Corruption in Frederick County

A photo of a portion of the crowd
A photo of a portion of the crowd

On Tuesday, August 30th, the Frederick County Republican Party gathered for their monthly meeting.  The room was packed with about 100 people, including Delegate Chris Collins (R-29), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33), former Delegate Mark Berg (R-29) and John Whitbeck, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.  There was also a fellow clad in a Barbara Comstock shirt holding some of her bumper stickers, most likely a campaign staffer. This was the first meeting of the Frederick County GOP since the Republican State Central Committee upheld the decision of the 10th district GOP to expel Mark Berg and nine other members of the Frederick County GOP from the Republican Party and ban them from Republican functions for the next four years, which presumably also stripped Dr. Berg of his chairmanship of the Frederick County GOP.  Given that development, one would assume that this meeting would likely be quite interesting.

Outside the meeting room there were two tables, one for guests to sign in and another for county party members.  There was also a poster which contained a curious message stating that Frederick County was not Russia.

IMG_3171Inside, there were a variety of additional posters including a supposed quote from 10th district GOP Chairwoman Jo Thoburn denouncing due process and the 1st Amendment, and another declaring that Article I of the RPV Party Plan was unconstitutional.

Shortly after 7 PM, a woman (I’m told it was Rose Focht, the vice-chair of the group), declared that the meeting was likely to be very contentious and therefore announced that a neutral party, Bill Card from Prince William County, would serve as chair for the meeting.  However, as far as I observed, her decision was neither voted upon nor ratified by the membership.  After the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance (offered by Delegate LaRock), the meeting got underway.  It was announced that there were 63 members of the Frederick County GOP present along with 34 guests.

Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck
Temporary Chair Bill Card with RPV Chairman John Whitbeck before the start of the meeting

The chair then declared that the group would vote on a slate of new members to the committee.  There were some murmurs from the crowd that the chair had changed the order of the agenda of the meeting as the addition of new members was supposed to be scheduled for the end of the meeting.  In addition, no one presented a list of these possible members either in writing or verbally.  One member objected, declaring that she wanted to know more about these potential new additions, but the chair ruled her out of order.  Then, one of the applicant new members agreed that they should be introduced, but he was ignored by the chair.  In the voice vote that followed to add these new members, it sounded to me as if the nays were more plentiful. Curiously, as some guests were scattered among the membership, it was impossible to tell if any of the guests had voted in the voice vote.  For example, although a visitor from Harrisonburg, I could have easily added my vote to the total and no one likely would have been the wiser.   Nevertheless, the chair ruled that they ayes had won and disregarded several protests from the audience.

What was even more surprising was that the temporary chairman then called for the meeting to be adjourned without any further business.  Many folks seemed stunned by the voice vote that followed, but the chair again declared that the ayes had carried the motion and thus the meeting was over only about 10 minutes or so after it had begun.  One exasperated member shouted about fascism.

Afterward, people shuffled out.  An older woman left while wiping tears from her eyes.  8 or so people, including Mark Berg, gathered in a circle for a prayer outside the room.

Inquiring into the matter further I talked with several of the members of the FCRC.  I was told that these new members were added to the committee so that one faction would now have sufficient numbers to purge the group of anyone deemed a troublemaker or those who did not support the new leadership.

I spoke with one woman who recorded the meeting and, if I am able to get a copy, will share it as well.

I have to say that although I’ve been going to political gatherings for 21 years now, I cannot recall a meeting so short, or one that was able to ram through their business in such an blatantly corrupt fashion.  One does wonder what sort of fallout will come to the Frederick County Republican Party and the Republican Party of Virginia for allowing these shenanigans to transpire.

Teeter-Totter Syndrome

rvf9ww7m-1435680516By Jeff Smith

“If you wish to view politics with clarity you need to get off the teeter-totter.” ~Old Man Anarchyball

Ever hear of a political syndrome called the teeter-totter? Imagine, a playground teeter-totter. Now mentally title the right-side seat Republican and the left-side seat Democrat. When the right-side seat is up in the air the Republicans are “winning” (debates, arguments, etc.). When the left-side seat is up, the Democrats are “winning.” It goes without saying that when one side is up in the air, the other is automatically down on the ground. In the real world politics doesn’t work like this, but it is amazing how many people believe that it is so.

We are all aware of the dislike the Republican and Democratic Parties and their supporters have for one another. In many, that dislike is closer to a foam-frothing hatred. This hatred between supporters can be so great that it becomes imperative to each side that they win at almost any cost. Each passionately believes that their side must always be in the up position on the teeter-totter or automatically the opposing side is winning. The power of this syndrome is such, that it is speculated that if Joseph Stalin were to come back to life and run for president on the Democratic ticket, and Adolph Hitler were to come back and run on the Republican ticket, one of these two monsters would become the president of the United States. Neither side can tolerate the other side winning and will do almost anything to ensure it, leading to lying and trickery. This is known as the ends justifies the means. That in order to achieve the desired goal, it becomes acceptable to deceive and trick the public. Strangely, it never occurs to the supporters of each side, that what they have come to believe about their own side, may not be entirely true, due to the same lies, trickery and deceptions utilized to obtain their support in the first place.

