On Wednesday, May 4th, Andy Schmookler and I appeared on 550 AM, WSVA, for our monthly radio hour. As the program took place the day after the Indiana primary and the withdrawal of Ted Cruz from the Republican nomination process, and the ongoing contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, it took center stage in our conversation. In addition, I briefly discussed the Virginia Republican Convention which took place in Harrisonburg several days ago.
VC Note: On April 2nd, the Daily News Record (my local paper) published an opinion piece from Mr. Allen Clague III entitled “Be Careful in Voting Libertarian”. In the article, Mr. Clague attempts to dissuade citizens from voting for Libertarian candidates by using some flimsy or just plain wrong reasons, such as the party and her candidates are secretly well funded by billionaires and their shadow groups. After reading it, I felt it required a response. Here is what I wrote which appeared in the April 16th edition of the paper. The paper created the title for this piece.
After reading Mr. Allen Clague III’s open forum piece from April 2nd called “Be Careful in Voting Libertarian”, I thought it needed both some factual clarifications and a rebuttal.
First, I do not know of many people who would call Ted Cruz “a libertarian cloaked as a Republican.” For example, his desire to see “if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out” presumably due to the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, coupled with his support for religious profiling of Muslims in America and his calls for the government to force Apple to unlock their iPhone are all decidedly unlibertarian positions. And these are just a few examples.
Furthermore, as Republican Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) wrote in his endorsement of Ted Cruz, “Ted is not a libertarian and doesn’t claim to be.” Therefore, I believe it is an error to associate Ted Cruz as a standard-bearer or even a foot soldier in the libertarian movement.
Second, I’ve never heard of a group called Citizens for Prosperity. There was a group called Citizens for a Sound Economy, but it split in 2004 to create Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. Although some people claim that Americans for Prosperity is a front for the Libertarian Party, in my experiences I have never seen them promote a single Libertarian candidate or official but have witnessed them helping Republican candidates and officeholders.
Now, to be fair to Mr. Clague, perhaps he didn’t write the headline associated with his piece. After all, I have found that when I write for the Daily News Record my titles often change. However, I agree that one should always be careful in voting, regardless of which candidate or political party you choose to support. Unfortunately some voters don’t take the time to learn about their choices, instead blindly assuming that a party’s candidate follows a certain set of principles, which often is untrue.
Sure, there are some people who like to throw out the names of political bogeymen. If you are on the left, the Koch brothers are evil masterminds bent on world control or if you are on the right, it is George Soros pulling the puppet strings of others. Although it makes for an interesting story, each side assumes that these men wield an unbelievable amount of power and control over our political process. It is easy to say that we have no say in what happens. However, if you don’t like the way your city or county government is run then it is up to each of us to make a change. Do you think your state or federal government representatives are corrupt? Then mount a challenge to vote them out of office. It’s really that simple. If that means voting for a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent candidate, have at it. Don’t toe a party line again and again simply because you’ve always voted that way.
What is Libertarianism if it isn’t a scheme to make the Koch brothers and their allies rich? Well, unlike some other political philosophies, my understanding is that libertarianism advocates a very limited government, one that protects life, liberty, and property, while doing little else. I do not believe that one should use the power of the government to take from our neighbors to enrich either our friends or ourselves.
Friends, don’t be scared away from voting for the best person in each election regardless of political affiliation. Despite what some people may say, sometimes voting for Libertarians is the best option. It certainly beats the lesser of two evils! And, if you think that some secretive, well-funded group controls the Libertarian Party, I have some disappointing news for you. After all, if they were, don’t you think we would have seen some extremely well funded Libertarian campaigns by now? I’ve been involved in politics since I was a student at Harrisonburg High School in the mid to late 90s. As soon as I get my first check from the Koch brothers the readers of the DNR will be the first to know!
Well, the Iowa Caucuses have come and gone and with it the battle for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations for president are in full swing.
First, let’s focus on the more crowded field, the GOP. Here are the results of candidates who picked up at least one delegate:
Candidate Votes Percentage Delegates
Ted Cruz 51,666 28% 8
Donald Trump 45,427 24% 7
Marco Rubio 43,165 23% 7
Ben Carson 17,395 9% 3
Rand Paul 8,481 4% 1
Jeb Bush 5,238 3% 1
Going into the final days, it looked as if Iowa would be a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump and that’s exactly what happened. Although Ted Cruz captured the most votes and delegates and thus is deemed the current front-runner, only one delegate separates the three candidates. Therefore, one could make the argument that all three of these candidates had a good night. Ben Carson, the once rising star with amazing amounts of cash was outclassed. Rand Paul’s campaign, who boasted of having a thousand precinct captains and having made a million phone calls finished with very disappointing numbers. Jeb, once the establishment favorite, has seemed to have lost a lot of steam. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the 2012 and 2008 winners of Iowa, were little more than a blip on the radar. And both you and I were only thirteen votes away from beating former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and we weren’t even candidates and the ballot! As a result of Iowa, Mike Huckabee has ended his campaign.
