The Unveiling

Last night, as snow began to fall in Harrisonburg, the Valley Family Forum held their annual Unveiling ceremony.  Although designed to showcase upcoming legislative measures by local members of the General Assembly, curiously a vast majority did not attend.

Matt Homer, staffer for Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), began by leading with an invocation and the pledge of allegiance.  From there, Dean Welty, Director of the Valley Family Forum, offered welcoming remarks and introduced the first two speakers, Travis Witt, the Chairman of the Tea Party Federation of Virginia and Chris Freund, the Vice President of the Family Foundation of Virginia.  Mr. Freund spoke on the social issues facing the Commonwealth while Mr. Witt mentioned the tea party’s role in Virginia politics.

Delegate Mark Berg
Delegate Mark Berg

Next, Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) talked about issues like Medicaid expansion that seek to enhance the power of government in the lives of ordinary citizens.  Then, Rita Dunaway, the Deputy Director of the Valley Family Forum, brought up the issue of an Article V Convention as a means of curtailing the expansion of the federal government.  Conservatives have been split on this issue.  Although some favor a convention, others believe it will merely end up expanding the power of Washington.

Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event
Dan Moxley with his family and local activist Laura Logie after the event

Dan Moxley and Marshall Pattie were slated to address the crowd next, but due to illness, Mr. Pattie was unable to attend.  Mr. Moxley spoke of his faith and his political principles which seemed to resonate well with the audience.

Finally, Dr. John Sloop, Chaplain of the Valley Family Forum, offered the commissioning to close the event.  He planned to offer additional thoughts, but decided against it due to the continued precipitation.

Although I’ve never attended an Unveiling before due to prior commitments, it did draw a sizable number of activists; almost every seat in the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors room was filled.  As far as I could tell, many, if not most of the audience seemed to be members of the Republican Party; both Harrisonburg Chairman Mac Nichols and Rockingham Chairman Donna Moser were there.  All in all, I’d say it was a worthwhile evening, though I would have liked the opportunity to hear and speak with more elected officials and candidates as has been in the case in previous Unveilings.

Looking Back On the Tea Party

img_1330This morning, fellow Shenandoah Valley blogger Lynn Mitchell asked the question, “Why did the tea party (and libertarians) decide to take over the Republican Party instead of the Democratic Party whose policies they were supposedly against?” Well, as a person who has been involved in tea party politics for a number of years, I wanted to offer my take on the situation.

First off, let me begin by saying that no group is a monolithic unit.  Yes, it is easy to lump people together, to assume that their history, motivations, and goals are unified, but that simply would not be the case.  Anyway, like a number of folks, I joined the tea party while also a member of the Republican Party.  At that time, I had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the GOP.  I recall saying at the time that the tea party would never have come into being if the GOP held firm to its supposed principles.

Although Republican politicians seemed to employ inspiring rhetoric when it came to limiting the power of the government, their actual track record was pretty poor.  It is tempting to say that the tea party had its start with the election of Barack Obama, but the truth is that for many of us its roots are earlier, the presidency of George W. Bush.

Let’s look back at George W. Bush, shall we?  What do we find?  An exploding national debt, increased federal government control in areas where it had no defined constitutional authority such as education and healthcare, and a troubling and expensive foreign policy based upon misinformation and a neoconservative philosophy.  Only in recent years have Republican officials finally begun to admit what many people in the tea party have known for years, that a lot of things went wrong in the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency.

So why did the tea party try to push the Republican Party harder instead of the Democratic?  Well, the GOP was seen as having closer ideological ties, especially given that many of us were disaffected Republicans.  Economically, there was supposedly a closer link between the tea party and what the Republican claimed to stand for.  Has that always been the case?  No.  Perhaps the last, best example of what might be considered a “tea party Democrat” (at least in my mind) is the Bourbon Democrats.  As Wikipedia states:

Bourbon Democrats were promoters of a form of laissez-fairecapitalism which included opposition to the protectionism that the Republicans were then advocating as well as fiscal discipline. They represented business interests, generally supporting the goals of banking and railroads but opposed to subsidies for them and were unwilling to protect them from competition. They opposed imperialism and U.S. overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard, and opposed bimetallism and promoted hard and sound money. Strong supporters of reform movements such as the Civil Service Reform and opponents of the corrupt city bosses, Bourbons led the fight against the Tweed Ring. The anti-corruption theme earned the votes of many Republican Mugwumps in 1884.”

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has not held to these principles in about a century.  Given how much time has passed and the great partisan divide which presently exists, a lot of folks see the Democratic Party as irredeemable.

In order to make a greater impact in politics, some candidates tried running under the unofficial tea party label.  Here in Virginia, one could argue that Jamie Radtke was the first statewide tea party candidate.  In 2012, she challenged former Republican governor and senator George Allen for the Republican nod for U.S. Senate.  In the June primary, she won 23.05% of the vote to Allen’s 65.45%.  However, given Allen’s massive advantage in name ID and fundraising, it wasn’t a particularly shocking a result.