We are human. We are easily trained to play to win in politics, just as we do in sporting endeavors. The teeter-totter syndrome is part of the state’s training (brainwashing) to accept lies as being truths. A well-brainwashed supporter will defensively deny the truth without realizing it, especially if that truth differs or threatens the normal belief system of that side. The human brain is an amazing and powerful tool. When properly prepared the human brain can consciously fool itself into seeing an altered truth. this naturally hampers the ability to see facts as they really are. Subconsciously, humans are able to realize that they are not processing a real truth, but when combined with hatred and fear (of the opposing party), people can deny themselves the truth, in order to maintain a lie. A good example of this is when voters blame the opposition party for current and ongoing problems, but are unable to see the fault of their own side (denial). Another example is when voters change their position on an issue (war, liberty) based on which party currently holds office. When the parties change which holds office, so changes the supporters positions. In discussing this behavior with the supporters of both sides, they deny any change in their opinions, even though it is plainly obvious to the casual observer.

The teeter-totter syndrome is directly responsible for the tyranny and corruption Americans suffer from. Neither side being able to see and admit that their side is equally part of the problem, not the solution. Because the majority of the people are stuck in this teeter-totter syndrome the Democratic and Republican Parities hold complete economic and individual control over our lives, all the while, the syndrome convinces the individual to believe that they are actually free. The two monopoly mega-parties intentionally feed and fuel the teeter-totter hatred in order to maintain control. In public the two parties passionately attack one another, but in private they are friends, co-partners in the biggest slave trade history has ever witnessed.

The people need to see the truth. That there is no teeter-totter. It is just an illusion of the mind, a tool for the state. If the people could cease hating the other party they would be able to see the world through clear eyes, thus being able to make better choices. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic solution. Hate and fear are natural human traits. They cannot be regulated. The only real solution is to remove the ability of people to have control over other people’s lives. If they can’t see clearly they have no business involving themselves in the solutions others need. This removal of control over others must also include the state, as it is made up of these same people who cannot “see clearly.” Until that day arrives, the government will continue instigating hate and fear so that it can retain control, all-the-while, blaming the other party not currently in office.

Jeff Smith is a political activist who has been involved in libertarian politics since 1975.  He sometimes uses the moniker Old Man Anarchyball.  This piece has been reposted with his permission.

[Image from theconversation.com]

Obenshain v. Dunbar

In just a handful of days Republicans across the state will gather in Harrisonburg, my hometown, for their state convention. There they will be voting for a new committeewoman. The two choices for this position are Suzanne Obenshain and Cynthia Dunbar. Having had the opportunity to get to know both women, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.

The Obenshains in Richmond in late 2012
The Obenshains in Richmond in late 2012

I’ve known Suzanne Obenshain for well over a decade. While I was growing up in Harrisonburg we both attended the same church and were both quite active in local Republican Party politics. She’s a person whose opinion I’ve valued. For example, when in 2013 I started to consider running for local office in the 2014 elections, speaking to Suzanne Obenshain was of prime importance. To highlight some of my activism, I was a bus captain for the Obenshain for Attorney General campaign at the 2013 Virginia Republican convention and later the campaign asked me to serve as her chauffeur, though I only ended up driving her once and it was just around Harrisonburg.

My last meaningful conversation with Suzanne Obenshain was a little over two years ago. However, as I’ve written in previous pieces, after about 19 years of activism I was kicked out of the Harrisonburg GOP in February 2014. Given that I had been a loyal supporter and volunteer for the Obenshains since Senator Obenshain first declared his intent to run for office in late 2002 or early 2003, the first person I called looking for assistance with this matter was Suzanne Obenshain. In the moment I needed her help the most she refused to provide aid. During the call she asked me if I knew what a “good Republican” was. I explained that I thought it was someone who held fast to principle and advocated the values found in the Virginia Republican Creed. Instead, Ms. Obenshain explained that being a good Republican had nothing to do with ideology, but instead a good Republican was a person who supported all the Republican candidates. I was shocked when I heard these words, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

After all, after the 2012 Republican National Convention, which screwed over the Ron Paul delegates, I presented a resolution to the local Harrisonburg GOP from the Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus that condemned both John Boehner and Reince Priebus for their role in this matter. However, it was Suzanne Obenshain herself who scuttled any attempt to either discuss it or bring it to a vote.

Also, during the 2012 Harrisonburg City Council elections, much to my disappointment I discovered that one of the Republican candidates promoted a lot of big government policies, more so than even the Democratic candidates. Given this realization, there was no way I could bring myself to either support or vote for this person. After the election, when all three Republican candidates went down in defeat, I spoke with Suzanne Obenshain, as she was the person who recruited our local candidates. I asked why the local GOP would nominate a person who couldn’t be called a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. She responded by telling me that no one else wanted to run. However, wouldn’t it have been better to have one fewer nominee than running a full slate if that meant rallying behind someone who was antithetical to our principles? Does being a Republican actually mean anything?

Getting back to 2014, although no longer a member of my local committee, I still requested to attend the state convention. Both the chairman and Ms. Obenshain told me that I could go as a voting delegate. However, I was dismayed to discover that the call for the convention included a strict loyalty oath to the party and her candidates, declaring that all delegates from Harrisonburg would support all of the Republican candidates that year. Neither knowing who they were nor whether or not they would uphold the principles of the RPV Creed I felt could not honorably sign such a document. I asked who decided to include this oath in the call, which was considerably more stringent than other local calls, such as the one from Waynesboro, and was told that it was Suzanne Obenshain who did so.

One of my relatives asked Suzanne Obenshain why the Republicans had treated me poorly and I was told that she responded saying that the Republicans were afraid of me, in part because I was unwilling to compromise on most principles and because I openly criticized my representative, Bob Goodlatte when he voted against what I always assumed were supposedly Republican values.

After the convention I spoke to a local friend who was also a Shak Hill supporter and convention delegate. At the time Shak Hill was running as the more conservative option for Senate. However, my friend told me that several Ed Gillespie supporters, including Suzanne Obenshain, attempted to intimidate him on the voting floor into supporting their preferred candidate.

