True Conservatism In Eight Simple Questions

Answer eight simple questions correctly and you, too, could be a true Virginia conservative, joining the ideological movement which continues to challenge chances for Republican success in the Commonwealth.  Several high-profile candidates in next month’s contested GOP primaries have done so, earning good marks from a group calling itself Virginia Constitutional Conservatives.

Two out of eight involve enmity toward President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its expansion of Medicaid eligibility.  One Obamacare question revisits the question which started the American Civil War and Virginia’s Massive Resistance – the concept of State Nullification.  The group is also offended by the idea you need a license to conceal your handgun of choice. 

The eight questions follow, and you use this link to see the handful of candidates who actually responded.  Most sent the questions didn’t reply and earned R’s for Refused, a handful expressed support for most if not all positions, and two Democrats (including the always intrepid Vivian Watts of Annadale) answered.  Watts said no to most questions, but the other Democrat (a challenger) said yes to six.

  • Will you support a “Constitutional Carry” bill that would allow any law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm concealed without a permit?
  • Will you support legislation to eliminate Civil Asset Forfeiture in Virginia and require a conviction prior to property being seized?
  • Will you support legislation that would repeal ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia?
  • Will you support legislation to allow home school students to participate in after school sports?
  • Will you support legislation to eliminate all tolls on state funded roads and highways?
  • Will you support a constitutional amendment to once and for all end the use of Eminent Domain for private corporation profit?
  • Will you support legislation to legalize the sale of raw milk and raw milk products in Virginia?
  • Will you support legislation nullifying Obamacare and making the ACA illegal in Virginia?

That last question is helpfully explained as follows:  The 10th Amendment to the Constitution allows a State to “nullify” un-Constitutional laws, making them null and void within a State.  The Federal Government has no authority to regulate intrastate health care, nor to deny citizens the ability to purchase out of state health insurance.  John C. Calhoun would be proud.

Among those who made the grade are Scott Wyatt, who is challenging (or has already defeated, depending on who you believe) incumbent Delegate Chris Peace for the 97th District nomination.   Also correct down the line is Tina Freitas, who is challenging incumbent Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Emmett Hanger.  Three other incumbents joined Watts in responding, Republicans Senator Richard Stuart, Delegate Nick Freitas and Delegate Dave LaRock.

LaRock apparently left the nullification question blank.  But as noted the vast majority of GOP incumbents and non-incumbents didn’t participate at all. For them, the organizers ask people to print the questionnaire and go find their local candidates at forums to press for answers.  Driving the wedge as deeply and publicly as possible is the name of the game.

Even the organizers would have to admit that conservatism cannot be boiled down to eight questions, some of them rather peevish.  The health law prohibiting sale of unpasteurized milk products seems reasonable to me, but then all those vaccines over the years may have addled me.  If home school students want to play on a state contender football team, they should go to the affiliated school and not take a place away from somebody who does.

The questions about civil forfeiture and eminent domain might fit a classic definition of property rights, but there is no Second Amendment right to concealed weaponry and the nullification debate ended at Appomattox and in numerous Supreme Court decisions.  Voting today to eliminate all existing highway tolls would have the state abrogating debt agreements and destroying its credit rating, hardly outcomes conservatives dream about.

It isn’t necessary for progressives to create caricatures of conservatism when these folks stand up and volunteer.  This is not conservatism, it’s a coalition of prickly individualists.  They want to hide their guns, sell tainted cheese, cherry pick parts of the public education system, and kid themselves into thinking somebody else will pay for roads.  Where is the abortion question?  Nothing about environmental regulation or immigration?  Those are huge single-issue constituencies left out of the questions.

The great but largely forgotten pundit Ambrose Bierce defined a Conservative as a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.  Many of those questions seek to overturn “existing evils” and replace them with others, so the label conservative is misapplied.

