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Archive for January, 2013

Love Deterred

Love Deterred

A Poem by Joshua Huffman

1/27/13

 

It is an amazing feeling

An exquisite pain

That reaches to the depths

Of one’s very soul

It tempts you to rip out your heart

In a vain attempt to escape the agony

Or, at least, to hide someplace safe

Where no one else will ever look

 

Love brought you to this abyss

In all of its unrequited glory

Yet this marvelous same affection

Made you feel alive

A blanket of comforting joy

And led you to rediscover

The best things of life are found

In the warm embrace of love

 

Yes, today may seem bleak

And tomorrow not much better

But life will improve

This pain will one day fade

Replaced by the promise of love

Mingled with the hope of a bright future

Yes, life will get better

They say that love finds a way

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Recently, some Republican leaders and pundits in Virginia have been floating the idea of changing the way the state awards its electoral votes in presidential elections.  Currently, Virginia gives all 13 of its votes to the candidate who receives a plurality of the statewide popular vote.  In both 2008 and 2012, Democrat Barack Obama claimed Virginia, the first Democratic candidate to do so since Lyndon Johnson did in 1964.  This new plan, sponsored by State Senator Charles Carrico Sr. of Grayson County, gives the winner of each of the state’s 11 congressional districts one vote, with the remaining two votes going to the candidate who wins the most districts.

From nationalatlas.gov

From nationalatlas.gov

There is no doubt that this proposed change would radically modify the outcome in Virginia.  Taking 2012 as an example, Barack Obama only won 4 of the 11 of the congressional districts, with the remaining 7 going to Republican Mitt Romney.  If Carrico’s plan had been in place, Romney would have ended up with 9 of Virginia’s electoral votes has opposed to the zero he actually received.  The fact that Obama won 50.8% of the statewide vote would have been completely irrelevant.

Although there is some argument to be made that both the interest and will of Virginia’s voters would be better served under some other plan than winner-take-all, the Carrico solution is a particularly terrible suggestion.

The fundamental reason why this plan is poor deals with the ugly issue of gerrymandering.  According to the Constitution, each congressional district must be roughly equal in population.  Based upon the population of the Commonwealth, Virginia has 11 districts.  However, the question becomes, how should the state be divided into these 11 pieces?

Given that the Virginia legislature draws these districts, they are often created, not based upon regional hegemony, but for political gain.  For example, we know that, in general, the most heavily Democratic areas of the state are areas of fairly close population density, such as most of northern Virginia, and cities like Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Norfolk.  Creating a district that included a majority of Arlington or Alexandria would almost certainly result in a Democratic heavy district, while crafted a district using the counties of Augusta and Rockingham in the Shenandoah Valley, or Powhatan and Hanover in central Virginia would have the opposite effect.

With these thoughts, and previous voting history in mind, one can combine like-minded areas to generate safe districts, much like the 3rd & 8th congressional are for the Democrats, or 9th & 6th are for the Republicans.  It is also possible to dilute the vote, such as splitting the heavily Democratic city of Richmond between the 3rd and the 7th or to enhance the effects of a voting population as is done in the Virginia House of Delegates where four different Republican members of that body benefit from representing a portion of the Republican voting strength of Rockingham County.  Simply add a city or subtract a county, and one can often safely assume a result long before voters head to the polls. Offer any politically savvy consultant a pen, a map, and a few statistics; with these tools he or she can draw lines that can easily serve the interests of either the Republican or Democratic Parties.

Now some people might say that given the fact that the Republican Party controls the state government, rank and file Republicans should not speak ill against this proposal, given that if it passes it will likely benefit the party.  However, such a view is shortsighted and ignores the political health of the nation.  Sure, Republicans are in charge today and this move could bolster the Republican presidential candidate’s chances in 2016, but what happens when the Democratic Party regains control?  Would it be just for the GOP to speak out against a plan that they created when it no longer serves their political interests in the future?

Another factor to consider is the issue of political relevancy.  For example, in 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech in Harrisonburg in order to gain support among the residents of the city and the student body of James Madison University.  This move proved successful as he ended up winning this city.  However, if the 6th district voted as a solid block, then he would have had no incentive to go to Harrisonburg, for it would have been impossible for him to make any difference.  Even if every citizen in Harrisonburg voted for Obama, those totals would have been insufficient to overcome the Republican heavy 6th district.

The same logic would hold true for Republican candidates as well.  If the 6th were seen as a solid block, it would be foolish to waste time and resources in an area where victory was a certainty.  Thus, under the Carrico system, no presidential candidate would set foot in the 6th district ever again, all parties would largely ignore the region, and it is almost certain that political apathy and/or intolerance would become the norm throughout both the conservative and liberal segments of the Shenandoah Valley.