Before the results were announced, I posted this message on Facebook. “However Iowa turns out tomorrow, I encourage you not to read too much into it. After all the GOP winner in 2012 was Rick Santorum and the 2008 winner was Mike Huckabee. As John Sununu said, ‘The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents’.” In recent elections Iowa has typically gone for the Republican candidate with the best ground game who also most appeals to social conservatives. Therefore Cruz’s victory shouldn’t be all that surprising. Trump was likely buoyed by the endorsement of the head of Liberty University, but reports indicate that he didn’t have much of a presence in Iowa in terms of staff, phone calling, door knocking, and other traditional campaign apparatus. And Rubio is starting to solidify the Republican establishment base behind him after besting Bush and Kasich.
Interestingly, according to CNN, when it comes to education, Trump won a plurality of the least well educated, while Cruz did best with those with some college, and Rubio won with college graduates and postgraduates. The Paul results were terribly disappointing for many liberty folks. After all, in 2008 Ron Paul received 11841 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 9.93% and in 2012 Ron Paul received 26035 votes in the Iowa Caucus or 21.43%. Although there were more candidates in 2016 than either 2008 or 2012, the Rand Paul campaign gambled heavily in Iowa and fared poorly.
Switching over to the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck with Martin O’Malley being little more than an afterthought.
Candidate Percentage Delegates
Hillary Clinton 50 26
Bernie Sanders 50 21
Martin O’Malley 0 0
Both Clinton and Sanders finished with about 50% of the vote. However, Clinton received 26 delegates and Sanders got 21 due to a series of six coin flips as a result of ties at several polling places, all of which Clinton won. As a result of Iowa, O’Malley has ended his campaign.
Again, according to CNN, Sanders was very popular among the younger voters and the poorer voters, while Clinton shined with the older and richer crowds. Curiously while Clinton won the married vote, Sanders picked up the singles, divorced, and widowed. While Cruz and Clinton fared the best among people who had previously attended a caucus, Sanders and Trump did the best with first time voters.
Although Iowa is an early and important contest, it primarily serves to winnow the field as it has done eliminating Huckabee and O’Malley. It’s far too early to declare either Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton the nominee of their respective parties. It should be interesting to see what New Hampshire brings next.
This weekend, the Rockingham County Fairgrounds played host to a gun show, an event that takes place there several times a year. It is one of the larger gun shows, or perhaps even the largest gun show in the region. At this event, the Massanutten Patriots (formerly known as the Harrisonburg Tea Party) held a straw poll for the 2016 Presidential election. The methodology was quite simple. As attendees would walk by their table, they would be asked which of the candidates (of any party) they would support assuming the election were held today. Rather than given a laundry list of choices, respondents were expected to offer their own. Although some were undecided, that option was excluded from the outcome of this poll.
Unlike other straw polls, this one doesn’t gauge political activists but rather average Americans who have at least somewhat of an affinity for firearms. Like other straw polls, this one wasn’t scientific either.
Anyway, here are the results:
Donald Trump: 43%
Ben Carson: 18%
Ted Cruz: 15%
Marco Rubio: 8%
Hillary Clinton: 3%
Jeb Bush: 2%
Carly Fiorina: 2%
Mike Huckabee: 2%
Bobby Jindal: 2%
John Kaisch: 2%
Chris Christie: 1%
Bernie Sanders: 1%
Total votes: 93
Given that gun owners are typically far more conservative than liberal and more Republican than Democrat, it wasn’t shocking that a majority chose Republicans. Then again, there are Democratic gun owners too, so there was bound to be a couple of responses for the Dems. However, I have to say that I found the results at least somewhat surprising. Yes, Donald Trump is leading in national polls, but I assumed his numbers wouldn’t be nearly this high. When I asked some of the respondents why they supported Trump, a common answer was that they liked that he spoke his mind and wasn’t beholden to any particular special interest.
