The Virginia Republican Throwback Pledge

In the last several days, a number of Virginia activists, bloggers, and the Donald Trump campaign are up in arms about a pledge the Republican Party of Virginia is insisting on voters signing.  They want all voters in Virginia’s March 1st Republican Presidential Primary to sign a document indicating that they are Republicans.  It certainly makes sense to have only Republicans choose the Republican nominee.  However, despite this worthless pledge, there is no way to tell who is a Republican because the party’s principles are ill-defined and ill-enforced.  In addition, the fact that the party is making all Virginia taxpayers pay for this primary should be reason enough to shoot down this foolish pledge.

However, this isn’t the first time that the Republican Party of Virginia has tried to compel Virginia voters to give them their loyalty.  Although many likely don’t remember, the RPV created a pledge prior to their 2012 primary.  This was was far more odious as it read, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”  Why anyone would agree to such a blanket statement without knowing who the nominee would be and what he or she stands for is baffling.

TTIn response, on December 30, 2011, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard urged his readers to boycott the Virginia primary if the RPV insisted on this pledge.  I discovered this piece after he had included a link in the article to my website.  As I wrote four years ago, “A few moments ago, I was surprised to find that well-known neo-conservative analyst and editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, wrote a piece yesterday linking to my blog, The Virginia Conservative. Even though we disagree on quite a few issues, (and I don’t think that boycotting is the best solution to the problem) I’m glad to see that we both believe that the loyalty oath in the upcoming VA GOP primary is folly.”  As a result of massive public outcry against it, the party dumped the pledge shortly thereafter and it was soon forgotten by almost everyone.

However, here we are four years later and again the Republican Party of Virginia is pushing its pledge and, just like last time, the public is rising up against it.

As Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift wrote recently, the party can either hold a convention, which is privately funded by the party in which they get to choose who participates, or they can choose an open primary that is and ought to be open to any voter that helps fund it.  As a party supposedly devoted to fiscal responsibility and liberty, they shouldn’t suckle at the public teat for funding of their private inter-workings, try and fail to restrict participation, then complain when they end up with another terrible candidate in the mold of John McCain or Mitt Romney.

You have to wonder if the leaders of the RPV remember their history at all.  Are they doomed to making the same mistake every four years, using tax dollars to fund their private party contests and then trying to restrict which of these taxpayers can participate?  Will this ugly issue resurface in 2020 (assuming the GOP loses the presidency again) or 2024?

It is profoundly frustrating the Republican Party and their State Central Committee continually demand unquestioned loyalty to their party and their elected officials especially given that neither one is held to any sort of ideological standard.  Is there any wonder why more people, like Franklin Graham, have left their party and become independents?

Well, if history is any guide, we’ll discuss this issue again four years from now as we work to shoot down another RPV pledge.  Enjoy your Throwback Thursday.

The RPV Needs…

Graphic from bvbl.net
Graphic from bvbl.net

This morning, the Washington Post announced that Shaun Kenney, the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, is stepping down from his position.  Reactions from my fellow bloggers have been mixed with some praising Mr. Kenney’s efforts, a few questioning them, and others declaring that the extreme right wing has taken over the party.  As someone who has known Shaun for a number of years, I’m of the opinion that he is a good fellow; I’ve always enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to speak with him and I certainly wish him well in his future endeavors.

But what’s going on with the Republican Party of Virginia?  According to fellow blogger Black Velvet Bruce Li, the party is in a dire financial situation.  Apparently, the net worth of the party has been in rapid decline in recent months and is now less than -$200,000.  Yes, you read that number correctly, negative two hundred thousand.  Certainly that could spell a lot of trouble for the party, no?  So what is the RPV planning to do about this issue?

Well, on Wednesday night as I arrived in downtown Staunton to meet with a fellow activist, I received a call from the Republican Party of Virginia.  The man on the other end of the phone noted that I had been a long-time supporter of the party and requested a donation of $350.  I could have simply said no, but instead I told him that although it is true that I had supported the party for many years, including working for the RPV, I had been expelled from my local party last year.  In addition, both before and after that time, I had gotten into several disagreements with my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, who I felt has not been doing a particularly good job representing either my values or the values of the RPV as stated in the creed.

The caller seemed a little disturbed, declaring that we ought to have the right to question our leaders when we think they go astray and that dialogue is an important aspect of the process.  I agreed and so he asked if I would “let bygones be bygones” and donate $250 to the party.