Therefore, for the twin concerns of gerrymandering and maintaining political relevancy, legislators, activists, and ordinary citizens throughout Virginia ought to oppose Senator’s Carrico’s plan to award the state’s electoral votes based upon the winners of each congressional district.  Yes, it sounds quite tempting to many Republicans today, but the lasting consequences of this change will certainly offset any temporary benefits.

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On Saturday night, the Liberty University Law School and the Lynchburg Tea Party played host to all seven of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination to be the next lieutenant governor of Virginia.  The potential nominees, as they were seated at the forum, are: E. W. Jackson, Susan Stimpson, Pete Snyder, Steve Martin, Scott Lingamfelter, Corey Stewart, and Jeannemarie Devolites Davis.

Former Speaker of the House of Delegates Vance Wilkins offered both the opening and closing remarks for the event.  He remarked at the end that it was unfortunate that each of the candidates is seeking the same office, as each seemed like a worthy choice for the position.  Throughout the event, each candidate tried to outdo the others, painting himself or herself as a conservative and a liberty-minded leader.

After introductory statements by the candidates, the moderator asked a series of fourteen rotating questions where each could offer his or her reply to six of them.  In the second part, each candidate could reply to one of the previous questions that he or she was not asked in round one.  Third, each candidate could ask one question of one of his or her fellow office seekers.

So what were the topics discussed?  Well, they included: the castle doctrine and the right of self defense, voter ID requirements, considerations on the governor’s plan to eliminate the gas tax and raise the sales tax, public school safety, Virginia’s right to work laws, and the 10th Amendment.

Now with these thoughts in mind, who performed the best?  Well, given her viewpoints, widely painted as liberal, Jeannemarie Davis did surprising well; she worked diligently to counteract many of the accusations leveled against her by a variety of groups including voicing her support for the 2nd Amendment.  I thought Pete Snyder led for most of the event, building rapport through his use of audience participation.  However, he offered an unexpected answer seemingly in favor of sanctuary cities in Virginia.  Concluding his response, he openly rebuked his previous thoughts and later explained that he misunderstood the question.  Although I had not heard him speak before, I believe that Delegate Scott Lingamfelter emerged as the winner of the Liberty forum, offering strong opinions and sharing relevant stories to explain his positions.

Overall, I would rate the event as a success and thank both Liberty and the Lynchburg Tea Party for holding the gathering.  I regret that I cannot provide any picture of the event as my camera malfunctioned.  For those who were unable to make the trip to Lynchburg, the next lt. governor debate/forum will be taking place at the Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown on February 9th starting at 1 PM.  As I’ve stated previously, this year’s race for lieutenant governor is particularly important; assuming you plan to be a delegate to the GOP convention, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about all of the candidates before casting your vote.

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Huckbee, ClintonWhile sorting some old papers today, I came across this item from the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.  Although I don’t believe that this flyer was ever distributed to the public, it is likely one of the most amusing pieces of literature to come out of the Ron Paul campaign.

To offer a bit of background regarding its creation, in early 2008, there was a fear that Mike Huckabee would emerge as the Republican nominee.  After all, Mr. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses with a strong plurality, 34% to second place Mitt Romney’s 25%.  Rush Limbaugh echoed this concern when he said, “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys (Huckabee or McCain) get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party, it’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.”  If Huckabee could capture the socially conservative South Carolina, that win would provide him with considerable momentum and could propel him to victories in future contests.

The image is priceless.  If you recall, Mike Huckabee served as the 44th governor of Arkansas while Bill Clinton was the 42nd.  The picture suggests that Huckabee, looking for guidance, turns to his predecessor and is rewarded with a smirk and a thumbs up thus giving him the Clinton seal of approval.  Given that many social conservatives viewed Huckabee favorably, if one were to tie him to the morally bankrupt Clinton, it may cause many of them to have second thoughts about supporting him in the South Carolina primary.

Unfortunately for the Paul campaign, due to the previous poor results of Iowa (where he finished fifth), New Hampshire (another fifth place finish), Michigan (where he finished fourth), and the one bright spot of Nevada (where he claimed second), it seemed highly unlikely that Ron Paul would be able to post huge numbers in the next contest, South Carolina.  Therefore, if Paul couldn’t win the state, one theory emerged to work to weaken one of the candidates who might win the state (in this case Huckabee).  Doing so could prolong the process and allow Ron Paul to gain a much needed victory in a later state.

At the end of the day, John McCain defeated Mike Huckabee to capture the lion’s share of the delegates from South Carolina.  Although Huckabee did end up winning a handful of southern and border states in later contests, his defeat in South Carolina likely eliminated any chance that he had of becoming the Republican nominee.

