Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Those who Travel on Foot

[photo] LCCFL organizer Michael Harrison speaks at Challenger's Town Hall

Third party candidates often do not benefit from the type of boost that Elephantine or Donkey party machinery can provide, so they often have difficulty making their voices heard.

However, this was not the case on April 10 at the Challengers Town Hall, an event hosted by Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty at Luzerne County Community College. The event provided an opportunity for third party candidates to speak before potential constituents and PCN cameras.

Although two of the candidates who spoke, Republicans Peg Luksik (for Senate) and Sam Rohrer (for Governor), have been made de facto third party candidates by the PA state GOP, I have decided to present summaries of what local candidates said at the event as a public service to the voter. These candidates are Independent Jake Towne and Libertarian candidates Tim Mullen (PA House District 120), Betsy Summers (PA Senate District 14), and Brian Bergman (PA House District 119).

Jake Towne is running for the 15th congressional district, where many King’s College students will vote. In his speech he stated that the unsound dollar is the US’s most pressing issue, but he emphasized the need to balance the budget in Washington, and he called for the repeal of the recent healthcare overhaul and cap and trade legislation. Perhaps his most unique belief was that the US troops should be brought home because “terrorists will best be pursued by small groups seeking bounties under constitutional letters of marque and reprisal, not by conventional armies.”
To foster transparency, Towne plans to write open office letters in which he will explain the reasoning behind his votes. When I asked him why someone should vote for an Independent candidate, he said that one should consider the candidate’s principles, not just party allegiance. He added that electing an Independent such as himself is advantageous because such an individual is not beholden to party machinery but to the people.

Members of the Libertarian Party also could be said to have no party machinery to follow.

Tim Mullen is currently running on the Libertarian ticket for the PA house district 120—adequately summed up in local parlance as “the West Side.” Some stances he took in his speech were the repeal of school property taxes, strike-free public education, opposition to toll roads which will discourage commerce, and the need to address the pension time bomb set to go off in 2012 for Pennsylvania state employees.

Tim Mullen (center), Sam Rohrer (left), Betsy Summers (right)

In my talk with Mullen afterward, he revealed that he plans to go door to door to all of the houses in the 120th district to inform voters of his candidacy and platform, having already gone to a significant number of doorsteps. As to why someone should vote Libertarian, he said “we’re a party bound by the constitution and by the principles of the founding fathers. The platforms of the Republicans and Democrats seem to twist based on where the money is coming from.” He then showed me a pamphlet that compared several major policies of the Bush administration with similar policies of the Obama administration.

PA state Senate candidate Betsy Summers continued along the same vein, calling for the elimination of pensions for all elected officials state-wide. “It is a civic duty when you serve. Do you think the founding fathers said ‘I’m going to run for office so that the tax payers can support me for the rest of my life, once I leave government’”? She also criticized the “war on poverty,” stating that 20 cents of every dollar taxed for purposes of helping the poor actually reaches the poor, with the rest going to state employees. “I would rather much rather just take a dollar and give it to a poor person” said she.

Brian Bergman
A main issue for District 119 candidate Brian Bergman was the lack of protections home owners have against eminent domain. He cited the case of Kelo v. City of New London, and other unjust applications of eminent domain. He also stressed the need for adherence to a document that few people know exists—the Pennsylvania State Constitution.

Candidacies are well and good, but what would it take for the Libertarian party to gain ground politically? Luke Scheitrumph, 19, who is involved with the Mullen campaign, replied “one of them has to win, and momentum will take the party from there.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pat Faces Peg on April 20th

After hesitating to even acknowledge Peg's candidacy, Pat Toomey finally agreed to appear in a candidates forum with her on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, PCN. Click here for a video of the debate.

As to whether Toomey decided to appear with Peg out of necessity or out of his own good will, I do not know. He may have been forced to show up by the PCN people if they told him that they'd give the entire forum to Peg if he didn't show up. Maybe showing up was a strategic decision for Toomey, given that he may need the votes of many of Peg's supporters in the general election should he win the primary. To give him the generous benefit of the doubt, maybe he decided that he would participate in the forum out of a desire to participate in the democratic process. Who knows...

