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Archive for August, 2010

Whenever the Daily News Record contains an article about our Attorney General, it contains a rather dour-looking picture of him much like this one.

(Picture credited to Steve Helber of the AP)

I believe that if you knew nothing of Ken Cuccinelli, you would instantly dislike him solely based upon the above picture.  Here is a rather stern man who is almost scowling.  It is almost as if the picture says, “Oh no.  Hide anything fun. Here comes Captain Killjoy!”  Now I know that some of our liberal colleges likely view or would like to paint Attorney General Cuccinelli in such a light, but I believe that such a caricature is erroneous and shortsighted.  One must remember that one of our Attorney General’s primary duties is to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth.  Although doing so may make him unpopular in certain circles that is the task he is assigned to do and just because he does his job zealously we should not condemn him for doing so.

Going back to our recent newspaper article, not only does it feature a less amicable picture of Ken Cuccinelli, the article is entitled, “Clinics Fear Closure”.  Your gut reaction might be, “not our clinics!  We need those!”  When one reads the article however, fear gives way to reason.  What Cuccinelli is suggesting is that abortion clinics in the state should be subject to the same medical scrutiny that hospitals undergo.  Is this concept so fearful?  Shouldn’t all clinics and medical facilities be subject to the same standards?  If some facilities in Virginia are unable or unwilling to obey at least some minimal standard, then shouldn’t they be shut down?  Should the Hippocratic oath be completely ignored in today’s day and age?

Although some members of our community have sought to demonize or vilify Ken Cuccinelli, I know it stems from his willingness to fight for Virginia values and liberty.  Unfortunately, most politicians have learned it is easiest to do nothing.  After all, being ineffective ruffles no feathers and does not upset the status quo.  Fortunately, our Attorney General is not such a leader.  Sure, he is often a serious man, but it is not a somberness the average Virginian should fear.  My concern is that if you only rely on surface scans of sources like the DNR you likely don’t know the real Ken Cuccinelli.

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Growing up, I always enjoyed the Rockingham County Fair.  What kid wouldn’t enjoy the rides, the attractions, the food, the animals…and the politics?  Ok, so maybe not every teenager cares about our government, but as you already know, I was a bit different.  Anyway, each year the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties operate a booth at the fair to bring a little bit of the political world to the average citizens of the community.  Every year I volunteered here once I became involved.  More than anything else, I enjoyed standing behind that table handing out information to folks who stopped by, mingling with fellow conservatives.  It was not a high-pressure sales job, but rather a chance to share a bit of our ideals, to shed light on this neglected facet of our society.

Although I didn’t have much time to offer, I still gave about an hour this past week to continue my ritual.  Below are a few photographs of the event.  They are pretty self-explanatory.  The last few are of the cow-kissing contest in which several public figures competed to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  Hosting the event was Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr.  In all, there were five people competing, including newly minted Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26) and Daily News Record Writer and author of the Bowser Bucket List, Heather Bowser.  Thanks to these people who donated their time to such a worthy cause.

Maybe you can join us next year.

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Author’s note: Go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t done so yet.

So, to take up where we left off, after my disappointment with the Connaughton Campaign, my work at Cooper & Secrest continued.  However, I soon spoke to the head supervisor about working for a different part of the firm.  After all, as I stated earlier, there are many different tasking in polling besides being a pollster.  As a conservative, I couldn’t stand badmouthing conservative candidates to hapless voters.  My supervisor replied that he would look into the matter and get back in touch with me.  As a side note, although I didn’t talk to the head supervisor much, I always felt that he was a decent fellow and held out a small hope for some better future.

Several weeks later, the supervisor stopped me in the office.  The news he gave me was very disheartening. After conversing with Alan Secrest, the president of the polling firm, about my inquiry, he told me that they were thinking about firing me.  Now it may surprise you to know that I was a pretty good pollster.  Yes, I was “working for the enemy”, but I still had a duty to do the job for which I was paid.  However, they were not considering getting rid of me for my job performance, but for my political views.  After all, how could a Republican be trusted in a Democratic polling firm?  Never mind the fact that I had been working there for about a year without incident, diligently doing the labor.  For some reason, the final words of our conversation are still stuck in my mind.  “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Once I heard that news, I figured my days were numbered.  While I anxiously continued to search for political employment, I got a job at Ash Lawn-Highland, the former home of President James Monroe.  By comparison to Cooper & Secrest, that work was very engaging.  Not only did I get to learn all sorts of interesting information about our fifth President, but also, as a tour guide, I had the opportunity to teach others about him.  I wish some of our leaders today would take heed of the wisdom and philosophy of Monroe.  And I haven’t even mentioned my co-workers.  They were a mixed assortment of great folks who seemed to enjoy the work as much as I did.  But to return to our main tale, all the while, I continued to work at Cooper.