However, after that election, the tea party had changed.  Rather than standing strictly on principle, it had somehow begun to morph into a wing of the GOP.  Originally, the local group disdained both President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain.  In the November election that followed, however, we were told that we must rally behind the Republican candidates to defeat Obama and his allies.

In the 2013 contest, the Republican Party of Virginia switched their nomination process from a primary to a convention, presumably to aid gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.  However, that change had a very profound down-ticket result.  E.W. Jackson, who finished last in the 2012 GOP senate primary, began to gain momentum.  In this part of the state, he saw in upsurge in popularity with the tea party, although I would argue he was far more concerned with social issues than the traditional fiscal matters that drove the tea party.  As a result, the regional tea party priorities began to shift again, adopting many of the same principles of groups such as the Valley Family Forum.  Again, prior to this Virginia Republican convention, local tea party goers were informed by the head of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party that the group would support whichever candidates won the GOP nod.

So, to return to Lynn Mitchell’s question, I would say that the reason that the tea party is trying to take over the Republican Party is that it has now become one of a multitude of factions within the GOP.  It no longer stands outside of party politics as originally envisioned.  As such, that fight for control exploded over the weekend in Virginia’s 7th congressional district where Eric Cantor’s ally, Linwood Cobb, was booted for the tea party choice.  A major goal of the tea party these days seems to be to purge the Republican Party of what are seen as big government leaders and politicians.

There is very much an ongoing civil war for the heart of the Virginia Republican Party between those who are primarily motivated to win and those who are motivated by principle (although what that principle happens to be can be a variety of things).  Saturday’s battle is only a continuation of this conflict.

A Tilted Controversy

IMG_1873Recently, a war has been playing itself out in the opinion section of my local newspaper, The Daily News Record.  This conflict is waged over the opening of a new restaurant at the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg called The Tilted Kilt.

So what’s the big deal, you might ask?  Well, one of the unique features of this establishment concerns the appearance of their employees.  Their well-endowed all-female server staff wears short plaid kilts (though they look a bit more like mini-skirts than kilts), a matching top, which accentuates their physical features, and a tied shirt that leaves the midriff more or less completely exposed.

Many in the religious community, especially the Valley Family Forum, have strongly condemned the Tilted Kilt, declaring it to be blight on the Shenandoah Valley and a place that sexually exploits and objectifies their women servers as well as their male clientele.  Others, however, including one local church, see the Kilt in a positive aspect, as it is a place that offers new food choices as well as a variety of jobs to citizens.

Yesterday, along with a couple of friends, I visited this establishment to learn a bit more about the controversy first hand.  Given the animosity in the newspaper, I was a bit surprised that there were no angry protestors picketing outside.

Communicating with the wait staff was a bit of a challenge at first; given the abundance of cleavage, one did have to try hard not to stare.  However, as my cousin pointed out, is there too much difference between the Kilt attire and spending a day at the beach?  I ordered a cup of their chili.

After the meal, I took a bit of time to speak with our waitress regarding her experiences.  Perhaps defying stereotypes, she was fairly well educated, a college graduate.  Although she too expected an angry barrage of folks outside the restaurant when it first opened, she stated that protests have been pretty minimal thus far.

So, what do you think about the Tilted Kilt in the culturally conservative Shenandoah Valley?  Is it a boon or a burden?  Is it simply another restaurant trying a new tactic to earn a buck or is it degrading to its employees and customers?

Either way, if you do ever plan on stopping in either to gauge the controversy for yourself or for a bite to eat, I’d recommend against the chili; a few too many onions and not quite enough spice for my tastes.

Dean Welty’s Picks

For many activists in the central Shenandoah Valley, Dean Welty is a very familiar name.  For those who do not know him, Mr. Welty is the Director of the Valley Family Forum, a particularly active political and religious group with ties to organizations like The Family Foundation (based in Richmond) and Focus on the Family.  Issues important to this group include: the sanctity of life, the protection of traditional marriage, promotion of school choice, and the free expression of religious freedom.

About an hour an a half ago, Dean Welty sent out an email regarding his personal choices for the three Republican candidates for statewide office as well as his reasoning.  They are as follows:

For Governor: Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli is the uncontested GOP candidate with an exceptional record as State Senator and as Attorney General for defending Life, Marriage and the Family, and Religious Liberty, and for his unwavering fight to protect our Constitutional rights.  There is no one better suited by character and conviction to be our next Governor.

“Related to this, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling has indicated that he may run against Cuccinelli as an independent.  If he does, that will split the vote in November and virtually guarantee Cuccinelli’s defeat. Therefore, please click on the following link in which Bolling has asked for our opinion, and respectfully urge him not to run:  http://www.billbolling.com/survey-on-the-2013-virginia-race-for-governor/.”

For Lt. Governor: E. W. Jackson

“In a crowded field of strong candidates, E.W. Jackson nevertheless stands out like none other, as reflected in his bold call for all God-fearing Americans to “Exodus Now” from the Democrat Party.  An ex-Marine, Harvard Law School graduate, business leader, and pastor, Jackson is a fighting statesman who can raise the standard and stir our hearts like no one else has been able to do.  In addition, he has been a close friend and supporter of the Forum and a powerful champion for Faith, Family, and Freedom.