I still ran for local office but I did so as an independent since I wasn’t a member of the Republican Party any longer; I felt someone needed to represent my principles. I ran on a platform of limiting the power and scope of the city government and to the best of my knowledge, I was the only candidate who mentioned the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia or sought to advance the values which it advocated. Party labels aside you’d think that limited government Republicans would be happy that at least one of the candidates actually advocated limiting the government. Nevertheless, several of my friends told me that Suzanne Obenshain was furious with me because I had the audacity to run for office against the Republican nominees. When I went door-to-door for my campaign I stopped by the houses of several friends who had signs for the Republican council candidates in their yard. When I asked them about it, I was told that they had not requested the signs but instead Suzanne Obenshain placed them in their yards simply because they were members of the Harrisonburg Republican committee. By comparison, due in part to my principles, many Libertarians supported my campaign either through time or money as did some disaffected local Republicans.

Photo of Cynthia Dunbar with Suzanne Curran and Mark Berg. Image from the Dunbar campaign.
Photo of Cynthia Dunbar with Suzanne Curran and Mark Berg. Image from the Dunbar campaign.

On the other hand, I first spoke to Cynthia Dunbar on New Years Eve of 2015. She called me while I was picking up a few pizzas for a party that was taking place that evening. Although I wasn’t a member of the Republican Party and had no plans of rejoining, we spoke about her candidacy, the GOP, and political principles. I met her in person on Saturday at a meeting of the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives in Mt. Jackson.

Over the last several months, I’ve had the chance to listen to Cynthia Dunbar on a handful of occasions.   She seems to be a person guided by conviction that promises to stand up to the party bosses and elected officials who betray their principles and/or the grassroots activists who elected them in the first place. In addition, she’s picked up endorsements from a number of good Virginia political activists and elected officials I respect including: Delegate Brenda Pogge, Delegate Bob Marshall, Senator Dick Black, Suzanne Curran, Anne Fitzgerald, Steven Thomas, and Ed Yensho. However, the most exciting endorsement comes from my former boss, the godfather of the modern liberty movement, Dr. Ron Paul.

Some of her detractors have attacked Dunbar for the fact that she has lived in Virginia for only a handful of years. But don’t we all have to come from somewhere? One of my Republican opponents for city council used this issue against the Democrats and the Libertarian candidate because they lived within the city limits for only several years. Although I am a native of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, that was as a result of the choices my parents made, not my own. Honestly, what should matter more, political principles and character or something transient like geography? I’d like to think this is an easy question and we should not treat people as outcasts simply because their roots are not as deep as our own.

Let me offer you a few fun facts. Since 2009, only one Republican candidate has beaten a Democratic candidate in Harrisonburg. If Senator Mark Obenshain had won our hometown in 2013, he would be Virginia’s attorney general. Here’s another fact. In 1995, at the age of 15, I was the youngest Republican activist in Harrisonburg. In January of 2013, at the age of 32, I was still the youngest person who regularly attended monthly meetings of the Harrisonburg Republican Party.

The facts and experiences I’ve mentioned might leave you with several important questions. Why don’t Republicans win Harrisonburg? Although I don’t know their current membership, when I was a part of the party why did the Harrisonburg GOP fail to recruit newer, younger members? Well, when you have leaders of a political party which values loyalty to the party over principle, what do you think happens? When you have a local unit, which forces its members to sign onerous loyalty oaths to the party and her candidates, it is possible that the members begin to build up resentment? When you have a political party that is more concerned with pleasing elected officials and party bosses at the expense of the volunteer grassroots activists, why in the world would anyone choose to join such a group? When a local party recruits candidates who are indistinguishable from the Democrats, why wouldn’t voters select the genuine article? When the local leaders of the Republican Party treat conservatives and libertarians who are outside of the party as hostile enemies, should there be any wonder why Republicans no longer win Harrisonburg and the local unit is so dreadfully small and ineffective? Lastly, I have to ask you, are these kinds of values ones that Virginia Republicans want at the national level?

It should be obvious that this election for Republican National Committeewoman is one of important contrasts. Like my hero Ron Paul, if I were a delegate to the Virginia Republican Convention, given my experiences and knowledge of the two candidates, I would have no hesitation in casting my vote for Cynthia Dunbar.

Republicans & Capulets

Image from 20th Century Fox's Romeo + Juliet
Image from 20th Century Fox’s Romeo + Juliet

Last Friday, Republicans from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County gathered for their monthly First Friday meeting at the Woodgrill Buffet.  The featured speaker was Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) who is facing a Democratic challenger (April Moore from Shenandoah County) in November.  Given the make up of the district he represents, that election is not expected to be terribly close.

Instead of spending much time talking about his race, he mentioned how Republicans across the state need to work to ensure that the GOP continues to hold the Virginia Senate.  Presently, the Republicans enjoy a 21-19 majority in that body and all 40 seats are up for election this November.  Most of the seats are either uncontested or heavily favored for one party or the other.  However, Senator Obenshain identified three seats that could tip the balance of power: The 21st in the Roanoke area, the 10th in parts of Richmond and the surrounding counties, and the 29th in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  If the GOP wins just one of these contests, then, assuming no surprises, the party will retain control of the Virginia Senate.

Senator Obenshain then went on to explain that it would be terrible if Democrats won the Senate for then they would control the various senate committees.  As one example, he mentioned the agriculture committee, currently headed by Senator Emmett Hanger of Augusta County.  Should the Democrats win, he declared that Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax City would be the new head.  He didn’t really explain why that would be such a bad thing other than these points: Petersen isn’t from the Shenandoah Valley, he is a Democrat, and he is from Fairfax.  Oh the horror of allowing a northern Virginia Democrat (one who opposed the 2013 Republican Transportation Tax hike) to lead the agriculture committee!  However, besides the overarching rallying cry to beat the Democrats, there wasn’t much in the way of policy differentiation discussed.

