Calling All Courageous Republicans

The 2017 Virginia Primary is now irrevocably in the rear view mirror. Reactions to the outcome are still churning in the waters on all forms of social media where participants from some candidates’ camps are still engaged in what can only be described as the low ground. Before anyone starts in on the Stewart folks, some Gillespie supporters didn’t exactly win the prize for “classy” either.

When asked to stop and begin the process of coming together by the candidates themselves, there were more eruptions along the lines of, “He said this about me during the campaign, or she insulted my BFF, so now it’s time to settle the score.” We also hear about how “so-and-so is on the campaign’s payroll and is just being paid for their commentary.” If everyone was on a payroll who had been accused this year, there would be nearly no one posting opinions for free.

First of all, the majority of readers don’t have a clue who said what to who, unless they happened to be reading real time, in what is now in terms of social media, the distant past. So honestly, post primary if you are still at it, you look like a five-year-old. Furthermore, you will be forced to stop calling the Democrats snowflakes, because apparently sticks and stones can break your bones as well.

In addition, if a new reader and potential voter happened to catch your tirade, they are most likely gone, which is a shame. While many of us are used to slinging volleys, designed to sting, across each others’ bows, the average person is turned off by this kind of behavior and Republicans can subtract, not add, one more vote.

I get it. I do. I understand how hurtful words can be. When Jeff was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2008, I had a “blogger,” as we called it then, threaten to kill me and hang my head on his wall like a deer trophy. He further said he would hunt me down in my yard with his bow and arrow. He went on to say he had learned the lay of the land surrounding my home and my four dogs could not save me.

Our former Commonwealth’s Attorney chose not to prosecute him because at the time I too was an elected official on a town council, and he deemed this “political speech” to try and kill my ability to get reelected.

I could, but will not, repeat the things that have been written over the years about me and members of my family because Jeff is elected and his wife is outspoken. Not one ugly thing that I know of was written by a Democrat, but were written by those professing to be conservative. More importantly though, I promise I spend not one sleepless night worried about what someone else thinks who has communicated with me or about me, using insulting language or inappropriate photoshopped cartoons. I have learned it goes with the territory of activism.

The other skill I have learned is the art of listening. The ability to listen to what’s important to people is not a skill I come by naturally. I developed it by listening to the citizens who have attended Jeff’s town hall meetings for the last decade.

Most people first become aware of government when one particular issue engages them, schools, taxes, transportation, or even a change in zoning. The key, of course is keeping them engaged and showing them how good decisions and good governance are all interrelated. Jeff is an amazing listener and facilitator and I have seen him answer questions until well after midnight, using a household budget to explain how government must prioritize too. Communicating one on one with real people highlights the fact that government cannot be the answer to every problem, nor is it an infinite money tree, because the money on the tree actually comes from you.

Learning to listen is a very valuable tool in the box for anyone selling conservative candidates, ideas, and policy because your ears will tell you that, in the end, people just want the same things: jobs, prosperity, reasonable healthcare, and a good life.

Think about how listening to one another and sticking together is helping us win the day with the issue of life for the most vulnerable of human beings. While the journey is not complete, look what standing together on this one issue has done to shift our culture in the last decade. Courageous Republicans made this happen.

In the past, I have written about Caroline’s political dynamics and how we built on the first conservative elected to our Board of Supervisors in 2008 and added another in 2011. Two more were elected in 2015, sending home two Democrats who had been in office for nearly three decades. For only the third time since reconstruction, Caroline carried a Republican president in 2016. The process to replace our board was bloody and ugly, but it wasn’t the Democrats who opposed us. It was old style conservatives and a good ole boy machine who had turned the county into one big self serving slush fund.

People all over Caroline turned a deaf ear to the name calling and threats, stuck together, and kept their eyes on the prize. We didn’t have the luxury of catering to egos and we knew it. When it was over, we understood there was nothing courageous about rubbing the loser’s nose in the victory. Our board pushed on quickly to the business at hand, moving us from the edge of bankruptcy to money in the bank and the opening of dozens of new small businesses.

Courageous Virginia Republicans can do it too, but will have to be selfless enough to set those flaming personal egos aside.

After getting to know many of you and listening, I recognize reasonable and worthy motivation in so many for getting involved in politics. Your activism is a result of monumental frustration at not being able to move the ball down the court, as we watch our state and our country fall to polices which undermine the courage and vision upon which it was founded.

Recently while watching the series “Genius” about Albert Einstein, I was profoundly struck by his description of the founding of our country, and what he believed to be its downhill slide when, in 1933, J. Edgar Hoover tried to block the approval of his visa to the United States. Here is the gist of what he said: “I have heard the story of your country, a rag tag band of revolutionaries who founded a country based on ideals and shared values, but I fear the reality is far from this myth.” I thought to myself, dear God, what would Albert Einstein think today?

So I hear your frustration, and if you read me you know there are few who are tougher on our Virginia elected officials than I am, but I don’t do it with name calling. I do it by spending weeks researching the issues and getting folks to talk to me about what the back stories really are. There is no way my recent recaps on the Virginia General Assembly session and the GO Virginia stories blessed many hearts in the General Assembly, but then again I limited myself to what I could prove to be true.

