reagan and then for three years on his White House staff.

Personnel is policy.

An incoming administration tends to hire people who contributed significantly to winning the election.

If we expect a new President to hire a lot of principled conservatives and libertarians, we should maximize the number of principled conservatives and libertarians who have credentialed themselves by taking part in the Mitt Romney campaign.

And then, in 2016 we can work to repeal the current Rule 12 – and reverse the other mistakes incorporated in the new rules last week.

Cordially,

Morton Blackwell
National Committeeman, Virginia

A Political Fourth

For many Americans, the Fourth of July is a day filled with cookouts and family gatherings capped off by a night filled with a colorful fireworks display.  However, given that the date serves as the commemoration for the birth of the nation, it is also steeped in politics.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia held its annual parade to celebrate the day.  The weather was quite hot and sunny, a marked difference from last year when a virtual monsoon threatened to cancel the affair.

The parade boasted the usual assortment of floats and vehicles: musicians, fire and rescue teams, antique cars, and, of course, political groups.  This year, there were four different sets of folks who entered: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, and Abe Shearer for City Council.

Overall, the candidate who could claim the largest number of visible supporters in the parade had to be Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6).  There was a veritable sea of matching blue Goodlatte shirts among the Republicans.  Other Republican candidates were promoted as well including: Mitt Romney, George Allen, Mark Obenshain, and the various City Council hopefuls.

The Democratic Party had an impressive showing as well.  They waved signs in favor of Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, Andy Schmookler, and two City Council candidates. I spoke with Deb Fitzgerald, one of the Democratic candidates running, to ask if the Democratic Party only fielded two folks for the three seats up in November.  I discovered that although Kai Degner is running for re-election, he apparently had no signs printed to be used in the parade.

Running as an independent for City Council, Abe Shearer also made his presence known.  Even though some might be tempted to disregard independents, recent elections have shown that they offer beat the two party candidates for this particular office.  The outcome for this race will hinge heavily upon the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the top of the ticket and the strength of the campaigns of each of the council candidates.

During the trip down Main Street, I walked alongside the Tea Party float handing out copies of the Constitution.  In general, the crowd was very receptive and so I ran out of materials a good distance from the end of the route.

Given that the Fourth is now five days passed, you might find it odd that it has taken me so long to write about it here.  Well, I’m afraid that I didn’t feel much like writing on the evening of the event.  On the drive back to the parking lot, I decided to catch a ride on the Tea Party float.  As we turned onto a side street, the mast holding the tea party sign struck a low-hanging branch and came loose.  Unfortunately, I happened to be in the path of the heavy wooden board as it fell to the ground.  Although it was only a glancing blow, the plank did graze the side of my head and collided with my shoulder.  At the time, I was worried about the severity of the injury, and, as a result of the pain, did very little for the rest of that evening.  However, I’m pleased to say that several days later, only a yellowish bruise and a bit of residual soreness seem to be the only lingering effects.

I suppose that one could see a bit of irony in the idea of a person who opposes the idea of government-run health insurance and also does not presently have health insurance due to the tremendous cost involved, becoming injured himself and possibly in need of assistance.  Nevertheless, if a person does find him or herself in such a state of need, should one demand that the government redress this problem?  Although freely given charity is laudable, the idea of a person compelling his or her neighbors to care for his or her needs through either force or coercion seems to completely reject the basic political tenets of liberty and freedom under which this country was supposedly founded.

Anyway, to sum up, except for the surprise accident at the end, I would say that the parade was a rousing success for all of the parties who choose to participate.  Speaking specifically of the tea party, I hope that I’ll see a few new faces at our meeting later this month.

The Primary Date

With another debate under our belts, I’ve been wondering what will be the schedule of the 2012 Republican Presidential primaries.  Regardless of their vote totals, states are typically rated in importance according to how early they vote in the process.  Each early victory builds momentum for the candidates and most campaigns dissolve after the first several contests.  That’s why so many people pay attention to the relatively small states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Four years ago, Virginia was pretty late in the process.  Unfortunately, that meant that not many folks paid attention to the state.  By February 12th, there were only three candidates left in a race shrunk from an earlier field of eight.  This time around, it should be different.  Currently Virginia holds a spot of prominence, as it is a part of the Super Tuesday primaries on March 6th.  Hopefully, that means that both candidates and campaigns will take an effort to educate and impress the citizens of the Old Dominion State.

Getting back to the larger picture at hand, last week I called the RNC asking for a schedule of the 2012 Republican Presidential primaries and caucuses.  It seems that didn’t have much information and therefore recommended contacting the Republican Parties of each state for information.  So, I did; here are the results I have thus far.  Please note that all dates are subject to change.  This list is not complete and I plan to add more information as it becomes available.

Unofficial Dates for Primaries, Caucuses, and Conventions for the 2012 Republican Presidential Contest

Feb 6: Iowa

Feb 14: New Hampshire

Feb 18: Nevada

Feb 28: South Carolina, Michigan (tentative)

The latter half of Feb: Maine (dates vary by county)

Mar 3: Washington

Mar 6: Super Tuesday Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alaska, Texas, Idaho, Massachusetts

Mar 6-10: Wyoming (by county.  Statewide event to follow on Mar 14)

Mar 10: Kansas

Mar 13: Alabama

Mar 20: Illinois

Mar 24: Louisiana

Apr 3: Maryland

Apr 14: Colorado

Apr 24: New York, Delaware, Connecticut (tentative), Rhode Island

May 8: West Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana

May 14: Nebraska

May 22: Kentucky, Arkansas

Jun 5: California, Montana, New Mexico

Jun 26: Utah