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.

How An Indictment is Good For Liberty

paul1In case you haven’t heard, today Politico announced that several members of the 2012 Ron Paul Presidential Campaign have been indicted for allegedly bribing an Iowa state senator prior to the 2012 Iowa Caucus.  As I wrote in early 2014, there were some of us who heard or personally witnessed some shady dealings during Ron Paul’s most recent presidential run.

Now Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimetri Kesari are all facing charges for their supposed role.  And personally I believe this revelation is a net positive for the liberty movement.  Yes, the timing is poor, coming right before the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 season and it will likely cause a considerable headache for the Rand Paul campaign.  But, I think it is important to root this corruption out of our cause before it becomes even worse.

During my nineteen or so years in the Republican Party, from time to time I would hear about shady, immoral, and possibly illegal dealings.  And, when these revelations came to light, what do you think would happen?  Would the politician or staffer stand up for what is right?  Rarely.  Unfortunately, the typical mentality was to condemn the other side for their transgressions but turn a blind eye when it involved “one of our own”.  What gross hypocrisy!

When thinking of it objectively, either something is wrong or it is right.  How can an act be wrong when one guy does it and ignored when another acts in the same fashion?  Is bribery wrong?  Yes!  Is theft wrong?  Yes!!  Is election fraud wrong?  Yes!!!  Is sexually assault wrong?  Yes!!!!  Wouldn’t any rational person agree?  And yet I’ve either witnessed or heard about all of these things and more.  I regret to say that the typical response from the higher ups is simply to ignore or, even worse, use their political power to cover up such transgressions.  It is a system of justice for some, but not for all.  Regrettably, politics often attracts the worst people in our society.  To make matters worse, these people work in tandem to make certain their subordinates, colleagues, and bosses get away with these nefarious deeds as much and as often as possible.

Unfortunately, many of us knew that there were some powerful and corrupt elements in the 2012 Ron Paul campaign.  However, without tangible proof, the liberty-minded activists couldn’t do anything other than watch the campaign spiral inward, while the well-connected got their cut of the pot.  I’m sure many of us thought, as it is written in the book of Job, “Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful?” Job 21:7 (NLT). It was so frustrating!

But, to borrow a quote from Batman Begins, “What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?”  As advocates of liberty who hopefully strive for honesty, it is the duty of each of us to report any and all illicit activity.  How much does it harm our cause for us to stay silent at a bribe?  How terrible is it to hear of a person getting assaulted and stand mute?  What would the average person think of us and our principles if we promoted a man whose hand is deep in the till of liberty?

If Benton, Tate, and/or Kesari are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, we should not rally to their side or excuse their behavior simply because they are supposedly “one of us”.  Despite what principles they may profess to have, anyone who abandons basic human morality to achieve their goals was never really on our side.  Just remember that the cause for which we fight is greater than any of us.  Although I wish this revelation would have been dealt with much earlier, I am glad that it is finally going to be resolved.  Perhaps this terrible stain can finally be scrubbed from the liberty movement.  We ought to rejoice that justice is being done!

Endorsements Matter

Over the last several years, I have debated the importance of political endorsements with various activists.  Some people argue that endorsements don’t really matter, that they are a mere formality that are doled out without much thought or value.  I disagree.

Endorsements, in my mind, are a strong signal of support, giving a stamp of a approval to a candidate or politician, more or less telling voters and like-minded activists that if you support me you should also support this person that I am endorsing.  Do endorsements make or break campaigns?  Typically not.  But they do say as much about the candidate as they do about the person or group offering the endorsement.

Let me offer some examples.  After Senator John McCain bested Representative Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, did Paul endorse McCain in the general election?  No.  The simple reason for it was that Paul and McCain espoused radically different principles.  While Paul supported the ideas of reducing the size and scope of the federal government and a non-interventionist foreign policy, McCain did not.  The fact that they were both members of the Republican Party was irrelevant.  In fact, Ron Paul went on to endorse Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate in that election.  This scenario repeated in 2012 when Dr. Paul declined to endorse Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for the same reason.  Now, would those of us in the liberty movement have thought considerably less of Dr. Paul if he had endorsed McCain and Romney?  I would think so, because he would be sending a signal that at the end of the day party unity trumps political principles.

Although I obviously wasn’t going to support him given that I was running for the same office, I thought it was impressive that Democratic candidate Alleyn Harned received the endorsement of both Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine.  If I supported the positions of either of these senators, this news certainly would have made an impact on my decisions.