For most of the forum, Peg and Toomey didn't argue but merely responded to basic Q&A from the moderator. Hopefully there will be a future forum in which Toomey and Luksik go head to head for most of the duration. (I think Peg would benefit more from such a format.)

That aside, during this debate, Peg used far less of the common platitudes than Toomey*. In other words, she didn't treat the voter as if he were an imbecile. Too bad, since she thereby lost the imbecilic vote--but for all intents and purposes, she had already lost it for not acquiescing to the 'social justice' crowd--some of whose members Toomey apparently thinks he can win over.

For most of the debate, Toomey and Peg seemed like fellow travelers--and in many ways they are, but Peg seemed more sincere and thorough, and she was willing to do things like criticize the big banker/politician oligarchy.

When it came time for the candidates to ask each other questions (and hence to criticize each other), Peg really grilled Mr. Toomey about his vote for making background checks necessary at gun shows--a vote which he denied. (I cannot verify either of their allegations, my schedule prevents me from doing so.)

Next, he asked her whether she would vote against earmarks like he claimed he would. In her response she accused him of publicizing certain earmarks that he brought into his congressional district while he was running for congress. Toomey seemed very timid when questioning Peg--which is understandable since he does not want to alienate her supporters. But Peg had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Plus, well, she has no voting record for Toomey to criticize, nor a non-conservative/non-liberty oriented stance. And if Toomey criticized her for a being too conservative, it could bode badly for him.

So, what can one conclude from the forum? Perhaps that Peg will keep Toomey honest.

*For instance, Toomey mentioned how he is descended from immigrants--as if Peg weren't also.

Friday, April 16, 2010

PA GOP Trying to Control Which Candidates You See

see this article in the King's College Crown Newspaper

Supporting underdog Republican candidates is not easy. Recently, I began to wonder why Pennsylvania Republican candidates Peg Luksik (Senate) and Sam Rohrer (Governor) were so far behind the GOP-endorsed candidates Pat Toomey (Senate) and Tom Corbett (Governor). After all, Luksik and Rohrer were and still are legitimate, thoroughly Republican candidates with significant followings. Having compared the candidates a while ago, I had determined that Luksik and Rohrer are better.

[Photo] Republican senatorial candidate Peg Luksik speaks at Challanger's Town Hall while PA 119th District Libertarian candidate Brian Bergman looks on.

Over a week ago, I noticed that pagop.org made no mention of Luksik or Rohrer. I thought, somewhat naively, that the site operators would willingly do the public a civil service by posting information concerning the candidacies of Rohrer and Luksik. I wrote an email asking the website operators of pagop.org to place information about Peg Luksik and Sam Rohrer on the site, or at least to provide links to the candidates’ websites. I have yet to receive a reply from anyone at the site, and pagop.org remains devoid of any mention of either Luksik or Rohrer.

Even the local luzernegop.org makes no reference whatsoever either to Peg Luksik or Sam Rohrer. Hopefully folks at the Luzerne GOP will do the right thing and post some information about non-endorsed candidates.*

I also wrote a hand-written letter to Pat Toomey, telling him I would not vote for him in the general election if he continues to pretend Peg Luksik does not exist¹. I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Toomey, even though I previously donated a sum of money to him before I knew about Peg's candidacy.

PCN, Pennsylvania's version of C-SPAN, lists Rohrer and Luksik under Republican candidates on its website. So, this non-profit organization is actually giving more press to Luksik and Rohrer than the Republican party is itself.

After the Challenger’s Town Hall, an event staged April 10, at Luzerne County Community College which featured Peg Luksik and Sam Rohrer among other others, I decided to ask several candidates for their reactions to the state GOP’s custom of endorsing certain candidates before the primary and pretending others don’t exist.

“I don’t make the decisions for the GOP”, replied Hazleton Mayor and 11th Congressional district Republican candidate Lou Barletta.

Other candidates, however, were more opinionated.

“They have clamped down and they have attempted to shut the door for anyone who’s not endorsed” said Sam Rohrer, adding that the tactic is a mistake and that regardless the people will decide which candidates they want.