The next morning, as I reflected on the previous day, I was reminded of a Shakespearean play and, assuming you have any familiarity with the subject, read the title of this article, or, more likely, saw the film with Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ve figured out that that play was Romeo & Juliet.  In case you don’t remember the plot from high school English, in this story there are two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. We are told from the prologue that they are “both alike in dignity” and that they have some “ancient grudge” against each other that is never really explored or explained in the work.  As such, the reader has no real idea if either family is motivated by some important ideal other than gaining power over the other.  Was there any reason for the hatred?  It is quite likely that none of the characters in the play truly comprehend the point of the struggle either.  Nevertheless, the Montagues, Capulets, and their assorted friends and allies sacrifice quite a lot as they do battle against each other.

Unfortunately, Verona becomes a much worse place for the average citizen as a result of this constant feuding between the two families.  As Prince Escalus, the leader of the town, states in Act I, Scene I, “Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word, by thee, old Capulet, and Montague, have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets; and made Verona’s ancient citizens cast-by their grave beseeming ornaments, to wield old partisans, in hands as old, cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate”.

In Act III, Scene I, Tybalt Capulet challenges Romeo Montague to a duel due to a perceived insult against his family.  However, by this point Romeo is smitten by Juliet Capulet, sees no reason to quarrel further, and so refuses to fight her kinsman.  Romeo’s friend Mercutio, although not aligned with either house by blood, considers it dishonorable for Romeo to refuse the challenge.  Romeo attempts to stop the scuffle that follows, but is unsuccessful as Tybalt slays Mercutio.  Although he sought peace, this act rouses Romeo to fight and kill Tybalt.  As Mercutio dies, he curses not only the Capulets who directly cause his demise, but the Montagues as well.

After Romeo is ordered into exile as a result of his deed, Capulet attempts to marry his daughter to one of the leading political figures of the town, despite her protests to the contrary.  Neither, Juliet’s mother nor her father care about her wishes.  Only at the end of the play, when Capulet’s daughter and Montague’s son have fallen, do the two families finally agree to end their seemingly pointless feud.

Could this story from the 1590s mirror our political situation today?  Have many of the Republican and Democrats, much like the Montagues and Capulets, forgotten why they first fought each other, only continuing the battle in order to accumulate power for themselves and their party?  Are the two factions primarily motivated by conservative and liberal values or are these issues merely used as window dressing to convince the grassroots into following them in whatever crusade the leaders deem necessary?  Do the powers that be consider our wishes and desires irrelevant, much like Romeo and Juliet were treated in their world?  If, like Mercutio, you made a supreme sacrifice in the service of a house, would your deed be honored?  Or would you be viewed as a relatively worthless pawn offered on the altar of power?  Perhaps, in his final moments, Mercutio finally realized the folly of the discord between the Montagues and Capulets and how meaningless his death was which was why he declared “a plague on both your houses”.  Could the same thought be applied to our two major political parties, too?11055250_1016461601745975_6011593409906575073_n

To help answer this question, on Saturday a former chairman of the Harrisonburg Republican Party shared this image of a t-shirt on Facebook.  What do you think his opinion is on the subject?

Finding a Political Home

RLC LPThe “On this Day” feature of Facebook is rather amazing, isn’t it?  Today, it reminded me of an event that took place two years ago, my removal from the board of directors of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.  This action was taken in response to my employment with the 2013 Robert Sarvis for Governor campaign.  Although I fought against my expulsion, at first, as I strongly believed in the mission of the RLC to promote liberty within the ranks of the Republican Party, I did understand where they were coming from and thus did not contest the matter further.

When I posted my piece on Facebook, the Treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Virginia told me that it was “time for you to come home.”  I assumed it was an invitation to join the LP.  In some ways it was a rather curious message.  After all, at that point I was not a member of the Libertarian Party nor had I ever been.  Like many folks that promote liberty and reducing the size and scope of government, the Republican Party was the only political home that I had ever known.  But that home would soon be destroyed.  Little did I know that less than five months later, in early 2014, I would be kicked out of the Harrisonburg Republican Party, a group I had volunteered countless hours with since the age of 15.  I discovered that being without a political home sort of sucks and, as such, a month or two later I ended up joining the Libertarian Party.  Although I ran for office that fall, I did so as an independent for a variety of reason beyond the scope of this article.

Unfortunately, the liberty movement is divided and without a unified home.  Many of us reside within the Republican Party, others in the Libertarian Party, a few with the Democrats, and some that have taken another path or given up on politics entirely.  Even worse, we spend so much of our time fighting each other that often the push for liberty is lost.  Libertarians think Republicans are sell-outs, Republicans declare that the Libertarian Party is a waste of time, and neither group spends much time thinking about the handful of us who are Democrats.

What can we do?  The answer to this situation is illusive.

Being in the Republican fold these days means that my fellow liberty activists are often compelled or even forced into supporting candidates who stand in stark contrast to their principles.  Some of my brothers and sisters in the GOP have told me that they despise the Republican Party and her candidates, but they feel that they have no other option.  I’m sure that many of us profoundly wish that the Republican Party held true to their principles and actually supported liberty and limited government.  Now, there certainly is a segment who do hold to these values, but they are a minority.