Conversely, endorsements can be negative too.  As one example, when Barbara Comstock ran for the Republican nod in the 10th congressional district, some of her listed endorsers, such as John Bolton, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor caused considerable concern.  After all, if she was promoted by the nonconservative establishment, chances are she wouldn’t be a particularly conservative legislator when she arrived in Washington D.C.  Unfortunately, her time in Congress thus far have proven these fears to be correct.

And then there is the curious issue of Senator Mark Obenshain.  Although I endorsed and strongly supported his run for attorney general in 2013 and he bills himself as a pro-liberty conservative, I was shocked and profoundly disappointed when he urged his supporters to rally behind “local conservatives” by endorsing the establishment Republican candidates for Harrisonburg City Council in the 2014 elections as opposed to actual conservatives who didn’t bear the Republican label.  Unfortunately, in a reverse situation of Paul, principles took a back seat to party loyalty.

Anyway, the reason I wrote this piece in the first place concerns the presidential candidacy of Rand Paul in 2016.  Unlike his father, the younger Dr. Paul did endorse Mitt Romney in 2012.  Two years later, he endorsed Mitch McConnell over his conservative challenger.  Now, that’s not to say that Rand Paul hasn’t endorsed good, principled candidates as well, but, along with other matters, such as his support of Senator Cotton’s letter to Iran, it certainly should give liberty-minded activists cause for considerable concern.

Endorsements are not like Halloween candy to be given out freely to every person who shows up at your doorstep, but rather a carefully crafted decision to be rationed out only to those who you believe closely mirror your own values.  That is why I have publicly endorsed only one candidate, Nick Freitas, in the 2015 election cycle so far.

Although endorsements certainly aren’t the end all be all, and, given enough time everyone is prone to make an error from time to time, they are important as a helpful guide for both the endorser and endorsee to show who might be worth a closer look, who will be a constant advocate for liberty, or who might be selling out his or her principles for political gain.

The bottom line is that endorsements matter.

The Ron Problem? Part II

59509981
Original image from bluegrasspolitics.com

VC note: Back in late 2014, I wrote a piece called “The Ron Problem?” for Ron Paul’s website, Voices of Liberty.com, regarding the situation between Ron and Rand Paul.  As is the case with the other items I have written for that site, I have agreed not to post them anywhere else.  However, that website decided to take down this article several months ago and, as I’d rather not see this piece simply disappear from the internet, I’ve decided to share it with you here.

As the 2016 presidential race begins to come into focus, Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky and the son of former Representative Ron Paul, is a likely favorite among self-identified liberty activists. However, there are a number of lingering concerns given that Senator Paul has adopted some positions, especially concerning foreign policy, that stand in stark contrast to his father’s.

Back in 2007, I met a fellow named Don Rasmussen while I was in South Carolina as we were both working for the 2008 Ron Paul Presidential Campaign. Along with several other staffers, including the state director, we crafted the campaign strategy for South Carolina as a team. Since the campaign, I have had very few, if any, interactions with Mr. Rasmussen. Nevertheless, I was shocked when, earlier today, I read a piece by the very same Don Rasmussen on The Daily Caller entitled, “The Ron Problem: Rand Paul Must Publicly Denounce His Father to Win the GOP Nomination”.

Although you can read the article for yourself, the author makes a number of disturbing statements. First, he draws a comparison between Ron Paul and the Ron Paul Revolution to Jean-Marie Le Pen and France’s Front National. This idea is particular worrisome; while Paul advocates liberty and reducing the size and scope of government, Le Pen and his followers are exceedingly nationalistic and prefer xenophobia and economic protectionism. In addition, in a recent poll, 91% of French people stated they have a negative opinion of Mr. Le Pen. I have not seen such an American poll taken about the elder Dr. Paul but cannot believe such a large percentage of the population would have that low of an opinion of him.

I must profess that I do not follow French politics closely, but Rasmussen goes on to write that when Marine Le Pen took control of France’s Front National party from her father, she “set about purging the party of its worst elements – holocaust deniers, racists and cranks. Unfortunately for family dinners in the Le Pen home, her father and political mentor, Jean-Marie, was one of them.”  In order to secure the Republican nomination in 2016, as the title of his piece tells us, Don Rasmussen suggests that “when it comes to his father, Rand Paul should look to France” and thus publicly denounce Dr. Paul.  Certainly many of Dr. Paul’s supporters would find such advice loathsome.