A month or so after getting this new job, one of my other supervisors, a man by the name of Jimmy, starting routinely harassing me after discovering my political leanings.  They weren’t stereotypical partisan banter, but extremely hateful.  For example, while walking through the office, he would stop at my station as say things like, “Where is the hood for your Klan outfit?” and “Been to any Nazi rallies lately?” He made my already bad situation far worse.  In retrospect, I should have reported his behavior to the head supervisor, should have tried to get him fired.  Maybe I should have even sued Cooper & Secrest for allowing his malicious conduct.  Instead I took the coward’s path of shutting my mouth and trying vainly to pretend it didn’t happen.  It didn’t help.  Unfortunately, if you let someone degrade you in such a fashion once, they won’t ever stop.  At first, I tried my best to avoid him.  Once that tactic failed, I just stopped coming in to work at all.  I couldn’t deal with it, couldn’t handle this new level of hell.

Unfortunately, my work at Ash Lawn-Highland didn’t offer either enough hours or sufficient pay to allow me to live in Charlottesville once I left Cooper.  Sadly, I trekked back across the mountain, to my hometown of Harrisonburg, desperately looking to put my Cooper & Secrest days behind me.  As I might have stated earlier, the reason I blotted out this time from my resume was that I was fearful of the political repercussions.  After all, how can a Republican organization trust someone who has more or less been employed by the Democrats?  The main reason I bring it up now is to both inform and warn others.  Fortunately, I believe my actions since that time have clearly and consistently proven my loyalty to my principles and that I was merely temporarily stuck in a quagmire.  Thus ends my story of my days working for the enemy.

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I’m going to start off today’s post with a passage from the Bible.

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people putting their gifts into a collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two pennies.  “I assure you,” he said, “this poor widow has given more than all of the rest of them.  For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”  Luke 21 1-4 (NLT)

The lesson of widow’s mite (as the above passage is often known) is found both in the book of Luke and in Mark.  I want you to consider the implications.  Although we don’t know the exact amount, the passage seems to imply that, in terms of monetary value the rich people in the town gave far more than the widow could ever hope to give.  And yet, Jesus tells us that she has given more than they.  I know it would be tempting to praise the rich far more than the widow.  After all, the Temple could make much greater use of the larger sum of money than two measly pennies.  But then the point would be lost.  Although we are told that the rich could afford to give far more, they chose an offering that they wouldn’t really miss, a small portion of their vast wealth.  It was as if the rich were saying that they only valued God enough to give him a bit of their excess.  The widow by comparison gave two coins, but it everything that she had.  She had so little to offer however chose to give it all away for the sake of her faith.  If we backtrack in Luke, we find another related passage, “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given,” Luke 12:48 (NLT).  I think that the message is clear.  If we truly believe in God and his commandments, we should free give of our possessions and ourselves.  Regardless of whether we are rich or poor, the spirit in which a gift is given is far more important that the actual amount itself.

Although I know that some people don’t like to mix religion with politics, I hope you’ll permit me to draw a few parallels using the above verse in modern political thought.  Through much hardship and struggle, our forbearers suffered much to claim for us the God-given freedoms that we enjoy today.  Now a portion of our liberty has been lost over the years and, if we do nothing, we will lose far more.  I know that a lot of you are quite busy and many of you do not have much money to throw around freely.  Nevertheless, I wonder how much you value your freedom.  Will you fight for it?  Then will you donate your time and your money to make certain they are secure?  And if you do, will your gift be just a small portion…time and money that you will not miss?   I know that most political organizations make a big deal out of high dollar donors, but, in my opinion, those who truly believe in the cause and donate until it hurts are of far greater value.

So what will it be?  Are your God and your freedoms important enough to offer your first fruits?  Or will they be a mere afterthought, assuming you give anything at all?  Now, I’ll be the first to admit due to recent hardship that I have fallen short myself.  Nevertheless, regardless of how rich or poor we are, like the widow, we must be willing to give our pennies and/or our hours for our religion and our politics.  Otherwise, we show through our actions (or lack there of) that we neither value nor deserve them.

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For those of you who have been waiting with breathless anticipation for several weeks, I now proudly offer you the second chapter in our story.  On the other hand, if you have not read Part I yet, I encourage you to do so first.  Well, on we go!