I responded by telling him more of my experiences, that in 2014 I ran as a candidate for local office.  Although I was arguably the most conservative or libertarian candidate and the only one who ever mentioned the RPV creed (to the best of my knowledge), I was maligned by the local GOP.  They did so because I was an independent and had the gall to run against the anointed party’s nominees.  Every elected Republican official representing Harrisonburg, including ones that I had volunteered countless hours for in previous elections, publicly opposed my candidacy, regardless of any supposed shared ideological mooring.  With those thoughts in mind, I asked him why in the world would I donate money to the Republican Party of Virgina?  At that point, he decided to terminate the phone call.

I should add that several weeks ago I appreciated the opportunity to speak with newly elected RPV chairman John Whitbeck.  Although I don’t think we reached any sort of resolution, I argued that the RPV ought to do a far better job of insisting its candidates and elected officials hold to some sort of ideological standard.  I still hope that they will.

Getting back to the original point, yes, signs seem to indicate that the RPV is in trouble financially.  But they shouldn’t ask me to help.  I’m happy to support good, individual candidates who believe as I do whether they run as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents, or something else.  However, until and unless the party and its leaders decides to actually adhere to anything approaching limited government principles, I assure you that they won’t be receiving support of any kind from me.  From my conversations with my fellow activists, more and more of us seem to be reaching this same conclusion.  Or, to put it another way, if they think we should support the Republican Party based merely upon nice sounding rhetoric and our past associations, to borrow a lyric from Judas Priest, “you’re mad.  You’ve got another thing comin'”.

The RPV needs money, yes, but far more importantly it needs principles.

Sam Rasoul is a Terrorist?

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2008 campaign photo from Sam Rasoul’s Facebook page

Earlier today, JHPolitics posted a piece supposedly linking Democratic Roanoke House of Delegates candidate Sam Rasoul to terrorism.  One of his donors, a group called Mar-Jac Investments, may have ties to the funding of radical Islam.  As the author concludes, “Virginians deserve better than representatives who may owe favors to such nefarious figures.”

In response, Shaun Kenney at Bearing Drift points out there are several issues that ought to be addressed in this matter.  One particularly pressing one is that if Mar-Jac does have a terrorist link, what does that mean for other recipients of their funds, such as Republican State Senator Dick Black, Democratic Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli?  I encourage you to read his entire post.

Normally, as this issue has been picked up by Bearing Drift, I’d likely leave it as is.  However, as some of my political associates have been running with Rasoul’s supposed ties to terrorism, I felt I had to offer my thoughts.  Even the Republican Party of Virginia is spreading it too.  Although I haven’t spent much time reading about Mr. Rasoul since he ran for House of Representatives in 2008 and almost certainly wouldn’t be supporting him in his House of Delegates race, we can’t go about grasping at straws and making wild accusations.  By all means, figure out what Mar-Jac is all about.  However, for anyone who seeks to condemn Rasoul for this donor, are you also willing to declare Republicans who have benefited tainted as well?

Can we please have a race where we focus on principles and substance?  Or am I simply asking too much?

The Sarvis 10%

IMG_2184As Virginia approaches its November 5th election, activists are pondering all sorts of questions.  Will Ken Cuccinelli launch a surprise comeback to become the state’s next governor?  Will the Democratic Party sweep the three statewide offices for the first time since 1989?  Will Mark Obenshain win the attorney general’s race, proving to be the one bright spot for the Republican Party on Election Day?  However, one question that will also have a lasting impact on Virginia politics is, will Robert Sarvis meet or exceed the 10% mark?

For some, this last question might sound a bit odd.  Isn’t who wins or loses the election the only important factor?  What difference does it make if Sarvis gets 1%, 5%, 10%, or even 15%?  Well, if Robert Sarvis captures at least 10% of the vote, that means that Virginia would now have three major recognized political parties, the Democrats, Republicans, and the Libertarians.  For the Libertarians, this switch would mean easier ballot access.  For example, although the Libertarians nominated Sarvis by convention in April (similar to how the Republican nominated Cuccinelli in May), the Libertarians were under the additional burden of being required to collect at least 10,000 signatures from registered voters to actually get Sarvis on November’s ballot.  For a smaller party, like the Libertarians, this effort meant considerable manpower and funding.  If Sarvis gets 10% or more, should the Libertarians nominate a candidate via convention for the 2014 Senate race, they would be free from this task, at least for the next several years.