Although the piece pictured at the beginning of this article would have had no effect on the outcome in the 2008 South Carolina primary as it was not distributed, it does highlight the growing fear, at the time, of a Huckabee nomination.  It is simply another interesting tidbit of our political history.

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IMG_1630Last night, former Representative Ron Paul spoke to a packed room in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.  The building held about 500 while another location was set up nearby to provide live video feed for those unable to fit inside.  The Contact Committee, the W&L Politics Department, and the W&L College Republicans sponsored the event.

Starting at 9 AM the day before, Contact began giving out tickets to Tuesday’s event.  However, in a mere forty minutes, all 350 tickets allotted for early seating were claimed, leaving the multitude with the hope of snagging one of the remaining 150 seats prior to the event on a first come first serve basis.

Given Dr. Paul’s numerous contributions to the rise of the liberty movement, along with the work I did on his campaign staff in 2007/08, and the fact that this event marked his first visit to the Shenandoah Valley, I knew that I had to make every effort to attend.  As I arrived slightly too late to secure one of the early tickets on Monday morning, I left Harrisonburg at about 3:30 PM on Tuesday along with fellow activist and blogger Helen Shibut of the Madison Liberty blog.

Outside the chapel at 4:30 PM

Outside the chapel at 4:30 PM

A light rain marked our departure and it continued to be our constant companion as we traveled along Interstate 81 and into Lexington.  Surprisingly, the parking lot closest to the chapel still had a couple of spots open and so we were able to avoid a lengthy walk.  More shocking still had to be the number of people standing outside the chapel when we arrived.  Given how quickly the tickets were exhausted, I envisioned a lengthy line of people waiting until they could enter the building at 6 PM.  However, due, in part, to the poor weather, we were the 7th and 8th to enter.  Even though not in line at that time, there were others who were already there.  For example, Karen Kwiatkowski and a contingent of like-minded folks were lingering inside a nearby building until the time drew closer.

Helen Shibut, Karen Kwiatkowski, and Cole Trower

Helen Shibut, Karen Kwiatkowski, and Cole Trower

The weather continued to degrade, but the line grew steadily and by the time that the doors opened, one could not see from one end of the crowd to the other.  Although the announcement indicated that attendees would be unable to come in the building without semi-formal attire, several people in line wore casual clothing such as blue jeans; it is uncertain whether these folks were allowed admittance.

Dr. Paul’s entered the main floor of the chapel to thunderous applause shortly after 7 PM.  He spoke on a wide variety of topics important to the liberty movement including, but not limited to: a non-interventionist foreign policy, the need for a sound currency and the impending financial collapse, the importance of sticking to political principles, the proper role of government, and the constant erosion of our civil liberties.  After his speech, he fielded a number of questions from the audience regarding what political party best embodied his principles, the issue of abortion, religious freedom, and concerns regarding the investigation into 9/11.  The entire event lasted for a little less than an hour and a half.

IMG_1637All in all, I would rate Dr. Paul’s visit to Lexington as a success.  The only change that I would suggest would be a larger venue.  According to the various event notices posted on Facebook, W&L could have easily filled a space that was two, three, or even four times larger.  So then, why did they choose the chapel?  Well, there is no question that the location is picturesque and is steeped in history.  The basement formally served as the office for Robert E. Lee and presently holds his remains. In addition, I was told that when Washington & Lee hosted Rudi Giuliani some time earlier, they had considerable difficulty reaching the 500-person threshold.  But, such concerns were not necessary that night.  After all, as Ron Paul reminds us, freedom, much like Dr. Paul himself, is popular.

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Image from shopping.com

Image from shopping.com

As our nation teeters on the brink of economic ruin, it is an appropriate time to reflect upon the decisions of our political leaders.  One important question we ought to ask is do our representatives in Washington, Richmond, and in either city council or the county board of supervisors reflect our values?  And, if they don’t, what responsibility do we have to correct this issue?

Yes, I use the word responsibility because the actions of our elected officials are, in fact, our responsibility.  Whether we voted for the people currently in power, voted for someone else who didn’t win, or chose to forgo our civic duty and not vote at all, these people are a reflection of our own values and principles. Although it may seem like an odd thought at first, given that we have the ability to decide who represents us, we are indirectly the authors of our leaders’ actions; our politicians are our political children.

But this viewpoint brings up a troubling thought.  If we see our government and our laws as our figurative offspring, what should we do when they engage in behaviors that stand in stark contrast to our beliefs?  Now, that’s not to say that we should view our leaders as one, lumped together as a kind of monolithic group.  Like any collection of people, some are more in agreement with our values than others.