I won’t say that there were elements of the Paul campaign that I thought were worrisome during my time in his employ.  Yes, you had the 9/11 truthers whom the Ron Paul 2012 campaign worked hard to purge from the movement.  In fact, the 2012 employment questionnaire specifically asked each potential staffer what he or she thought on the matter.  And there were racists and even a small contingent that believed Ron Paul could very well be a plant from the government.  At a parade in what I think was Aiken, SC, one of them offered to me to “take Ron Paul out” should he turn on the movement.  However, although vocal, let me assure you through my own experience that these radical groups were such a small part of the overall effort.  And under no circumstances should a candidate be condemned or held responsible for everything that his or her supporters say or do.

I understand that the lure of higher political office is extremely powerful and that many pundits and consultants suggest an “ends justify the means” approach to achieve your goals.  In addition, no one is without flaws and if, for some reason, Dr. Ron Paul takes a radical turn, standing apart from him is not a bad idea.  But as far as I can tell, that has not happened.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have had my prickling doubts about the younger Paul given some of his surprising position statements.  Nevertheless, if Rand Paul throws Ron Paul under the bus and denounces him simply for political expediency and to win the 2016 GOP nod, as my fellow Ron Paul staffer Don Rasmussen advises, I’m hopeful that the majority of the liberty movement will look elsewhere for our champion.

ISFLC 2015

On February 13th, 14th, and 15th, Students for Liberty held their annual International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C.  Some of the featured speakers this year included: Former Representative Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and, via satellite, Edward Snowden.

This year’s ISFLC marked my third, having previously attended in 2013 and 2014.  Unfortunately, as was the case last year, no students from James Madison University made the journey.  Nevertheless, Nicholas Farrar, the former president of Madison Liberty did make the conference.

I intended to attend only on Saturday, but on Friday morning I received a call.  Apparently a group of students traveling to the conference from Nashville, TN, broke down in Mt. Jackson, VA, about thirty miles north of my home.  As luck would have it, they ran into a Methodist minister (who also happened to be my last roommate from college) who contacted me.  I was unable to find anyone who could transport the students the rest of the way to the conference and therefore prepared to do so myself.  However, right before leaving Harrisonburg, I received word that a bus coming from Texas would pick up the stranded students and thus that particular crisis was averted.

Early Saturday morning, I left for ISFLC along with a new friend and local Democratic activist.  The drive north was uneventful, though I was disappointed to discover that the conference was not in the same location as it had been the previous two years.  After parking, we made our way from the garage through a dimly lit maze of hotel corridors until we found the check-in counter.  While waiting for the annual taping of the Stossel Show, we explored the various informational tables.  A handful of groups, like YAL, the Koch Institute, and the Libertarian Party had booths in very visible locations while the majority were clustered on a lower floor.  During this time, we ran into the 2014 West Virginia Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate John Buckley.

Marc Allen Feldman
Marc Allen Feldman

One of the first fellows who reached out to me was Marc Allen Feldman, an individual who is seeking the 2016 Libertarian nomination for president.  Although neither the Republican or Democratic Parties has ever had a booth at ISFLC, The Republican Liberty Caucus did, staffed by former RLC national chairman Dave Nalle.

As we sought out lunch, we ran into Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4).  He was speaking to a gathering of students on a variety of topics.  IMG_2805

Over a hundred people stood in line for well over a half an hour as we awaited entrance to attend the Stossel Show.

IMG_2815Although not boasting a list of controversial speakers as they had in previous years, the program did include Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) and a variety of folks who spoke about the abridgement of students’ rights on college campuses, not only in this country, but internationally as well.

Afterward, Representatives Amash, and Massie as well as Young Americans for Liberty leader Jeff Frazee, spoke to a rather sizable gathering of students. IMG_2824

As I mentioned to him before the conference, I would have liked to speak to Representative Amash in person too, but the opportunity never presented itself.  Nevertheless, I was able to snap a photo of him as he hurried from one meeting to the next.  IMG_2827

Given the threat of snow, we decided to leave the conference around 5 PM.  I found that unlike previous conferences, parking was exceedingly expensive, $33 for about seven hours.

The drive back started out relatively uneventfully, though a light snow began to fall as we took I-66 through Manassas.  By the time we reached Front Royal, the snow reduced visibility to several feet and so I pulled off the road, hoping that the weather would subside, worried that I’d have to spend the night in my car.  After a short pause, the snow became lighter and so we continued on.  Shortly after turning on to I-81, we were forced off the highway and told the interstate was closed due to several tractor trailer wrecks.  Switching to US-11, the journey slowly advanced south for several miles until we could return to the interstate.  Although the roads were not in the best condition, we were able to return to Harrisonburg without incident.  A drive that normally takes about two hours instead took four.