Independent candidate Jake Towne, who’s gaining ground in the PA 15th congressional district, said “The whole endorsement before the party primary thing completely defeats the purpose of having a primary in the first place”, because primaries should be based on a free election, and therefore the GOP and any other political party should “sponsor debates and let every candidate be considered based on their principles, merits, and ideas, not just on the money they’re able to raise, etc.”

“If the primary were truly an open process”, added Libertarian candidate for PA 119th district Brian Bergman, “then the GOP state committee and the media would give all the candidates pretty much the same access and coverage.” He continued that decision-making in US politics traditionally “starts at the precinct level--your neighborhood, then goes to the county level and then to the state level.” However, he said that the GOP state committee, through its exclusionary practice of premature endorsements, had inverted this hierarchy by attempting to make decisions at the state level and send them down to the county level.

I also asked the organizer of Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty, Michael Harrison, about how the GOP’s handling of the senatorial and gubernatorial elections would bode for the party in the future. "It’s definitely going to hurt the GOP because people are upset about the endorsement of certain candidates over other candidates.” He continued that the tactic would only divide the electorate and and that it would be counter-productive to the GOP's goal of unity.

Indeed, the marginalization of certain candidates by the state GOP will lead to more discord within the Republican Party than would the promotion of open debate between candidates**. However, despite the GOP’s modus operandi to hide Luksik and Rohrer, events like the Challenger’s Town Hall and free media like the Internet, PCN, and the Crown newspaper go a long way to make otherwise unknown candidates known to the select few who are willing enough to look for them.
*[May 7th] Despite receiving numerous appeals from Nothington Post staff, the representative official at Luzerne GOP refused to post anything about Luksik or Rohrer.

¹After I wrote this article I found out about an Tea Party forum in the Lehigh Valley at which both Toomey and Luksik spoke. I do not believe they debated, but Toomey's decision to step out of his campaign headquarters lair and to appear at this event with Luksik is, for him, a step in the right direction.

**[June, 17th] It already has. Many Sam Rohrer supporters have chosen not to vote for Corbett in the general election.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Opinion: Time for a Name Change, Democratic Party

It is indisputable that the tactics which the Democratic Party used to pass the Health Care overhaul were undemocratic. The nuclear option, once decried as an assault on democracy by Harry Reid and other prominent Democrat politicians, all the sudden became perfectly acceptable when the vote for further state control of health care came up. As the ruffian Democrat may counter, Republicans used the nuclear option under George W. Bush. However, he may not tell you that it was never used for a vote involving a 6th of the US economy, as the health bill did.

But perhaps the least democratic tactic was the deem and pass option which made a senate vote--which Scott Brown would have stopped--unnecessary for the passage of the health care overhaul.

Usually, democratic action involves debate, but the 2,000+ page health care bill was purposefully hidden from the public until 48 hours before the vote. Some surprise parts of the bill, such as the provision for an emergency health care army were only discovered, even by most Democrat Politicians, after the bill was passed.

New Name
In May of last year, several top Republicans suggested a name change to the "Democratic Socialist" party. It is commonly known that the most sincere of democrats love Marxist ideology and central planning schemes. Plus, every socialistic bit of legislation seems to be pushed by democrats these days. But, Democratic politicians are corporatist and bureaucratic before they are socialist. So adding the tag "socialist" is a bad idea.

We have already established that Democrat politicians don't care a damn for democratic process when it comes to votes on their beloved legislation, so they ought to get rid of the "Democratic" title. "Bureaucratic Party" may work, but sometimes Republicans start bureaucracies too--like the Department of Homeland Security. "Corporatist Party" might work, but then again, Republicans during the health care debate gave no opposition to how the AMA and big Pharma drive up heath care costs (through government patent and licensure, of course). A more distinctive name which may be appropriate is the Amoral Statist Party; or maybe the American Neo-Soviet Party; or the Government Growth Party; or the Spend Party; or the Nanny State Party. "Draconian party" would allow for the retention of the D abbreviation. Or, perhaps Democrats could adopt the name which earlier proactive fans of Karl Marx have: The Communist Party.