To answer the previous question, we need to ask another.  What would you do if your children engage in behavior that you find objectionable? If our representative, political party, or nation begins to travel down the wrong path, should we speak up and steer them in the proper direction?  Well, what if your child gets in with the wrong crowd and makes poor life choices?  Does a loving, responsible parent remain quiet, thereby tacitly supporting whatever foolish or dangerous course the child takes, even if he or she believes these acts will lead to self-destruction?  Or should he or she speak up and try to correct the behavior before it devolves into something even worse?

Unfortunately, speaking out against one’s elected officials, one’s party, and/or one’s nation when they are in the wrong is not popular in certain circles and can create considerable animosity.  After all, the faithful will follow every whim or decree without question, right?  The answer, of course, is no.  After all, if you truly care about someone or something and you see that she is causing harm to herself, you do what you can to improve the situation.  Simply staying silent or reciting the mantra of my country (or my party) right or wrong is about as helpful to the political health of the nation as an absentee father is to the upbringing of a child.

Now, don’t think that we are either better or worse than our politicians.  After all, most arise from the ranks of the ordinary citizens of this nation, just like we are.  But, when you grant a person such a significant amount of power, there arises a strong temptation and opportunity to misuse this privilege.  Do you know how your legislators act?  Is it safe to leave them unchecked for two, four, or even six years at a time? Yes, it is okay to trust, but still you ought to verify.

A representative republic such as ours cannot function properly without an informed citizenry engaged in their political duty, to oversee our nation and our politicians.  Our massive national debt is but a small taste of what happens when we neglect this role; without supervision, too many of our political children are running wild, maxing out our credit cards and engaging in all sorts of risky behavior with seedy characters.  So isn’t it about time that we take responsibility for the actions of those in power, make our voices heard, and reprimand the scoundrels whose primary motivation is to bleed the people in order to further their own political ambitions?

So how about it?  Are you ready to stand up and be a responsible political parent?

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Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling

Governor Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling

In the early stages of the 2013 gubernatorial race, it seemed as if Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would be the unquestioned Republican nominee.  Due the deal struck four years earlier between now Governor Bob McDonnell and Bolling, where Bolling would forgo running for governor for McDonnell in exchange for future political support, who would able to stand up against the combined political strength of these two men?

Senator Cuccinelli and Bolling

Then Senator Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bolling

Then Ken Cuccinelli entered the picture.  Ken Cuccinelli, the dynamic Attorney General of Virginia who garnered national attention for his stand against Obamacare, tossed his hat in the ring for governor.  Some people in Republican circles had hoped that Cuccinelli, following Bolling’s example four years prior, would run for re-election thus giving Bolling a clear path to the Republican gubernatorial nomination.  After several months of uncertainty, Ken Cuccinelli announced that he was entering the race for governor.  Given the popularity of Cuccinelli in conservative circles, this decision alone would have made a very difficult path for Bill Bolling’s victory going forward.  However, when coupled with the factor that the Republican Party of Virginia then switched their nominating process from an open primary to a convention, Cuccinelli became a virtual lock for the party nomination.  Cuccinelli had established himself as a rock star among conservatives and although feared by liberals, the closed process meant that Democrats and independents would have no hand in the party’s nomination process.

With these exceedingly difficult circumstances, Bill Bolling recently withdrew from the Republican nomination for governor.  At that time, he refused to endorse Cuccinelli for the post.  Given that Bolling had been seeking the nomination for governor presumably since first running for lieutenant governor in 2004, the fact that he would not readily endorse the man who he likely believed stole the nomination from him isn’t too surprising.

However there was one startling development as Bolling floated the idea of continuing his campaign for governor as either an independent or a third-party candidate.  The prevailing thought was that Bolling would not run in 2013 but was merely using the idea as a way to vent his frustration about the whole process.

But it seems that the idea of Bill Bolling for governor is not dead.  Over the weekend, I was sent the link to a website that is actively promoting his candidacy.  It seems that Gail “for Rail” Parker, a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006, and the Independent Green Party of Virginia are working to get Bolling’s name on the ballot.  According to the site, the petition drive for Bolling began on January 2nd of this year.  The real question becomes is this effort independent of the Lt. Gov. or is website part of his exploratory run?

Bolling for GovernorI’ve said on several occasions that Ken Cuccinelli will be the next governor of Virginia.  However, if Bill Bolling runs either third party or as an independent, it is possible that he could draw enough support from disaffected Republicans to radically change November’s outcome.  Will this movement led by Gail Parker derail the Cuccinelli campaign train?  Will Bill Bolling run for governor?

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