I began my employment with Cooper & Secrest in January of 2003.  Prior to this time, since graduating from William & Mary, I had been working at a law office in Harrisonburg.  Although I learned a good deal from my time in that surrounding, as stated earlier, I kept yearning to immerse myself in the political waters.  Knowing my love of politics (as well as the fact that he was searching for a roommate), a friend of mine who was already working at Cooper suggested that I apply.  As you could imagine, I pounced upon the chance to be a political pollster.  With a nice crisp resume in hand listing my work experiences, my fancy college knowledge, and my volunteer experience with various Republican Parties, I did my best to wow the supervisor.  And so they hired me.

The job was quite simple.  Every new shift, the supervisor would hand each of the pollsters a list of numbers, a script, and a form to record the results.  I didn’t get to make the surveys nor could I see the final results.  But it was an important step in the right direction (or so I thought at first).  After a few months of commuting across Afton Mountain, I ended up moving to the People’s Republic of Charlottesville.  Even though I was working in politics (sort of), I still continued my volunteer time by offering my free time to my state senate candidate back home.  Time used on behalf of a good cause was time well spent.

At first, the job went well.  I was quite good at my task, the money was pretty good, and life in C’ville was an exciting new experience.  Even though Charlottesville is a very liberal city, and the traffic can be a horrible mess, it has a wealth of culture and entertainment options.  Somewhat like Williamsburg, although to a lesser extent, the region is alive with history.  But best of all was that I really liked some of my coworkers and enjoyed discussing the political and religious issues of the day.  Although we often disagreed, debates were always cordial.  But there were drawbacks to the work.  On the downside, the hours felt long and weren’t really fixed in stone as we called the east, the west, even the Hawaii-Aleutian time zone, and points in-between.  Sometimes we would work many days and nights in a row.  Other times, we would have pauses as the company searched for new clients.  As we continued to move from one survey to the next, I noticed that we were working for a lot of Democratic candidates.  I can recall thinking, “when are we going to do a survey for a Republican candidate?”  But we never did.  For some reason, I got it into my head that pollsters were basically politically neutral.  They just sought and compiled data for interested parties rather than trying to sway the outcome of elections.  Boy was I wrong.

The worst began when we starting engaging in push polling.  For those unfamiliar with the term, I refer you to the 2000 Republican Presidential Primary.  During the South Carolina primary, some disreputable group asked voters if they would be less likely to vote for John McCain if they knew he fathered an illegitimate black child.  Now, to the best of our knowledge, Senator McCain has not done such an act, but just soliciting that question raises concerns in the minds of voters that McCain is both immoral and untrustworthy.  So too was the case with Cooper and Secrest.  Now I won’t say that push polling happened a lot, but it did occur.  It wasn’t too difficult to do that kind of polling when I didn’t know the candidates involved, but when we targeted races where I knew about (and often liked) the Republican candidate, it was troubling.  It was more or less tantamount to spreading vicious lies.  On more than one occasion, I felt physically ill after spreading these unsubstantiated rumors.

I then fully realized what kind of mess I had gotten myself into.  I franticly searched for other political employment, but came up empty.  I didn’t want to mention my present employers for fear of how it would tarnish my prospects, but it always came up sooner or later.  While I was looking, I invested my time with Sean Connaughton, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, a man who was running for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor.  I could easily write a blog post or two about this campaign, but for now I’ll only stick to the parts relevant to this story.  After volunteering with that campaign for a good while, I sought employment with that operation.  It took a good bit of effort, but I worked out a deal with his campaign manager.  According to our bargain, if I completed a handful of pre-assigned tasks on behalf of the campaign, I would be able to work for them.  It took me many weeks, and a few tanks of gas as I drove around the 5th and 6th districts of Virginia for Sean, but I willingly and cheerfully completed the missions assigned.  Having finished everything that I was supposed to do, I eagerly called the campaign manager expecting my next assignment.  With this new paid position I could leave Cooper & Secrest and work alongside my conservative brothers and sisters.  I would be free of this albatross dangling from my neck.  Strangely, my call went unanswered.  I called again and then again, but no response.  I sent email after email expecting a reply at any moment, but no reply came.  Days passed.  Distressed, I called other members of the campaign and only then did I learn the horrid truth.  The campaign manager had quit unexpectedly.  When the next manager took over, I asked him to honor the same deal offered to me by his predecessor, but he had no interest.  Deeply resentful, I continued my polling work, desperately hoping for a better future.  Unfortunately, things got far, far worse.

I hope you will join me next time for Part III, the exciting conclusion of “Working for The Enemy”.  Until next time!

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