Conversely, the Libertarian Party is quite small and faces enormously unfair hurdles in areas such as ballot and debate access.  There are many stories of the LP being bullied by the Republican establishment, presumably done in order to keep the liberty-wing of the Republican Party from switching sides.  The Libertarian Party is plagued by division and a lack of resources.  Like any political party, there are a variety of ideological disagreements among members.  In addition, they have a bit of an image problem; for the longest time I viewed them as little more than immoral, pot-smoking, hedonists.  As for the Democrats…well, I don’t really know what to say about them.

The simple fact is that every political ideology requires a home, a party which promotes its interests.  The liberty movement is divided and is a diaspora.  It needs a major political party to steadfastly promote its principles.  Although they bash each other in public, behind closed doors I have heard conversations from both RLC members and Libertarians who agree on almost every major point.  So, the question remains.  What can we do to find a common political home for the liberty movement, one that both wields significant political influence and one that doesn’t routinely betray the cause?

Saying No to Pork

Image from agrodaily.com
Image from agrodaily.com

For all the talk of the GOP’s supposed aversion to pork-barrel spending, Republicans sure do love pork products.  For example, a few moments ago I was invited to the Warren County GOP’s pig roast.  Now, the invitation is a two-fold problem.  First, I don’t really care for the idea of donating to a political party that may or may not be guided by the same principles that motivate me.  Although some Republican Parties actually stand for a certain set of values, others have completely jettisoned them and will support any person who happens to bear the party label.  Second, and the main point of this article, is that I don’t eat meat that comes from a pig.

Although many of my Christian brothers and sisters may find this idea odd, about five years ago I gave up pork.  Yes, there is the concern of trichinosis, but more importantly I decided to abstain from the meat as one way of showing my devotion to God.  At first, it wasn’t easy.  I never cared much for pork chops, but ham was rather tasty and bacon was absolutely amazing.  Yes, saying no to bacon was certainly one of the harder aspects.

Of course there are others who don’t eat the meat of pigs either.  For example, you have Jewish, Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, and, of course, Vegetarians, and Vegans.  In addition, I have a second cousin who used to be the chairman of the Rockingham County Republican Party who also refrains.  Over these last five years I cannot tell you how many Republican events I’ve gone to where the option for lunch is either to eat pork or to go hungry.  For example, about a month ago I ran into this situation at a gathering of the Waynesboro Republican Party.  Back in 2012, Representative Bob Goodlatte graciously provided lunch for the 6th District Virginia Republican Convention.  The only thing available was pork barbeque, therefore I could only munch on a hamburger bun and some potato chips as I did not want to break my fast.  The woman who has since become the head of the Harrisonburg Tea Party found herself in a similar situation.  As you can guess, there is absolutely no way I would agree to attend a Republican gathering if held during mealtime if I knew that there was nothing for me to eat.

When the Republican Party offers attendees pork and nothing else, whether intentional or not, they are subtly saying to Muslims, Jews, and a host of others, we don’t really care about your dietary concerns and you aren’t welcome in our political party…or at least that is how it feels to me.  Compared to the food offered at Democratic and Libertarian gatherings, Republicans are woefully close-minded.

One would figure that given the statewide failures of the Republican Party in Virginia since 2009, the party would do a better job of offering alternatives to pork both in the political sense and as a food option at their gatherings.  But, then again, as I’ve been personally dismayed to discover, perhaps reaching out to a wider variety of like-minded voters really isn’t their bailiwick.

A Huge Surprise in the 24th

This evening, Republican representatives from across the 24th Virginia Senate district gathered in Elkton to discuss the pending lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and the Incumbent Protection Act. At the beginning of the meeting, it was also restated that only one candidate, Dan Moxley, had properly filed to be a candidate at the upcoming convention.

Then, one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit got up and briefly discussed the details of the case.  He was of the opinion that the chances of getting the Incumbent Protection Act declared unconstitutional should be pretty good.  Following that, the committee moved to a closed session and all of the oberservers were asked to leave.

For quite some time, we milled about in the hallway, engaging in random conversations about politics. I appreciated the opportunity to speak with several activists from Greene County with whom I worked in 2012.

When we finally returned, the conversation took a strange turn as they began discussing preparations for the upcoming convention. This talk seemed very strange, especially given the earlier declaration.  After all, they said at the beginning that there was only one properly filed candidate and, according to the rules of the call, if there was only only candidate then the convention would be cancelled. It was at this point we learned that a fellow named Mr. Sheets had also filed to be a candidate. It was exceedingly peculiar news. Was the earlier information wrong? Did the attorneys encourage the 24th district to bend or break the rules of the convention? It was all rather confusing and disconcerting.

I have to confess that on the drive back to Harrisonburg that I felt that Mr. Moxley had been cheated a little tonight. Sure, I doubt Mr. Sheets will be able to mount a credible challenge, but why should the Moxley campaign have to put in the time and money to prepare for a convention if indeed he was the only candidate to properly pre-file according to the rules in the call? It didn’t seem fair.

Although I’m glad that they seem optimistic that the lawsuit will be successful at striking down an unfair law and I appreciated the chance to speak with many good folks that I’ve met in my political journey, I sorely wish that the 24th district GOP would have either announced there were two candidates at the beginning of the meeting or not allowed this potentially questionable newcomer to skirt the established rules.

So that’s the political intrigue from this part of the state tonight.

Will the Real Libertarians Please Stand Up?

A guest post by James Curtis.

This article appeared the October issue of Virginia Liberty, the LPVA newsletter.  It has been reposted here with permission.

One of the results of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election has been to demarcate a clear divide between libertarian Republicans and Libertarians. For this discussion, “libertarian Republicans” are defined as members or supporters of the Republican Party and/or its candidates who self-identify as “libertarian” in philosophy. (“Big L”) “Libertarians” are defined here as philosophical libertarians who are members or supporters of the Libertarian Party and/or its candidates.