Another unexpected result was Rand Paul. If you scan the tally, you will notice that Paul and a few of the other declared candidates aren’t listed. That is because not a single person named him as their choice. Although Paul is a favorite among Republican liberty activists, winning the Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll in New Hampshire, he seems to be either unknown or not favored among the gun-owning citizens of the greater Shenandoah Valley. As was pretty much the case for his father’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, so far the Rand Paul campaign has had no official presence in this part of Virginia. Then again, none of the candidates have had official representation here with the notable exception of the Carson campaign. One of his staffers was collecting signatures to get Dr. Carson on the ballot outside the gun show and attended the last First Friday meeting of the local GOP.
Although Donald Trump and some of his supporters think that the media is treating him unfairly, and I guess that it is possible that they are, the fact that he is still the most mentioned candidate does much to keep him in the public mind. As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Assuming there is at least some measure of favorable or at least neutral press coverage, that maxim holds true in politics.
So, it seems that Trump has actual real supporters among gun owners and is not simply astroturfing. The question is though, will he continue to maintain his lead until the voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire?
Since the story about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses, broke, coupled with her jailing for contempt of court, some of my fellow Christians have rushed to her defense citing religious persecution.
For example, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, two Republican presidential hopefuls, flew to Kentucky to be alongside her at her release from jail. Mike Huckabee raised her hand in triumph as the song “Eye of the Tiger” played in the background. The former pastor and governor even went so far as to make the claim (which I believe is shocking) that God “showed up in the form of an elected Democrat named Kim Davis”.
I have to say that I would have liked to discuss this topic in depth on Andy Schmookler and my monthly radio hour last week, but unfortunately other issues took priority. She reminds me of the Samaritian woman that Jesus met at the well and I brought my Bible into the studio in case I needed it for reference. Although we weren’t able to tackle this topic on the air, I’d like to share the thoughts of a couple of folks.
The first is by Russell Williams, a self-identified pastor. Since posting it on Facebook, it has been shared over 125,000 times. Perhaps you’ve already read it:
Since I am a pastor of a southern Baptist church please allow me to weigh in on the case of Kim Davis, the lady in Kentucky who refuses to issue a marriage licenses to a same sex couple.
First: This is not a case of the government forcing anyone to violate their religious belief. She is free to quit her job. If she quits her job to honor God surely God would take care of her.
Second: This is not a case of someone trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage. If she wanted to uphold the sanctity of marriage she should not have been married four different times. If she is worried about her name being affixed to a marriage license that goes against a biblical definition of marriage, she should not have her name on the last three marriage licenses given to her.
Third: This seems to be a case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the south will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus.
This is why we are losing.
This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals.
Not because we disagree but because we don’t take the bible seriously. If ever there was a case of “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, this is it. If ever there was a “take the log out of your eye” moment, this is it.
We must stop looking to the government to make America a Christian utopia. Our kingdom is not of this world.
We must abandon all thoughts of fixing others and let Jesus fix us.
If we want sanctity of marriage then stop cheating, stop having affairs, stop looking at porn, stop getting divorces. That is the way for the church to stand up for the biblical definition of marriage, not by someone martyring their self-righteous self.
The second arrived in my email inbox today. It comes from former New Mexico Governor and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson:
There are 3,143 counties in the United States.
In each of those counties, a public official is responsible for issuing marriage licenses to those who are legally entitled to them.
As far as I am aware, none of those officials is empowered to deny a marriage license to a couple simply because he or she doesn’t approve of the marriage.
But then there is Kim Davis, the elected Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky. Claiming religious objections, Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She even went to jail for a few days rather than carry out her statutory duty. Suddenly, Ms. Davis is a national celebrity, a martyr, a hero, a criminal or whatever — depending on one’s point of view.
We even watched as presidential candidates literally raced to Kentucky to be the first to join Ms. Davis for a photo op outside the jail when she was released.
It was quite a spectacle, and it isn’t over yet.
Religious freedom is important. It is one of the liberties Our America seeks to protect — and even strengthen. That isn’t the issue, despite what too many politicians would have us believe. Ms. Davis has every right to believe whatever it is she believes. But when she is sitting at her taxpayer-funded desk in her taxpayer-funded office in a taxpayer-funded courthouse — collecting her taxpayer-funded salary, she does not have the luxury of imposing her beliefs on those she is elected and paid to serve — especially when doing so means denying marriage rights that have been confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
It isn’t complicated, and her “disobedience” frankly isn’t worth the attention it has received. All over the nation, every day, public officials carry out responsibilities with which they may not be entirely comfortable. How many gun permits are issued by officials who are anti-gun? How many liquor licenses are handed out by teetotalers? Hundreds, if not thousands, of officials and public employees deal with such “conflicts” every day – – because we live in a nation that is founded on the idea that religious or personal beliefs, while preciously protected, cannot be imposed on the legally-protected freedoms of others. The alternative is tyranny.