All in all, it was another enjoyable conference, though it is my sincere hope that many JMU students will be able to experience it for themselves in 2016.

Brat Doesn’t Sell Out

Photo from Rep. Dave Brat's Facebook page
Photo from Rep. Dave Brat’s Facebook page

Today, fellow Shenandoah Valley political blogger Lynn Mitchell wrote a piece lamenting the fact that John Boehner donated $10,000 to Representative Dave Brat’s campaign last year only have to Brat vote against Boehner for Speaker of the House yesterday.

As Ms. Mitchell puts it, Brat “was happy to pocket the Speaker’s $10,000 donation to his campaign and then proceed to kick him in the teeth, so to speak, by not voting for him in Tuesday’s election for Speaker of the U.S. House.”

Personally, I think this is excellent news.  Just because John Boehner made a sizable donation to Dave Brat, that shouldn’t mean that Boehner now owns Brat’s vote.  Doesn’t a legislator owe far more loyalty to the people he is supposed to be representing in Congress than his party leadership?  I certainly hope so.

As a result, some establishment Republicans are suggesting that Brat return Boehner’s donation, but I recommend against this course of action.  Instead, it should serve as a useful reminder to people like Speaker Boehner that mere money shouldn’t buy unquestioned loyalty.

This incident reminds me of a donation Ron Paul received from a white supremacist during his 2008 president run.  Although some people insisted Paul return the money, instead he kept it.  As his spokesman said, “Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights.  If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he’s wasted his money.”

Kudos to Representative Brat for his stance!

Football & Politics

Image from waitingfornextyear.com

Today, like many other Sundays in the autumn, many of us gather together to cheer on our favorite football teams.  For me, that means the New York Giants, who have had a rather dismal season thus far and have already been eliminated from any hopes of a playoff spot.  When you look at it objectively, my life doesn’t really improve if my team wins or diminish if it loses.  The Giants blue and red has no greater value in the great scheme of things than the Redskins burgundy and gold or the Cowboys navy and silver.  Although fun, most of us realize that it is merely a game, a diversion to entertain us every fall and winter.  No team really subscribes to any kind of philosophy or ethic…the only goal is to win.

Are political parties any different?  Are they merely a collection of politicians and activists looking to get “their people” elected and to ensure that “their people” acquire power?  A number of my Republican friends are cheering Saturday’s defeat of Mary Landreau in the run-off race in Louisiana. But how many of us were a part of that campaign?  How many of us can even vote in Louisiana?  I wasn’t involved in either capacity.  Though, on the other hand, I suppose I did have a bit of a hand in the process, working for a pro-life group who supported Bill Cassidy.  Nevertheless, from my research it seemed that from an ideological perspective, Rob Maness would have been a far better choice than Cassidy.

So, next year the Republican Party will increase its majority in the House of Representatives and gain the Senate as a result of the 2014 midterm elections.  The important question to ask is, what does this mean for conservatives and libertarians?  Will Congress now take a firm stand against the unconstitutional overreaches of the president?  Will they work to actually cut the size and scope of the federal government?  Will they try to cut the exploding federal deficit?  And if they engage in the above activities will it be because they actually believe that it is the right thing to do or merely to oppose a Democratic president?  After all, so many of the Republicans in office now were active conspirators in the effort to expand federal power under the presidency of George W. Bush.  The first test will be whether Republicans continue to give the reins of power to people with little ideological principle like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

I’m very hopeful that at least a few, solid individuals were elected in the Republican wave of 2014.  After all, the GOP needs a heck of a lot more people like Ron Paul and Justin Amash while at the same time rejecting the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams.

I do caution those of us who love liberty that while November 4th was a victory for the Republican Party, it wasn’t necessarily a victory for us.  In the next two years, will the government allow us to keep more of our own money in our pockets?  Will it work to restore our civil liberties here and abroad?  Will it curtail needlessly entangling itself in civil wars and the internal affairs of foreign nations?  Will it actually obey the limits placed upon it by the Constitution and insist the president do likewise?  If the answer to all of these questions is no, then the only thing that happened last month was that the red Republican team defeated the blue Democratic team and the most recent election was as meaningless and hollow as the Giants trouncing of the Tennessee Titans today.

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 Ron Problem?

As some of you know, I have been invited to write for Voices of Liberty, Dr. Ron Paul’s newest venture.

Recently, I read a surprising article from one of my former fellow Ron Paul staffers who suggested that Rand Paul ought to denounce his father as he prepares for his 2016 presidential bid.  You can read my thoughts on that matter here.

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.