While there has been talk of “litmus tests” and the measure of one’s “libertarianism,” these discussions have detracted from the real separation between the two groups. One division between the groups seems to be a tolerance, or even acceptance, of bigotry by libertarian Republicans. By any definition of the word, Ken Cuccinelli has demonstrated his belief that homosexuals do not have the same rights as heterosexuals. Examples of such can easily be found through any internet search. These are not just words on his part, either. Cuccinelli has a track record of letting his prejudice affect his performance in public office. Two glaring examples are his support for the Constitutional amendment prohibiting the Commonwealth from recognizing “same sex marriages” and his recent efforts to reinstitute anti-sodomy legislation.

Many libertarian Republicans dismiss or discount these and other efforts and comments. Some have suggested that Cuccinelli would be the “most libertarian” governor in recent Virginia history. They point to such efforts as the lawsuit filed against the federal government in regard to some aspects of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and his general touting of using Amendment X (US Constitution) as a means to thwart other federal abuses of authority. While these efforts may be laudable, they do not adequately demonstrate that Cuccinelli is “libertarian,” especially given his record on social issues. And this is not to suggest that all social conservatives are bigots. While words such as “bigot” or “racist” sometimes get used too freely, there is no denial that such sentiment exists, and has adversely affected Republican policy positions.

Many Libertarians point out that the philosophy is not just an economic model, nor one that values “states’ rights” to the point where the States may tread on civil liberties in areas where the federal government is prohibited. Libertarianism encompasses economic, personal, and even moral aspects of personal liberty that cannot be separated from the others. In these regards, bigotry is simply unacceptable. Ron Paul, the definitive libertarian Republican, dismisses allegations of racism by pointing out it is a form of collectivism that ignores individuality. While this is true, and Paul calls for more liberty with a focus on individuality, he seems to stop short of calling out the immorality of such comments and actions. The true Libertarian challenges the moral failings of bigotry, and challenges those who defend, dismiss, or downplay such sentiments to reexamine their respect for libertarian philosophy. In short, Libertarians reject bigotry, whether involved in public policy or not.

Another division between the groups was the unawareness of, dismissal of, or even hostility towards the “libertarian left” by libertarian Republicans. Many downplayed, or even attacked, Robert Sarvis’ focus on “social issues” during his campaign. Others twisted his responses to economics questions to argue that he was not libertarian at all (or not as much as Cuccinelli). Those arguments on economic issues have been well analyzed elsewhere. The suggestions that Sarvis was a “social liberal,” or that his focus on such issues somehow demonstrated he was not really libertarian, pointed out the failings of many libertarian Republicans. As alluded to above, such arguments place too much emphasis on financial matters at the expense of personal civil liberties. And as some of the vitriol showed, many libertarian Republicans do not apply the libertarian philosophy consistently, by downplaying or dismissing the importance of social issues to many voters, Libertarian or other.

Many Libertarians came to libertarianism through a focus on civil liberties. Subsets of libertarianism such as left-libertarianism or libertarian socialism exist and attract many newcomers to the libertarian movement. Groups such as “LGBT Libertarians” and “Libertarian Democrats” also help spread the libertarian philosophy with a focus on social issues. And we have to acknowledge that just as there are libertarians who choose to work within the Republican Party, there are some who choose to work within the Democratic Party, often citing similar “pragmatic” arguments for doing so. Many Virginians who voted for Sarvis were independents who were at least equally attracted to his positions on social issues as on economic issues.

The most obvious division between libertarian Republicans and Libertarians is the division over which political party to support. Good faith arguments can be made for either approach as the best tactic for promoting libertarianism to Virginians. But, as these other divides may suggest, neither “side” should expect the other to abandon its chosen path.

But I challenge libertarian Republicans to consider these points. Are you really comfortable ignoring, or even defending, the prejudices of some of your Republican colleagues? If not, you either need to work harder to drive such intolerance out of the Party, or quit supporting such an un-libertarian organization. Do you believe enough Libertarians, including the libertarian left, can be persuaded to come and work within the Republican Party to reform it? Even if some voters can be convinced a reformed Republican Party is actually a libertarian party, the Republican “brand” may have been too damaged for many Libertarians to comfortably take up its mantle, or for many independent voters to support its candidates.

For these and other reasons, the Libertarian Party is the best vehicle through which to promote libertarianism and libertarian candidates for office. While there is much divergence of thought within libertarianism (a phenomenon that is dismissed or downplayed by our political opponents or others who wish to demonize our efforts), the philosophy does not allow for the social conservatism that Republicans accommodate nor the economic redistribution that many Democrats call for. The results in this election, coupled with polling data that shows growing numbers of Americans who agree with our positions on so many issues, suggests that the time is ripe for Libertarians to abandon their efforts in other political parties, and for others to get involved in partisan politics, so that we can become a more effective political force.

James Curtis serves as the Treasurer of the LPVA and has been part of their activities since 1996.  He is a Marine Corps veteran and holds two degrees from the University of Virginia.

What is a Republican?

Lately, I’m been mulling over a question in my mind.  What is a Republican?  Having been part of the Republican Party since the age of 15, I thought I knew.

Now, we all know that there is never complete uniformity in any group, but I was under the impression that Republicans stood for a basic set of principles.  That they advocated a relatively small government, one that kept taxes low and let individuals more or less live their lives without too much government interference except if he or she sought to injure his or her neighbor.

Here, let me share with you the creed of the Republican Party of Virginia:

“We Believe:

“That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,

“That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,

“That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,

“That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,

“That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,

“That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.”