Even in the case of marriage equality, while Ms. Davis is having her 15 minutes of fame, state and local officials across the nation are quietly and respectfully adjusting to a new, if long overdue, reality, including taking steps to make it easier for public employees to reconcile their duties with strongly-held beliefs. If Ms. Davis can’t handle the conflict, then she can find another job. No one’s stopping her, and no one is stopping her beliefs.
It’s that simple.
No, this single County Clerk isn’t the issue. The REAL issue is that politicians, including some who want to be President, are using her behavior to promote an anti-liberty social agenda based on the notion that it is OK for government to impose beliefs at the expense of freedom.
This entire episode has reminded me why we created the Our America Initiative in the first place: To fight back against those who use the force of government to erode liberty — through unnecessary laws, overreaching policies and out-of-control spending and taxes.
The millions of Americans who believe government should exist to protect liberty, not destroy it, deserve a voice…
I don’t believe anyone, including elected officials, should ever be forced to violate his or her conscious or religious beliefs. Although it was certainly unfortunate, several years ago I wasn’t able to take a political job. The reason why was that as part of my employment I would have been required to sign a document about my own faith that I did not agree with. Thus, I was unwilling to sign. If Ms. Davis is unable to give out marriage licenses due to her beliefs, then I do not fault her for it. However, she ought to either delegate the task to one of her subordinates or, if that is not possible, resign her position. In much the same way, when this issue came up earlier in Virginia on the other side of the coin, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring ought to have resigned his office rather that actively opposing the Virginia Constitution that he swore to uphold.
When you couple all of these thoughts with the fact that Ms. Davis has been married multiple times and has conceived children with a man (who wasn’t her husband at the time), one is hard-pressed to make the moral claim that she either knows or cares much about the traditional Christian definition of marriage. Despite what Mike Huckabee might tell you, I agree with Russell Williams and Gary Johnson. Kim Davis is neither a hero nor is she is a martyr for the faith.
When Donald Trump refused to agree to support the eventual Republican Party nominee for president during the first debate, that move upset the Republican Party establishment. After all, many worried that, given Trump’s current popularity in the polls, he could end up bolting the party and siphoning away enough voters to lead to a Democratic victory in 2016.
As such, many state parties, including Virginia, considered making each candidate sign such a pledge in order to be included as a choice on their primary ballot. With the deadline to appear on the “first in the south” South Carolina primary approaching, after some tough decisions, or perhaps merely theatrics, Donald Trump ended up signing the pledge.
If case you haven’t read it, here is the text of the pledge:
I (candidate’s name), affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for President of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.
I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.
Think about this pledge for a moment if you will. It doesn’t pledge any of the Republican candidates to a certain set of principles. It doesn’t even pledge the candidates to uphold the Republican Party platform. Instead, it encourages unquestioning allegiance to the GOP and whomever ends up being their standard bearer.
The current field of Republican candidates appeal to different and diverse groups of voters, ones that increasingly don’t have much in common. Are you telling me neoconservatives, like Lindsey Graham, will support a libertarian nominee? Will constitutional conservatives, like Rand Paul, support a neoconservative nominee? Will social conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, support a pro-choice candidate like George Pataki? Will a candidate who has railed against the establishment, like Ted Cruz, end up supporting the establishment choice Jeb Bush? Does it matter to any of them if their ideological opposition is elected?
Along those same lines, does it matter to you if the Republican nominee is a liberal… or a conservative… or a libertarian…or perhaps an authoritarian? Is it important if he or she will work to shrink the size of the federal government…or expand it? Or are you happy so long as a Republican is elected over a Democrat regardless of his or her positions?
When it comes down to it, do principles guide Republican politicians? Or, like the Mafia, does blind and unquestioning support for the party and their candidates hold the greatest value? As long as people like Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have a willing accomplice in the presidency, is that all that truly matters to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party?
Will the Republican Party win the presidency in 2016 or will it fall for the third election in a row? Although voters gave the party control of both Houses of Congress, given the GOP’s repeated failures to accomplish anything of substance, the 2014 election is a decision that more and more citizens are coming to regret. According to Quinnipac, support for the Republicans in Congress has reached a six year low, with a 12% favorability rating and 81% disapproval.