On the other hand, I also recently wrote two posts praising our elected officials for the good jobs they are doing in Richmond, despite the fact that each of them voted for legislation I did not agree with in my recap. The world is not black and white, and if you expect it to be so in politics, you will be forever disappointed.

I know what you’re thinking: “But my principles.” Here’s a fact: your conservative principles don’t disappear because your candidate did not win the primary. You are free the next go round to work even harder for your choice in representation. In a Democracy, we have a process and there is a winner and loser. When you join the movement, you don’t get a card that says “easy” or another that says “politics is perfect,” or another that says “my candidate always wins.”

What you have done though, according to what I have read in your own words when you post on social media, is to say you are conservatives in it for the long haul. I am not talking about signed pledges, and party memberships, but who you say you are.

The question is how badly you want to see Ralph Northam as our Virginia Governor because a colleague, friend, or even an enemy does not see things exactly your way. I would put it to you that any satisfaction you have the day after the election in November will be fleeting, seconds in time in the big picture. Meanwhile, every Virginian pays the price for the ego of a few for four more years.

Meanwhile our members of the Virginia General Assembly work their butts off every session to create legislation we say we want on the Second Amendment, school choice, and voter fraud, only to watch it all go down the tubes when it gets to the Governor’s desk. Furthermore, everyone who is so particular where their vote goes this fall may not have to worry about it at all as five dead people who can vote may more than cancel yours. The Virginia State Board of Elections is in a complete shambles under Governor McAuliffe, a shell of its former self. Four more years of this rule by chaos mentality, and I am not sure there will be any pieces left to pick up.

Since moving from print media to the online news sources like Bearing Drift in the last few years, I have extended the hand of friendship to hundreds of people who, after reading their posts, I realized while we did not agree all time, we were on the same team, the team of personal responsibility.

For me, most of you, my fellow conservatives, are now more than activists and have names and faces. I spend considerable time reading the varying opinions of all of you because you are real, you now have families and birthdays, and put your underwear on one leg at a time, just like me.

Even if I don’t always agree with the solution, I hear what is important to you. You have educated me, sometimes completely changed my opinion and, even more importantly, earned my respect because you are acting on the courage of your convictions and are not sitting it out.

Today activists in many respects become like de facto elected representatives of the people with a following, and with it should come responsibility to lay ego aside. Operative word “should.” Today one can set up a couple of Facebook sites and a WordPress website and can instantaneously communicate and win followers to a certain side. When you step out on that limb and become a voice, it’s a given that people will disagree with you and many will not know how to make it civil in discourse. You knew this when you signed on to the conversation. Think instead about all the people who are looking to you to make a difference.

My grandmother used to say, “Make a decision after walking a mile in the other man’s shoes.” Imagine just for one minute you are not an activist but you have been elected to represent a county of 30,000 people. As frustrated as you are, picture Jeff’s revolving door of very real people who cannot find work in our state, are losing their health insurance, can’t afford to buy a weeks worth of groceries, whose kids can’t play sports and are penalized because they study at home. Think about a family deep in rural Virginia who are convinced someone is coming to collect their firearms. What do you tell them? Would you tell them this scenario can never happen in Virginia?

Many of you say you understand and know these issues are real but it’s lip service if you have anything other than your eyes on the prize of a Republican Governor. The problems in Virginia have a face and don’t care who you like or don’t like on Facebook. What would you tell those people?

I know that treating your fellow conservatives with respect is possible. In the primary this time, Jeff sponsored an ad with his choice of Governor, Ed Gillespie, on Facebook. While there were a few off-color comments posted on the ad, they were from no one I knew. I did, however have a number of comments from Stewart supporters who I did know, all of them respectful. One in particular is well known to everyone, Waverly Woods. I can’t think of a more public supporter of the opposing candidate than Waverly. She posted in the comment section a simple statement about who she would be supporting. Waverly and I have found common ground in discussing corruption in local government. We disagreed on which candidate could best address that, but were able to maintain our mutual respect.

Conservative thought and strategy can be and must be bigger that our differences.

The good news is people are passionate about their candidates and willing to bust their humps to support their choice. That’s how to make a difference. One less apathetic voter sitting at home is a victory. The bad news is the real opposition is reading and laughing all the way to the Governor’s mansion. For whatever reasons, and those remain a mystery to me, the Democrats for the most part don’t do this. At least not to the extent and with the vitriolic nature that conservatives let it all hang out.

I know it takes courage to walk away from an intellectual fight. Trust me, few have had a harder time with this issue than I have. The queen of the last word, I hear my editor Brian Schoeneman, laughing in the background, who has pointed out a number of times on our Google group that apparently no one can disagree with me. I have made a conscious decision not to be that person.

This time the stakes are just too high. I know you think you have heard it before, but I am telling you from a local government perspective, this is not Mark Warner people. Whatever you though of him, think 100 times worse and the dismantling of every freedom you hold dear and at a pace that is almost mind boggling.

There are too many people depending on each of us, the ones who have chosen to step in the activist arena. Let the personal outrage and egos go and hone your listening skills. The very same things that are important to Republicans are what are important to Virginians. We have a better than good shot at this because of that one irrevocable fact. We just have to help our ticket communicate that platform.

So calling all courageous, tough, eyes-on-the-prize Republicans. The weight of Virginia history is on your shoulders.