With these thoughts in mind, will Sarvis make 10%?  Recent polls indicate that he could, but many activists are skeptical.  That being said, fellow blogger Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift stated today on Facebook that Sarvis will reach the 10% threshold.  Anyone else care to offer their predictions?

Who is Susan Stimpson?

Yesterday, fellow blogger Willie Deutsch posted a 2012 campaign piece in which Susan Stimpson joins Bill Howell in urging voters to support George Allen for the United States Senate in the June 12th Republican primary.  This information, along with a host of other adventures once again begs the question, who is Susan Stimpson?

Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum
Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum

I first had the opportunity to hear Susan Stimpson at last year’s Ron Paul Legacy Dinner in Staunton, Virginia.  At the time, I thought the list of speakers for the event was rather curious.  After all, I only know of two recent candidates who sought or are seeking either statewide or federal office that have openly supported Ron Paul: these are Karen Kwiatkowski (who sought the 6th district GOP nomination) and Delegate Bob Marshall (who ran for Senate in 2008 and 2012).  Although it is quite easy to support the cause of liberty when it is politically advantageous, it is quite another issue entirely to stand on principle regardless of the potentially negative consequences.  Although Stimpson was unknown to many liberty activists, there is no question that she gained considerable traction through her appearance at this dinner.

There seemed to be an increasing avalanche of support for Stimpson among the liberty community.  However, I have urged and continue to urge my fellow activists to learn about all of the candidates before blindly hopping on any bandwagon.

So who is Susan Stimpson?  I’m still not sure, but one moment that sticks out in my mind took place during the forum at Liberty in Lynchburg.  When asked if she supported random drug testing for welfare recipients, she stated that she did.  As someone who considers himself a constitutional conservative, I found this answer to be particularly troubling for two reasons conveniently voiced by Pete Snyder and Senator Steve Martin.  First, as Mr. Snyder pointed out, these drug screenings would be a considerable invasion of privacy.  Although I do not have any fondness for a permanent welfare program, I’m horrified about the prospect of granting the state more power to control its citizens.  The second concern, mentioned by Senator Martin is one of cost.  How would the state be able to afford to drug test recipients?  Wouldn’t such a move require additional state employees and equipment?  From where would these funds come?  Would the move require additional taxes or cuts in more important programs?

Yesterday’s information from Willie Deutsch brings the question of Susan Stimpson into the forefront again.  Is she the liberty candidate?  Is she the rebellious conservative outsider?  Or is she, as Shaun Kenney over at Bearing Drift suggests, an establishment conservative?  Now don’t get me wrong, if a candidate could successfully wear the mantles of both being an establishment Republican while simultaneously viewed as a liberty-minded libertarian/conservative, he or she would likely enjoy tremendous success.  But is such a designation possible or is it merely a shell game that, if discovered, would result in utter disaster, alienating both wings of the Republican Party?

Scott Lingamfelter recently damaged his chances to win over liberty activists with his negative comments about Ron Paul supporters.  But, to the best of my knowledge, he has never claimed to be the “conservative/liberty candidate”.  By comparison, if Stimpson turns out to be merely an establishment candidate who adopted the clothing of liberty for political advantage, the fallout from such a realization would almost certainly be fatal to her campaign.

As a personal note, I must say that it is an extremely liberating feeling to have not selected a candidate yet, to be able to examine all of the candidates as objectively as I can without worrying if this process offends them or causes my employer or co-workers to view me unfavorably.

So, we return to our first question.  Who is Susan Stimpson?  Is she the liberty champion that many of my fellow Ron Paul supporters are selling her to be?  Or is she something else?  Either way, it is unwise to either rush to praise her or condemn her.

Regardless of your political principles, I once again encourage all of the activists seeking to be delegates to the Richmond convention in May to get informed, stay informed, and to share any and all information that they find.  Don’t simply adopt my opinion or the opinion of someone else.  Sure, it takes time, but do the research for yourself.

Lastly, don’t mistakenly think that the main purpose of this article is to disparage Susan Stimpson, but rather to promote awareness.  After all, who knows?  Once all of the dust settles, and I have sufficient data, I may find myself firmly in her camp, assuming her principles closely match my own and her campaign does a decent job articulating her message.  Remember, it is okay to trust, but you must also verify.