The tension between ideology and the give and take of practical governing defines and bedevils both parties.  People who vote yes enthusiastically on all eight of these questions may indeed prevail in some of these nomination contests, and then win in hard red districts.  But for those who want to see the Republican party competitive on a statewide level again in Virginia, this narrow definition of conservative remains a major roadblock.

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19 responses to “True Conservatism In Eight Simple Questions

  1. “Driving the wedge as deeply and publicly as possible is the name of the game. . . . This is not conservatism, it’s a coalition of prickly individualists.” Thanks, Steve, for finding a much nicer label for these folks than I would have chosen. Their “no compromise, take no prisoners” rejection of centrist politics is destroying the GOP and may yet do likewise to the Dems. What can be done about all this polarization — on both ends of the spectrum? I look to bipartisan redistricting to control gerrymandering, and campaign reform (limitations on campaign finance and duration), as the only sane way forward. But then there’s the self-reinforcing internet information silo phenomenon, the lack of social media self-policing, and the lack of journalistic standards and financial chaos in the MSM today. And at the Party level, there’s the perennial debate over conventions and other tightly Party-controlled nominating processes versus expensive and low-participation primaries. What can someone do who’s interested in electing politicians who will actually go about tackling the practicalities of governing?

    • I agree. Someone far more knowledgeable in these matters, a real player at the state level told me there is nothing more self important and self inflated than a party Central Committee on a District Level. I suspect the same applies here. Let’s hope so. Otherwise the Eagle can’t fly if he or she must run with turkeys.

  2. “In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.”
    ― Ambrose Bierce

    Bierce deserves to be better remembered…..

    • Ah yes, Bierce — like Mencken, he had a real “penchant for biting social criticism and satire” and produced many pithy gems like that one, still relevant today. Indeed, we fail to reward intelligence with election; but what alternatives are on the ballot?

      Or this, which finds frequent use in a reading club I attend: “The covers of this book are too far apart.” Or this definition: “Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.”

  3. I am not a candidate, but here are my answers.

    Will you support a “Constitutional Carry” bill that would allow any law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm concealed without a permit? No.
    Will you support legislation to eliminate Civil Asset Forfeiture in Virginia and require a conviction prior to property being seized? Yes.
    Will you support legislation that would repeal ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia? No.
    Will you support legislation to allow home school students to participate in after school sports? No.
    Will you support legislation to eliminate all tolls on state funded roads and highways? No.
    Will you support a constitutional amendment to once and for all end the use of Eminent Domain for private corporation profit? Yes.
    Will you support legislation to legalize the sale of raw milk and raw milk products in Virginia? (Not sure, need to research more).
    Will you support legislation nullifying Obamacare and making the ACA illegal in Virginia? No.

  4. Jim and I are on the same wavelength.

    I’m under-impressed with the questions.

    Please define what a “weapon” or “arms” is or is not.

    Don’t tell me you don’t want Obamacare – tell me what you want instead and will we cover people with pre-existing conditions?

    abortion, immigration?

    Finally – is it what the party supports or what Voters want? I know… that’s a messy question sometimes.

  5. Jim didn’t write this, I did. I know you’re shocked….

  6. The problem with Conservatism these days is that it has become on ideology that is irrespective of the problems and solutions and Conservatives don’t think in terms of representing voters but more along the lines of showing voters how Conservatism “governs” … “for the people”.

    In election after election – they really don’t seek to truly represent voters. It’s a fan dance they do to convince enough folks that they’ll govern “good” but gawd forbid we talk about details- like what we’d do if we kill Obamacare.. or how we really handle immigration.. instead of just sending all dreamers back to where their parents came from. That sort of thing – pretty much defines how “Conservatism” works these days. And yes… even “fiscal conservatism” is changed….. supply-side is now how things work – and if it fails to bring in enough revenue – it’s obviously a “spending problem”.

    These guys can’t govern a wet paper bag and they know it but it’s all about keeping control… so they do what they gotta do… to keep it going……

  7. True conservatives are all for free enterprise. AND…. toll roads are truly free enterprise. If anything we need more tolling… you use it, you pay for it… Technology makes it easy to do…
    So not sure where that question is coming from…

    • This group seems to be based out of Loudoun, where of course toll roads abound.