Several weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Greene County Republican Party and they opened their meeting by reciting this creed.  I must confess, I cannot recall the last time that I had been to a Republican Party gathering where the creed was read or even acknowledged.

But do all Republicans actually adhere to the principles of limited government conservatism as is found in the creed?  The answer is clearly no.  After all, it was a Republican legislature and Republican Governor McDonnell who passed the 2013 transportation tax bill, dubbed the largest tax increase in Virginia history.  And quite a few of those same Republicans helped pass what was previously known as the largest tax increase under the governorship of Democrat Mark Warner.  Why is it that whenever Republicans take control of the Virginia Senate they choose a leader who has supported these tax increases?  If the GOP was serious about limiting the size of government, don’t you think they would nominate someone other than Senator Norment?

Switching gears to the federal government, which party brought us increased federal government control in education through No Child Left Behind?  Republicans.  Expanded federal involvement in medicine through Medicare Part D?  Again it was Republicans.  What about giving us the civil liberties threatening Patriot Act, or the NSA, TSA, or NDAA?  The GOP controlled Congress and presidency.  And which president got this country embroiled in a Middle East conflict in Iraq which has had lasting repercussions to this day and could result in the formation of a horribly brutal and repressive Islamic state?  Why, it is none other than former President George W. Bush, and yes, I’m sure you know that he is a Republican.  And neither John McCain with his hyperaggressive militarism and disregard for civil rights or Mitt Romney and his RomneyCare would have been any better.

It seems to me, that in general Republicans are far more interesting in holding power than they are electing people that hold any sort of principle.  Personally, I find that sad.  And when grassroots Republicans try to stand on principle, as they did in the 6th district when they unanimously insisted that our representative, Bob Goodlatte, not vote for John Boehner as Speaker of the House, they are ignored.  Some people thought it tantamount to heresy when I suggested to the 2014 Republican Senate nominee Ed Gillespie that he ought to advocate eliminating unconstitutional federal programs in his platform.  In case you are wondering, he isn’t doing so.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party in my home of Harrisonburg is similarly a mess.  In recent times they seem to value a blind adherence to the party rather than a common set of political principles.  Believe what you want, but support the GOP, even if they nominate candidates to whom you have a moral objection.  Is it any wonder then that no Republican has been able to win the city of Harrisonburg when facing a Democratic opponent since 2010?

Although one of the most heavily Republican counties in the state of Virginia, the Augusta County Republican Party seems to be in a continual state of civil war.  Certainly there are many factors involved: the struggle for power and personality conflicts.  However, I’m wondering if what is happening in Augusta isn’t just a never-ending struggle between those who feel electing Republicans is the party’s most important task, compared to those who believe that Republicans ought to nominate people who hold to a certain set of conservative principles as found in the party creed.

This past week, the GOP had a booth at the Rockingham County Fair.  In the past, volunteering there was my absolute favorite political activity, one I looked forward to every year since I was 15.  Given that I am running for office as an independent, was booted from the GOP in the early part of this year, and that I have philosophical differences with some of the Republican nominees, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I did not volunteer for them this year.

6th district Republican Chairman Wendell Walker made an appearance and posted this picture on his Facebook page with the following comment:  10583997_10204312722326836_3587689603352275332_n“Spent time in Rockingham at the county fair, campaigning for Ed Gillespie, Bob Goodlatte, and Harrisonburg city’s next councilwoman, Dede Dalton.”

The problem?  Well, if you know the woman on the left, can read the shirt she is wearing, or can see the signs behind them, you will note her name is D.D. Dawson, not Dede Dalton.  One does have to wonder, does Chairman Walker know anything about Ms. Dawson and her political principles?  Or is the party label all that matters?  Having had several conversations with her myself, I can say there is more to Ms. Dawson than the fact that she is the Republican Party nominee.  I don’t bring this point up to disparage either Ms. Dawson or Mr. Walker, but to further illustrate the dis-functionality of the Republican Party locally, statewide, and nationally.

To tell you a little more about my own circumstances, for over a year I served on the Board of Directors for the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.  I’m glad to say that there have been victories for the moment, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.  But perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that so many liberty-minded people know what I’m saying to be true and they either can’t admit it, or they feel that there is no other alternative than trying to reform the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, that course of action often leaves us feeling ignored or maligned.  For one personal example, in late 2012 I submitted a RLC-VA petition to my local committee calling for the resignation of John Boehner.  But the group wouldn’t hear of it and it was tabled until the start of the next year and then dismissed.  They welcome our help…so long as we keep our views to ourselves.  Thus, when liberty-minded folks cast our ballots, we are often faced with the ordeal of having to “hold our noses” to vote for a Republican candidate that is diametrically opposed to our principles.

When I first met former Republican Robert Sarvis in mid 2013, he told me that the Republican Party is hostile to liberty.  I didn’t believe him at that time and I have to tell you that it was mainly because I didn’t want to believe him.  But as time pressed onward I began to realize that he was unfortunately right.  This is one reason why the Libertarian Party is seeing growth.  We aren’t leaving the Republican Party so much as we are coming to the realization that the Republican Party has already left us.

I must confess I do have the hope, some may call it a naive hope, that Republicans will stand on shared values, but as long as a sizable segment of the party cares only about power and insists on making participants sign loyalty oaths, not to principle, but rather to the party and her candidates, I know that my hope isn’t really realistic.  Although I opposed many positions held by former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA 11), I have to agree with one point he made in 2008, “Members instinctively understand that the Republican brand is in the trash can. I’ve often observed that if we were a dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”

So, how do we answer the question first posed, “What is a Republican?”  It is a question that I wrestled with when I wrote “Some Nights With the GOP” after the Republican losses in 2012.  All I can say is that I don’t know anymore;  there are great Republicans and there are terrible Republicans, but the label itself isn’t particularly meaningful.