“Beyond that, Jackson is a man of great vision who transcends party and politics in his commitment to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage and to defend our Constitution.  No one expresses it better than when he quotes from Thomas Paine in the fight for independence in 1776:

 ‘These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  … Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation …, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.'”

For Attorney General:

“In a nutshell, Senator Mark Obenshain not only votes right but, even more importantly, he leads right on issues of principle that others sometimes avoid as being too “controversial”.  To cite just a few, he has led the Senate in the fight for life from conception to natural death, for marriage as only between one man and one woman, for private property rights, for religious liberty, and for quality education and choice – to name only a few.  Like Jackson, Mark has also been a close friend of the Forum and, with his wife Suzanne, received our annual Wilberforce Award in 2011.”

Whether you happen to agree with Dean Welty’s picks or not, it is beneficial for an informed voter to hear a multitude of opinions.  Use them, along with a variety of others, as you make your choice as a delegate for the May RPV convention.

Vote Your Conscience!

VC Note:  Earlier today, while at a meeting of the Valley Family Forum, I heard this political poem as read by its author, Angie B. Williams of Harrisonburg.  I thought that her message was particularly appropriate as we begin the two-month countdown to the November elections.  Can you imagine what kind of country we would have if every citizen chose to vote, not based upon labels and superficial attributes, but primarily guided by principle, reason, and the dictates of his or her conscience?  I’m pleased to present Mrs. Williams’ poem to you and I hope that you enjoy her work as much as I have.

 

Vote Your Conscience!

The saying, “All that glitters is not gold,”

Is ne’er more true than in the political bowl.

So when in the voting booth you finally stand,

Poised with pen and ballot in your hand,

Put partisan politics completely aside,

And let your conscience be your guide.

On which issues are you willing to negotiate,

And what compromises are you unwilling to make?

If family, faith, and freedom are your agenda,

Be sure you reflect them in the vote you render.

We must ignore the color of a candidate’s skin,

And consider his character before we begin.

For color of the skin no difference doth make,

But integrity and judgment for the people’s sake.

It’s not party, popularity, or pigmentation,

But who is best suited to lead our nation.

We don’t have to align with our party of the past.

For God holds us accountable for the vote we cast.

Axe the rhetoric, the big talk, and the photo ops,

And judge whose experience will rise to the top.

So before your ballot you mark at last,

Check the candidate’s voting record in the past.

Don’t whine about what difference one vote can make,

Just cast your vote, but never conscience forsake!

© 2012 Angie B. Williams, Harrisonburg, VA. Used with permission.

Lobby Day

On Monday, political activists from across the commonwealth of Virginia gathered in Richmond to participate in the annual Lobby Day.  Shortly before 7 AM that morning, I boarded a bus headed to the state capital to participate in these activities.  My fellow passengers included other members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party as well as the Valley Family Forum, and even a person or two from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

After Harrisonburg, we made stops in Staunton and Waynesboro, picking up additional folks along the way.  With our busload of around thirty-five, we crossed over Afton Mountain and made our way to our destination.

Shortly before arriving, we discovered that the pro-life presentation offered by the Family Foundation had reached its capacity, so Lois Paul (one of the tea party leaders), Lisa McCumsey, (the campaign manager for Karen Kwiatkowski), and myself decided to explore the capital on our own.

Our first stop was the general assembly office building.  Although most delegates and senators were unavailable, I did appreciate the opportunity to speak with Delegate Landes (R-25) and my own Delegate, Tony Wilt (R-26) about their upcoming legislative proposals.

Jamie Radtke at Lobby Day

From there, we gathered with supporters of the Virginia Citizens Defense League around the bell tower on the capitol grounds.  At this rally, I found two of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.  While Jamie Radtke spoke to the crowd, David McCormick milled around the crowd gathering signatures to be on the ballot.

David McCormick at Lobby Day

After that, we enjoyed lunch at the Tobacco Company restaurant.   In the lounge of that establishment, the newly formed Central Virginia Tea Party welcomed visitors.  Surprisingly, I ran into the Virginia chairman for the Gary Johnson campaign while returning from the restroom.  We chatted briefly about the presidential race and each offered a bit of speculation as to the future of the Ron Paul movement.

From there, we toured the capitol building itself.  Unfortunately, by this point, neither the House nor the Senate was in session and so we could not enter those chambers.

Delegate Bob Marshall with his new bill

Shortly before our return to the bus, Delegate Bob Marshall crossed our path.  He was on the way to the capitol to present a new bill.  He stated that his proposal would exempt Virginians from unconstitutional detentions allowed in the recently signed National Defense Authorization Act.  I’m always glad to discover new ways that our legislators are working to protect us from the excesses of the federal government.

On the ride back, several of us collected signatures for the various Senate and House candidates while a good chunk of the attendees took the opportunity to nap.  About half of my fellow riders accepted a DVD explaining why they should support Dr. Ron Paul in the upcoming March 6th primary.

All in all, it was a great trip.  If you couldn’t make it to Lobby Day 2012, I recommend marking your calendars in advance so that you won’t miss out next time.