      • Yes. Of course, these are public roads that benefit everyone in society, bar none, including those who never drive, but get their mail delivered to their front door, along with most everything else these days. The power to toll is a very dangerous power. It can sink some, while greatly privileging others. The private enterprise of a few should have nothing to do with public roads. Like eminent domain should not be exercised to privilege a few.

      • This group drove across the Colmean bridge in Gloucester county for years,,,,
        My dad started driving across it a week after it opened in 1952 and immediately quintupled his salary… He paid for my families share in some 25 years of commuting. The toll came off in the 70’s, then it was widened in the 90’s and the toll went back on….
        I say toll every bridge ,, let those who use pay…
        Part of the cost of where you live,,, no reason for me to pay for the congestion and high cost per mile to construct if you live in Northern Virginia or some other expensive locale..

  8. Totally agree with Top Gun. On toll roads, the state still has to be the entity that exercises eminent domain and the state still owns the infrastructure – it’s basically a long-term lease.

    But the bigger point with tolling is when it is dynamic tolling because in addition to paying for the infrastructure improvements, it can “shape” congestion/demand – the same way that other supply/demand works for all manner of products of services from gasoline to airline tickets.

    It’s a free enterprise market mechanism that encourages HOV and time-shifting on roads that are heavily congested.

  9. Comment posted on behalf of Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun:

    Jim this hit piece is beneath the level of material your blog puts out. Just one example of sloppy paraphrase that completely distorts.

    Quoting Haner: “Voting today to eliminate all existing highway tolls would have the state abrogating debt agreements and destroying its credit rating, hardly outcomes conservatives dream about.”

    Actual question: “Even though taxpayers have already paid for the construction of state highways through the State Income Tax, Virginia residents are forced to pay outrageous tolls on Route 66 and other state highways due to the fiscal mismanagement of highway funds, essentially amounting to double taxation.

    5) Will you support legislation to eliminate all tolls on state funded roads and highways?

    I know a blog is not expected to uphold the same standards as a bonafide news outlet but BR usually does.

    • Delegate LaRock is welcome to disagree with my take on this, but looking again at the background statement that preceded the question, I still think a yes on the question would be irresponsible. The state uses highway user taxes and the sales tax to fund roads, but I’m unaware of transfers from the personal or corporate income tax. If the question had been: “Will you vote against imposing tolls on highways already constructed using other funds” or “will you vote against imposing tolls on future projects” or even “will you end the use of variable tolling for congestion reasons” then a good debate could be had. The question instead was to “eliminate all tolls” on any highway that also used state funds and such a vote would be bad policy, and the it seemed clear the intention was to be retroactive. It’s a great promise to make in a campaign, I guess, but the economics are shaky.

      No question, this was an opinion piece.

  10. I am “yes” on all questions except the two on Obamacare. The requirement that insurers cover people who get sick while covered or who have pre-existing conditions was a big positive.

    As for concealed carry without a permit, I’m in Wyoming right now. They have concealed carry without a permit and less than 1/2 the murder rate per 100,000 people than Virginia …

    https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state#MRord

    As for the tolls question – a huge “YES”. Our incompetent state government increases road capacity at a fraction of the rate of population growth and then insists that traffic congestion is a function of land use. Liars. The Republicans in the General Assembly try to scrape every penny they can from urban areas and hand the money out like confetti in rural areas to buy votes. Increasing road capacity at the same rate as population growth inhibits the RPV’s welfare society approach so they stick sky high tolls on areas that are successful and growing. Idiots.

  11. Requiring insurers to cover all pre-existing conditions is too broad a requirement. Insurers should not be required to cover pre-existing conditions caused by life-style choices, just as there is no requirement to transplant livers and kidneys into people who have damaged those organs by choosing to over-indulge in alcohol or drugs.

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