Given this foolish pledge that the Republican Party has forced upon all of its potential nominees, one has to wonder if the party cares about anything other than gaining power for itself? And, if principles don’t really matter, why would the American people send a Republican to the White House ever again other than as a protest to express disapproval of the Democratic Party?
There isn’t much neutral ground when it comes to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Some conservatives have expressed a very strong support for the billionaire while others have denounced him. His brash style and frank opinions have propelled him to front-runner status for the Republican nomination even while a large segment of Republicans have declared that they have no plans to support him.
So what makes Donald Trump so attractive? Well, part of it has to due with the fact that much of the Republican base feels betrayed by the party leadership. Election after election Republican politicians say that they can advance conservative legislation the grassroots wants…if only they are given control of the government. Regrettably, but perhaps not surprisingly, once the party assumed control, the leaders broke every (or almost every) single promise to roll back the size and scope of the federal government. Is there any wonder why the grassroots is pissed off? Is there any wonder why a third to a fourth of self-identified Republican voters say they are willing to break from the GOP if they had another alternative?
And so, with the backdrop of this volatile situation, Donald Trump has found a perfect storm. Whether you agree with him or not, Mr. Trump has certainly made some bold statements. I can certainly appreciate standing up for what you believe in. Although some Republicans were horrified when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently gave a speech on the Senate floor denouncing Senator McConnell (R-KY) as a liar, the simple truth is that Senator McConnell has deceived and continues to deceive many people and is usually not held accountable.
Unfortunately, for all of his boldness, a lot of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric appeals to some of the worst elements of our society. For example, as you most likely already know, in his announcement speech he declared that the immigrants coming from our southern border are rapists and bringing drugs while “a few…[he assumes]…are good people”. Although I believe it is important to know who is coming over the border and we ought to do our best to prevent criminal elements from entering, the idea of painting most or all immigrants from the south as undesirables expelled by the Mexican government, as Mr. Trump has done, is, quite frankly, reprehensible. To offer another scenario, Donald Trump has expressed the opinion that he was treated unfairly in the first debate by Megyn Kelly. Perhaps he was; that is a fair point to consider. However, Mr. Trump said, “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever…”. Again, to suggest that Ms. Kelly acted the way she did due to being on her period is extremely degrading to women and demonstrates that he isn’t presidential material. And yet again some of his fans have cheered at these comments.
Donald Trump is a showman, as demonstrated from programs like The Apprentice and his guest spots on WWE. He has switched political parties repeatedly and has held contradictory political positions on a whole host of issues. Is he a conservative? Is he a liberal? Yes, it is possible that he is sincere both then and now…or it is equally possible that his behavior is merely a political stunt to garner as much attention as possible.
Obviously, the race is still in its early stages and a lot can happen in the next several months. However, other than fanning the flames of anger combined with narcissism, racism, and sexism, so far I haven’t discovered any reason why a conservative or a libertarian should support Mr. Trump…unless, of course, you believe our country would be great if it wasn’t for those darn (insert various slurs here).
Yes, voters have every right to be upset with the Republican leadership in Washington; after all, the actions of many elected Republicans are virtually indistinguishable from their Democratic counterparts. But, from what you’ve heard at this point, do you honestly believe that electing Donald Trump will improve this problem? I don’t.
Do you believe that the greatness of our country was founded upon the principles of a limited and constitutional government, personal responsibility, and the free market? Do you sometimes think that the Republican Party and the nation as a whole have lost their way? And does your adherence to these principles of liberty ever make you feel like a political outcast? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions and live in or around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I have some good news for you!
On September 16th, the Republican Liberty Caucus of the Shenandoah Valley will be holding a meeting in Staunton.
Although some of you may not know of the Republican Liberty Caucus, you are, no doubt, familiar with some of the leaders that they have endorsed. Here is a short list: 2012 Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas. I think you will agree that each of these individuals are some of the best leaders that this nation has to offer, statesmen who promote the values of limited government conservatism and liberty.
As mention earlier, starting at 4 PM on September 16th, the Republican Liberty Caucus of the Shenandoah Valley will be gathering. It will take place at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant in Staunton, Virginia, just off of the 222 exit on Interstate 81. Although the guest list is still tentative, it is confirmed that Robert Kenyon, the chairman of the Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus, will be there.
So, no matter where you happen to live in the Shenandoah Valley, or even if you reside just outside the area, I hope that you can join us in September as we seek to build a coalition of like-minded activists. Please RSVP on the Facebook page so that we reserve enough space for all.
Working together, we can reclaim our party, restrain our government, and restore our nation.