Notes on a Local Republican Election Loss

The Roanoke City Council

VC Note: This piece has been written by Terry Franklin, a Roanoke County Republican.

Image from the Roanoke Free Press

The following is written not from the standpoint of a political campaign guru of any sort but from the viewpoint of an observer of local and district Republican campaigns. This is how to lose an election.

The Roanoke City Council elections held on May 5, 2014 should have had the potential to get the first Republican on this City Council since Ralph Smith left the Mayor’s office in 2004. The stage was set with three open City Council seats and seven Democrats/Independents vying for them. Add in our three Republican candidates (Roger Malouf, Jim Garrett, and Hank Benson) to complete a field of ten candidates, and the potential for splitting the Democrat vote to gain at least one seat should be apparent. So what went wrong? Roanoke City is a known bastion for the Democrats in Southwest Virginia so it was an uphill fight from the start. But, is the Republican ‘brand’ so tainted in Roanoke City that a Republican can’t get elected? Fairly recent history suggests otherwise given that Republican Sheriff Octavia Johnson was voted out only this past November.

The Campaign Staff – Assuming that you have good candidates, acquiring a good campaign staff with a record of winning seems like a no-brainer, or at minimum, a staff that doesn’t have a proven record of losing elections. The Roanoke City Council campaign staff included Republican City Unit Chair John Brill acting as campaign manager, Roanoke Tea Party activists Greg Aldridge and Chip Tarbutton as consultants, and Tiffany Riffe, also a consultant. There were ZERO general election wins between all of them to include the election campaigns of E.W. Jackson (twice), Tripp Godsey, and Troy Bird.

Campaign Funding – There are several aspects of the ‘Republican’ campaign funding and expenditures in this Roanoke City election worth taking a look at. Campaign funding is a crucial element to winning elections and getting funding is a major function of a campaign staff. While it does take some money to win a local election, it doesn’t mean that you have to have an overwhelming campaign treasury to win. Value for the money spent is the mantra, or votes per dollar spent.

The contributions for the three Republican Candidates in this City election through the end of March 2014 was about $7,000 each, or $21,000 combined. Two years ago, Republican candidate Mark Lucas for Mayor, who only lost by 348 votes, gathered almost $56,000 through the same reporting period ending March 2012. It is notable that this Republican ‘ticket’ could only raise 37% of the Republican monies raised in 2012, or broken down further that each Republican candidate could only raise approximately 12.5% compared to that previous campaign by Mark Lucas. It could be argued that the Mayoral race is higher profile and would garner more in contributions, but given the stakes of Republicans again being shutout of this election you would think the contributions would have been more than they were with these three candidates. Have all of the Republicans left Roanoke City in the last two years or was there an issue with the campaign that would explain the funding problem? Also interesting is that the Roanoke City Republican Committee (RCRC) contributed a total of $7,700 to the campaigns. Although most of this money has not shown up on the campaign finance reports yet, it can easily be said that the RCRC is a major funder of this election loss. What is troubling is how the to-date reported monies were spent. One third (approx. $7,000) was spent on ‘consulting’ fees. $7,000 is not an alarming figure on its own, but as a percentage of total campaign funds it brings back the question of value for the money.

The campaign finance reports can be viewed by typing in the name of the candidates here: http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/

The Campaign Plan – What the campaign plan actually was and how it was implemented is speculative to some degree by this observer, but I question the wisdom of the three candidates running as a ‘ticket’. Keep in mind that the goal was to get at least one elected, yet there was nothing discernable to identify one Republican candidate from the next. There were no individual talking points to make any of them particularly identifiable or electable. The vote tallies are indicative of a ‘one lose-all lose’ scenario with each Republicans being in the 10% range of total votes received.

Politicos always preach door knocking, phone calls, yard signs and direct mail as the foremost effective tools to winning an election. Those are acknowledged fundamentals to any effective political campaign and that brings a note of humor to this Roanoke City Council loss by Republicans. The one and only campaign mailer arrived in the mail the day AFTER the election. Is that value for the money? Maybe it was considering the content.

Yards signs were scarce to non-existent in much of Roanoke. The ones that were visible were barely, or not, readable with all three candidates names on them. If the paucity of yard signs was indicative of not identifying Republican voters, then that was clearly the case in the typically Republican South Roanoke precincts.

The Campaign Message – The campaign staff determined early to go with negative campaign ads in this local election. Negative ads are always distasteful though said to be effective. The effectiveness of negative campaigning might be true in a broader State or National political arena, but in a local election do you want to ‘throw someone out with the trash’ that you personally know, maybe do business with or interact with in some way? The mentality that would encourage negative campaigning would generally not be a neighbor, nor does it lend any credence to the reasons your candidate(s) SHOULD be elected.

Why compare Roanoke City to Detroit, Michigan with no explained basis for the ads placed? Is that comparison justified or just a figment of a campaign staffers’ imagination?

In Conclusion – Getting candidates elected is first a sales pitch and then a numbers game. The sales pitch was flawed from the start, but the numbers game is the tell-all in an election. Losing precincts that Republicans usually dominate or hold close shows that this election couldn’t have been won.

In the January 2014 special election, Republican Octavia Johnson received 30% of the votes district-wide, but got 46% in South Roanoke 1 and 55% in South Roanoke 2. The City Council candidates got 30% of the City-wide vote, but only 20% in South Roanoke 1 and 24% in South Roanoke 2.

The numbers don’t lie.